Peggy Noonan used her Friday column in the Wall Street Journal to throw some dirt on Sarah Palin’s grave. It’s vintage Noonan: airheaded, dripping with condescension, and completely missing the point. No serious conservative needs to hear anything from Noonan except her groveling apology for being so horribly wrong about Barack Obama, who she energetically supported for president. However, it’s worth picking through the flotsam and jetsam of this embarrassing column, to appreciate the kind of intellectual fat that conservatives need to trim from the Republican Party.
Let’s begin by setting the stage: Sarah Palin resigned her governorship last week, and has no stated plans to run for elective office as of this writing. She has made it clear that she intends to remain on the public stage, and has a bright and useful future of public speaking, writing, and helping her party raise funds for 2010 and beyond. I personally disagree with the assessment that her resignation killed her political future, if she wants one. It will be an obstacle for her to work around, but I think she could overcome it – especially if Alaskans are clearly pleased with her successor, and think well of her as the 2012 elections get under way.
After referencing the way “The left and the media immediately overplayed their hand, with attacks on her children,” Noonan says of Palin:
She went on the trail a sensation but demonstrated in the ensuing months that she was not ready to go national and in fact never would be. She was hungry, loved politics, had charm and energy, loved walking onto the stage, waving and doing the stump speech. All good. But she was not thoughtful. She was a gifted retail politician who displayed the disadvantages of being born into a point of view (in her case a form of conservatism; elsewhere and in other circumstances, it could have been a form of liberalism) and swallowing it whole: She never learned how the other sides think, or why.
I always thought the Wall Street Journal had editors that would review columns to make sure they don’t have annoying run-on sentences that don’t use commas but maybe they don’t and never will. Poor sentence construction aside, Noonan couldn’t be more wrong to say Palin’s point of view “could have been a form of liberalism.” No, Peggy. A charismatic woman espousing a form of liberalism would never have to suffer attacks on her children in the media. People who swallow forms of liberalism are never required to understand the first thing about conservative points of view. They aren’t really expected to know anything about the intellectual history of liberalism, either. Barack Obama couldn’t articulate the principles of conservatism if Thomas Sowell hacked into his teleprompter and fed him the words.
Later, Noonan zeroes in on the moment Palin decisively lost the “moderate Republican” snob vote:
She couldn’t say what she read because she didn’t read anything. She was utterly unconcerned by all this and seemed in fact rather proud of it: It was evidence of her authenticity. She experienced criticism as both partisan and cruel because she could see no truth in any of it. She wasn’t thoughtful enough to know she wasn’t thoughtful enough. Her presentation up to the end has been scattered, illogical, manipulative and self-referential to the point of self-reverence. “I’m not wired that way,” “I’m not a quitter,” “I’m standing up for our values.” I’m, I’m, I’m.
Palin doesn’t “read anything,” you see. She’s probably not even literate. The moment Noonan is fretting over came when Katie Couric asked Palin which newspapers and magazines she reads regularly, and she couldn’t name one. Given the cratering circulation of print media, Palin is clearly in good company. I suspect the sin that truly damns her in Noonan’s eyes is her failure to read Peggy Noonan columns. At least America was spared the horror of a Vice President who doesn’t spend much time reading newspapers. Instead, we got a Vice President who should have left his debate with Palin in a straitjacket, and shows no sign of coherent thought at all.
Of course, it’s risible for a breathless supporter of the Lightworker, Barack Obama, to criticize anyone else for self-referential speech. Obama couldn’t deliver a movie review of “Transformers 2” without referring to himself thirty-five times. Maybe Peggy could publish some guidelines on how often female Republican candidates are allowed to refer to themselves, per minute of speech, without being guilty of arrogance. Would she feel better if Palin talked about herself in the third person, like Bob Dole?
Dismissing the affection conservatives supposedly feel for Palin because of her “working-class roots,” Noonan sneers:
She is not working class, never was, and even she, avid claimer of advantage that she is, never claimed to be and just lets others say it. Her father was a teacher and school track coach, her mother the school secretary. They were middle-class figures of respect, stability and local status. I think intellectuals call her working-class because they see the makeup, the hair, the heels and the sleds and think they’re working class “tropes.” Because, you know, that’s what they teach in “Ways of the Working Class” at Yale and Dartmouth.
… and you’ve got that “Ways of the Working Class” textbook on your desk, don’t you, Peggy? I’ll bet it’s heavily indexed with Post-Its, sticking out from the thick pages in a pastel rainbow. Does anyone else find it surreal that she tries to dismiss Palin’s alleged pretensions to middle-class origins by explaining that her father was a school track coach, and her mother was the school secretary? Whoa, you got her there, Peg. She might pose as a moose-hunting soccer mom, but she was to the manor born. What fools we middle-class conservatives were, to accept this scion of soccer-coaching royalty as one of us, just because she hid her imperial velvet beneath a plaid shirt.
Of the idea that Palin made the Republican Party look inclusive, Noonan snarls, “She makes the party look stupid, a party of the easy manipulated.” Well, that’s what they say at the high-toned Washington cocktail parties, where the elite liberals keep Peggy Noonan as a pet, so it must be true. The vast number of Palin admirers will be thrilled to know that Peggy Noonan thinks they’re stupid. I’m sure that will make them rush right into the waiting arms of Noonan and her weak-tea wing of the GOP.
Speaking of phony appeals to middle-class roots, here’s what Noonan had to say about her Prince Charming, Barack Obama, back in 2008:
He climbed steep stairs, born off the continent with no father to guide, a dreamy, abandoning mother, mixed race, no connections. He rose with guts and gifts. He is steady, calm, and, in terms of the execution of his political ascent, still the primary and almost only area in which his executive abilities can be discerned, he shows good judgment in terms of whom to hire and consult, what steps to take and moves to make.
No attempts to manipulate voters with sob stories about humble upbringings in Barack Obama’s biography, no sir!
Noonan responds to the charge that “the media did her in” by saying “her lack of any appropriate modesty did her in.” Remember, an Obama supporter wrote this. For Peggy’s dreamboat, a replicated Greek temple shows appropriate modesty when giving a convention speech. She probably swooned when Obama modestly spent fifty million bucks on his inauguration, prompting outgoing President Bush to declare a state of emergency, to release federal funds for the event.
Granted that the older column I quoted above was written a couple trillion wasted tax dollars ago, before the advent of Turbo Tax Tim and the rest of Obama’s Epic Fail Cabinet, but you still have to love the way Noonan celebrated Obama’s “good judgement in terms of who to hire and consult.” He sure knew how to pick a spiritual advisor, that’s for sure! If only Sarah Palin could have the good judgement to consult with aging hippie radical terrorists, Peggy might finally admire her for something more than being “a very nice middle-class girl with ambition, appetite and no sense of personal limits.” By the way, Noonan delivers this backhanded compliment immediately after the paragraph where she declares Palin’s middle-classness to be a fraud.
Noonan could have used this column to praise Obama’s good judgement in hiring a deranged eugenicist who favors forced abortions and mass sterilization as his “science czar.” Why did she waste it pouring salt into Zombie Sarah Palin’s mouth and sewing her lips closed, so she could never rise from her political grave to threaten Republican voters again? Here’s why Peggy made the effort to snap you out of your stupid, illiterate, soccer-coach-daughter-loving trance:
Here’s why all this matters. The world is a dangerous place. It has never been more so, or more complicated, more straining of the reasoning powers of those with actual genius and true judgment. This is a time for conservative leaders who know how to think.
Here are a few examples of what we may face in the next 10 years: a profound and prolonged American crash, with the admission of bankruptcy and the spread of deep social unrest; one or more American cities getting hit with weapons of mass destruction from an unknown source; faint glimmers of actual secessionist movements as Americans for various reasons and in various areas decide the burdens and assumptions of the federal government are no longer attractive or legitimate.
It never occurs to Noonan that those “glimmers of actual secessionist movements” might be caused by freedom-loving people fleeing the “actual genius and true judgment” of the shady, unqualified junior senator she couldn’t wait to sweep into the White House. Hey, Peg, that “admission of bankruptcy” you’re quivering about? That’s coming because your boy Obama crashed the economy, looted the treasury of the future to serve the ultimate pork dinner to his faithful allies, and appointed fools and frauds to supervise his programs. He’s trying to pass a ludicrous energy plan that will cost each American family thousands of dollars, and guarantee a recession for decades to come. If America doesn’t rally to stop him in 2010, he’ll bury what’s left of the moribund economy under the bloodless husk of a nationalized health-care industry. If McCain had won in 2008, then immediately resigned for health reasons and left Palin in the White House, would she have cost us less than a trillion dollars? If so, she’d be a bargain compared to the nightmare Peggy Noonan helped to unleash.
Noonan is symptomatic of a defeated, collaborative wing of the GOP that wants nothing more than to be thought well of by the Left, which they believe has decisively won the political and cultural battles of the twentieth century. Their idea of a “conservative” is someone who can eke out a small discount on the price tag of mammoth liberal programs. Their goal in 2012 is to find a bland, pleasant, “moderate” Republican, who can win the approval of the media mullahs as a “serious candidate,” then lose gracefully and give America’s First Black President his second term. The idea of serious conservative reform terrifies them: radical overhaul of the tax system, dramatic reduction in the size of government, a system that compels Congress to live like humble servants of the people instead of Renaissance royalty… Who will throw those wonderful cocktail parties in Washington, if the conservatives burn half the city down? Who will tell Peggy bedtime stories of dashing social engineers with titanic government schemes? Where will she find hip, exciting statists she can celebrate with schoolgirl treacle, like this nonsense from her 2008 endorsement of Obama: “Something new is happening in America. It is the imminent arrival of a new liberal moment. History happens, it makes its turns, you hold on for dear life. Life moves.” She was on to something with that last bit. Obama has made a lot of American businesses think about moving.
In her conclusion, Noonan writes, “And so the Republican Party should get serious, as serious as the age, because that is what a grown-up, responsible party—a party that deserves to lead—would do.” This is frothy, delusional milk, sprayed on top of a long, boring latte of condescension. Nothing could be less serious than fawning over a hollow President, who wastes his citizens’ time with absurd fantasies about multi-trillion-dollar health care takeovers, piled on top of an already astronomical national debt. The latest polls suggest the public is becoming impatient with the infantile antics of the party Noonan thought should control both houses of Congress, and the presidency. If Peggy wants to see what an unserious, immature party looks like, she should watch video of Nancy Pelosi stammering about how the CIA lied to her, or leaf through the avalanche of scandals engulfing nearly every major Democrat. She could complete her education by dropping by to watch Al Franken squatting in his brand-new Senate seat.
I have a suggestion for the Wall Street Journal: make this Peggy Noonan’s farewell column, and hire Sarah Palin to take her place. Peggy could head over to the Huffington Post, where she’d be received as a martyred hero. The Journal’s circulation would skyrocket. This economy needs a success story.
Okay, okay, here’s the actual link to the Noonan piece. Trust me, you’re better off clicking the one at the top of the page.