In today's column, Peggy Noonan chides Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton by gathering some of the things they've said and cobbling them into one imaginary speech:
...The struggle between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party is a struggle between good and evil--and we're the good. I hate Democrats. Let's face it, they have never made an honest living in their lives. Who are they, really, but people who are intent on abusing power, destroying the United States Senate and undermining our Constitution? They have no shame.
But why would they? They have never been acquainted with the truth. You ever been to a Democratic fundraiser? They all look the same. They all behave the same. They have a dictatorship, and suffer from zeal so extreme they think they have a direct line to heaven. But what would you expect when you have a far left extremist base? We cannot afford more of their leadership. I call on you to help me defeat them!
Imagine Mr. Bush saying those things, and the crowd roaring with lusty delight. Can you imagine [him] talking this way? Me neither....
If Mr. Bush ever spoke this way, most Republicans would feel embarrassment. I would be among the legions who would denounce his statement. Democrats are half the country; it is offensive to label them as hateful, it's wrong. Even though we're torn by disagreements, there is an old and unspoken tradition that we're all in this together, we're all citizens together. It is destructive to act against this tradition.
She's right about that last part.
Funny thing, though -- Noonan's most famous boss talked that way. And if she issued a denunciation, I don't recall it. Remember the Ronald Reagan speech at the 1988 Republican convention?
The President. ...The choice before the American people this year is just as clear as it was in 1980 and 1984: a choice between, on the one hand, the policies of limited government, economic growth, a strong defense, and a firm foreign policy and, on the other hand, policies of tax and spend, economic stagnation, international weakness and accommodation, and always, always, always, blame America first.
Audience members. Booo!
The President. ... a once-proud party of hope and affirmation has become dominated at the top by strident liberalism and negativism. The party of "yes'' has become the party of "no'' -- no to holding the line on taxes, no to spending cuts, no to the line-item veto, no to the balanced budget amendment, no to the death penalty, no to tough-minded judges, no to enterprise zones, no to the school prayer amendment, no to the right to life, no to adequate defense spending, no to a strategic defense system that protects America from nuclear missiles -- Central America -- no to help those for fighting for -- keep Central America safe from communism, no to liberating Grenada, no to a policy in the Persian Gulf that's help ending war in that region, no to a negotiating stance that has brought us the first nuclear arms reduction treaty in history, no to the foreign policy of strength and purpose that has told the truth about communism and helped bring the first signs of change to the Soviet Union in seven decades.
... When the liberal leadership tries to portray themselves as the newly ordained champions of law and order, but forgets to mention they have given a virtual veto power over the Supreme Court appointments to fellow liberals like the Civil Liberties Union --
Audience members. Booo!
The President. I'm with you. Are we going to stand by and let them get away with it?
Audience members. No!
The President. When the liberal leadership tries to tell the American people that they're the party of peace, but forgets to admit they jeopardized the chance for peace and tried to tie my hands in arms negotiations by favoring a nuclear freeze, cutting defense, and gutting SDI, are we going to let them get away with it?
Audience members. No!
The President. I thought you might object. [Laughter] You know, when they start using our words and slogans and then try to tell us that's how they're going to make the American people vote for them in November, it reminds me of that little kid at school who the day after getting his report card went back to school and said, "Teacher, I thought somebody should warn you. My dad says that unless my math grades go up, somebody's going to get a whipping.'' [Laughter] You know what? They're right about one thing: The American people, just like that young fellow's dad, really are in a mood to settle some important questions this November. And it won't be President Bush and a new Republican Congress but those liberals from the other party that the American people take out behind the barn.
I'd say that audience reaction qualifies as "lusty delight," wouldn't you?
And, of course, the candidate to whom Reagan passed the torch that night went on to win, after saying a few nasty things himself.
And don't get me started on Zell Miller at the '04 Republican convention.