THIS WEEK'S PUZZLER, BY PEGGY NOONAN
Hi, I'm back, at least for now. (More company's coming tomorrow, so I may not be posting again till Monday.) I see from her latest column that Peggy Noonan is very taken with the notion of a failed Obama presidency -- but when you get to the end of what she's written on the subject, it's as if she's deliberately included glaringly obvious flaws in her argument; in other words, it's as if she wanted to turn the column into the verbal equivalent of one of those can-you-spot-the-seven-mistakes-in-this-drawing? puzzlers in the Sunday comics.
Here's what she writes:
When the previous White House came under mounting criticism from 2005 through '08, they comforted themselves by thinking, They criticized Lincoln, too. You could see their minds whirring: Lincoln was criticized, Lincoln was great, ergo we are great. But of course just because they say you're stupid doesn't mean you're Lincoln.
One senses the Obama people are doing the Lincoln too, and adding to it the consoling thought that this is only the first year, we've got three years to go, we can change perceptions, don't worry.
But they should worry. You can get tagged, typed and pegged your first year. Gerald Ford did, and Ronald Reagan too, more happily. The first year is when indelible impressions are made and iconic photos emerge.
What's wrong with this picture? Well, just the fact that if you're going to argue that impressions of a president become set in concrete within the first year of a term, you really don't want to talk about George W. Bush, do you? His approval ratings were stratospherically high after 9/11; people like Peggy Noonan thought he was the bee's knees, and about 80% of the country agreed. Indelible impressions? Iconic photos? Yeah that pose on the rubble with the bullhorn sure seemed pretty freaking indelible, didn't it? How'd that work out, Peg?
Oh, and Reagan in his first year was "tagged, typed and pegged ... happily" in his first year in office? Really, Peg? Your thoughts, Mr. Gallup?
Ronald Reagan, like Obama, also dropped below 50% in his 10th month in office, though Reagan's drop occurred a few days sooner in that month (Nov. 13-16, 1981) than did Obama's (Nov. 17-19, 2009).
People were really quite unhappy with the Gipper back in the near-depression days of '81 and '82. I suppose Noonan didn't notice this at the time because she was too busy sitting around in her bobby socks, moonily singing "You Made Me Love You, I Didn't Want to Do It" to movie-magazine photos of the big lug.