Friday, January 09, 2009


Oh, this is too easy. Here's Peggy Noonan writing about that meeting of the presidents this week:

... MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell spoke to a journalist about how presidents get advice and information. Mitchell noted that people often mean to speak hard truths but then "they walk into the Oval Office and get tongue tied." She was referring to the awe with which we view the presidency, the White House, and the famous office with no corners in which presidents so often feel cornered.

Here is an idea for everyone in Washington: Get over it. It's distorting the system. This week we saw the past four presidents standing in the Oval Office for a photo-op on the afternoon of their private lunch. As you looked at the pictures afterward you had to think: How flawed were they? How many were a success?

... We treat them as if they are the Grand Imperial Czar of the Peacock Throne, and we their 'umble servants. It's no good, and vaguely un-American. Right now patriotism requires more than the usual candor. It requires speaking truthfully and constructively to a president who is a man, and just a man. We hire them, we fire them, they come back for photo-ops. They're not magic.

Indeed -- it would be a terrible idea to work for a president and describe him as if he were superhuman or touched by the divine or magical:

Peggy Noonan's When Character Was King ... is a treacly valentine to Noonan's old boss...

... Ronnie is the goodest of them all--actually a divinely anointed creature. Driving to California, Reagan remembered that "the sun shone on his head the whole way." Later, it breaks through the clouds to shine on his head when he is sworn in as governor. "It was like a halo coming down. It was eerie," a friend remembers.

"I know it doesn't sound true, but it is," Noonan tells us helplessly. A few chapters later, Nancy Reagan relates how her husband was cured overnight of an ulcer, thanks to a prayer group led by "a man from southern California who had a problem he wanted to discuss" (that is, a lobbyist). Meanwhile, Reagan's director of correspondence in the White House is sure that "God put him there for that specific time in history to do what he had to do."

It is even implied that Reagan may be divine. Noonan writes, without a trace of embarrassment, that "I am still searching for an anecdote about Reagan that truly reflects badly on him." She tells us that "Ronald Reagan loved the truth. We all do or say we do but for Reagan it was like fresh water."

... Reagan's personal assistant feels that he was "moved" out of the way of the assassin's bullets....

Yeah, it's terrible to look at presidents this way. Good thing Peggy is more sensible than ... uh, Peggy.

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