Thursday, November 11, 2004

Peggy Noonan on Ronald Reagan, 1990:

I first saw him as a foot, a highly polished brown cordovan wagging merrily on a hassock. I spied it through the door. It was a beautiful foot, sleek. Such casual elegance and clean lines. But not a big foot, not formidable, maybe even a little ... frail. I imagined cradling it in my arms, protecting it from unsmooth roads...

Peggy Noonan focusing a bit, er, lower as she writes about George W. Bush today:

About a year ago I was visiting West Point, and I was talking to a big officer, a general or colonel. But he had the medals and ribbons and the stature, and he asked me what I thought of President Bush. I tried to explain what most impressed me about Mr. Bush, and I kept falling back on words like "courage" and "guts." I wasn't capturing the special quality Mr. Bush has of making a tough decision and then staying with it if he thinks it's right and paying the price even when the price is high and--

I stopped speaking for a moment. There was silence. And then the general said, "You mean he's got two of 'em." And I laughed and said yes, that's exactly what I mean.



Noonan, incidentally, gives this as one reason for Bush's victory:

I think Mr. Bush, the better man in terms of character, was also the more normal man. And we like normal.

You want to know how Republicans win? This is how they win -- by persuading you, by persuading even Beltway insiders, that this spoiled, spiteful, vindictive, snappish, quick-tempered mean-streak-on-two-legs is normal. They tell you one sigh in one debate makes Al Gore an arrogant elitist freak, but Bush's debate performance -- Debate #1 essentially a ninety-minute version of that momentary Gore sigh, with more sullenness piled on in Debates #2 and #3 -- is "normal."

Bush's personality is as bizarre and toxic as Nixon's -- you can draw a direct line from the behavior in this Bush moment and this one and this one to the spite and vengeance of the past four years -- yet it's possible to say without fear of contradiction that he's a clear-eyed hero who could have been formed in the imagination of Frank Capra or Norman Rockwell. Why? Why are Democrats regularly psychoanalyzed (Bill Clinton, sex-addict son of a drunk!), while Republicans get a free pass?

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