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Sunday, October 19, 2008

A sad reaction to Peggy Noonan's Palin meltdown

I tried not to write a response to Peggy Noonan's ugly anti-Palin op-ed in Friday's WSJ, but ended up not being able to resist. I hope it's reasonably snark-free. It's a guest-post at HughHewitt.com.


[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar).

I have to work hard to avoid taking personal offense from Peggy Noonan's op-ed in Friday's Wall Street Journal, and I can't quite succeed entirely at that effort.

I've long been a fan of Ms. Noonan's work as a speechwriter and a pundit, and she's been uniformly gracious in the two or three times we've exchanged emails. Her op-ed doesn't mention me by name, of course. But I've voted twice for George W. Bush, and although I have not agreed with all of his decisions and he has sometimes disappointed me, I've never regretted those votes, given the alternatives that were available. I look at my four safe, healthy children as I drive them to school within range of oil refineries that would be prime terrorist targets, and I am grateful to him and everyone under his command who have kept us safe on American soil since 9/11/01. Indeed, my own fondness for Ms. Noonan has waned in step with her growing disdain for the president.

And now, from this op ed, I see no way to avoid the conclusion that Ms. Noonan thinks that I am, and that people like me are, "a symptom and expression of a new vulgarization in American politics," and that we're "no good, not for conservatism and not for the country." It's impossible to avoid drawing that conclusion because I'm a long-time and enthusiastic supporter of Gov. Sarah Palin, after all — and that's exactly what Ms. Noonan has written about her. It's as vicious an attack as I've ever read or heard her make, both unmoderated and immoderate.

When ridiculed, it's hard to resist replying with ridicule. That wouldn't be constructive here, and I'm trying my best to avoid snark: Even though I and those like me are, along with Gov. Palin, the objects of Ms. Noonan's disdain, I do not want her as an enemy.

But she clearly expects counterattacks: "[C]ome and get me, copper," is how she defiantly ends her essay. Still, I don't think she's talking to me or to very many other of the 62 million Americans who voted for George W. Bush in 2004 (which might include you). Instead, she apparently is referring to the "conservative intelligentsia," by which I can only assume she means the folks who write for National Review and the like, which is to say, her peers in the old media.

And that actually is a comfort. When one inhabits a world in which calling children "kids" is insufferably vulgar, then one presumably can't grasp the existence of, for example, gansta rap. In some ways, then, I envy her the comfort of the cocoon in which she can apply that Nineteenth Century value system. But she seems to have lost the capacity to credit anyone less fussy than she is with basic decency. Maybe I shouldn't assume Ms. Noonan was referring to me or people like me. It's equally possible that she simply forgets that we exist. And if so, that's a reason to be sad, not angry.

Similarly, it's ironic, but sadly so, that Ms. Noonan, in an op-ed almost completely devoid of any discussion of Gov. Palin's actual achievements or statements, can write that Gov. Palin "doesn't think aloud. She just . . . says things." This is an essay in which Ms. Noonan seems not to have thought much, but has instead just ... written things.

Here's an example, the closest to a substantive critique of Gov. Palin anywhere in the piece:

For seven weeks I've listened to her, trying to understand if she is Bushian or Reaganite — a spender, to speak briefly, whose political decisions seem untethered to a political philosophy, and whose foreign policy is shaped by a certain emotionalism, or a conservative whose principles are rooted in philosophy, and whose foreign policy leans more toward what might be called romantic realism, and that is speak truth, know America, be America, move diplomatically, respect public opinion, and move within an awareness and appreciation of reality.

I admit to holding Ms. Noonan to higher standards than I do myself in my own writing, simply because she's been one of my heroes as a wordsmith. But it genuinely pains me to see such an elegant writer produce a run-on sentence as awful as that one.

From the context, I think she means Bush-43 when she refers to "Bushian." If she's curious about Gov. Palin's views on spending (a subject that appears on only one side of the parallel construction), then she could look at Gov. Palin's record from several years as a city official and, now, governor. On that, there is ample and compelling evidence that she's been a far more disciplined fiscal conservative than Bush-43, Bush-41, or Ronald Reagan for that matter.

But most of this blast seems to be about foreign policy. Where in it is the recognition that state governors — including the state governor who used to be Ms. Noonan's boss, Ronald Reagan — don't have much occasion to do foreign diplomacy? Where is the recognition that vice presidential candidates — especially those running behind POTUS nominees whose own long suit is foreign policy and national defense — are ill advised to start promoting any policy positions contrary to or even slightly independent from their running mates'? We know that Gov. Palin seems entirely comfortable adopting Sen. McCain's positions on these matters as her own. Given that she's running for vice president, that's frankly enough for now.

Ms. Noonan writes often and well of grace. I'm sad that she has lost any appreciation for that quality when it comes to her appraisal of Gov. Palin and, inevitably, those who are enthused by her.

I do not urge that Ms. Noonan be condemned or shunned. And I don't care what the "conservative intelligentia" think or say or do in response. But I, for one, as a conservative new-media pundit from flyover country, reject her opinions on Gov. Palin as being unpersuasive because they're based entirely upon unfortunate (and, frankly, highly unflattering) emotional reactions.

Ms. Noonan's Palin meltdown is not apostasy. But it is an indication that Ms. Noonan needs a long vacation outside the corridors of the opinion elites — if she cares a whit about the tens of millions of American voters who consider ourselves non-vulgar conservatives and Republicans, regardless of her poor opinion of us. If not, I'm sad to be at the point at which I'm inclined to stop listening to or reading her opinions.

(A last point: I write here only for myself, and my views on this ought not be imputed to Hugh Hewitt.)

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 01:36 AM in 2008 Election, Mainstream Media, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink


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(1) BillB made the following comment | Oct 20, 2008 8:57:36 AM | Permalink

Ms. Noonan needs to spend less time trying to label Gov. Palin (Bushite, Reganite) and listen to what she has to say

(2) Carol Herman made the following comment | Oct 22, 2008 9:33:27 PM | Permalink

I thought among grownups, you'd hear a range of opinions. Otherwise, what's free speech for?

In America, the winnah of our election contests always has to get a bit more than half the voters, in order to win. And, in our system, then, winners take all.

It's different than the parliamentary system; where to fill a government means compromising. And bargaining. And, sometimes, a real fringe group gains powers this way.

Anyway, I doubt as good as Palin is, that she pleases everybody.

And, yes. Noonan makes her living by getting paid to use her pen. Yet, writing is one of the loneliest professions. Just you. And, a piece of paper.

Stand up comedians, on the other hand, make their livings entertaining, while standing on their feet. And, talking into a microphone.

Since Peggy Noonan writes to get paid; she's been writing about politics from her own point of view for years and years.

She's not going to be the only one writing about what's going on now. Just as we're still getting books about the 70's, when George Herbert Walker Bush made it into the Nixon White HOuse. And, where James Baker also began having his politically connected career.

Unlike Peggy Noonan, however, you GET NO FINGERPRINTS from Poppy Bush.

I prefer seeing fingerprints. Even when there are opinions out there with which I don't agree.

Palin's future, here, is tied to a McCain victory. For her to become vice-president. If McCain doesn't win?

Well, this odd business with vice-presidents. How many of them can you actually name?

Meanwhile, I think Palin gets remembered, ahead. But then, so, too, do I remember Eagleton.

And, as long as Noonan makes her living writing; once her article is submitted, and accepted, she gets her check in the mail.

You think there is any other motivation at play?

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