Friday, February 20, 2009


Noonan today (emphasis mine):

One thing for sure: Our political leaders for at least a decade, really more, have by and large been men and women who had fortunate lives, who always seemed to expect nice things to happen and happiness to occur. And so they could overspend, overcommit and overextend the military, and it would all turn out fine. They claimed to be quintessentially optimistic, but it was a cheap optimism, based more on sunny personal experience than any particular faith, and void of an understanding of how dark and gritty life can be, and has been for most of human history.

Noonan, March 1, 2001 (ditto):

Mr. Bush sometimes shows a clever way of flipping reality, and he did it in his speech. He approached the Democrats not as if they were burly tribunes of the people, but as if they were anxious accountants, pale and cringing under fluorescent lights. He acted as if they had to be told "It's OK, loosen up, take the green eyeshades off and come on out into the sun."

"I'm not sure the numbers add up," said Hillary Clinton, on message, as she walked into the speech. "His plan leaves no money for anything except tax cuts," fretted Dick Gephardt in his official response. He's the optimist, they're the pessimists. This was clear not only in words but in the picture; Mr. Bush was (sometimes literally) bouncy. In the cutaways, the Democrats looked sour, resentful, as if they’d been hit in the face by a sock full of pennies. Which in a way they had.

If we define "at least a decade, really more" as the last decade and a half, in that period we haven't had presidents who had "fortunate lives" and "sunny personal experience" -- we had one president who did. We didn't have presidents who felt they "could overspend, overcommit and overextend the military"; we had one president who did all those things -- and one president who did none of them.

Of course, what Noonan was celebrating on March 1, 2001, was the Bush tax-cut plan that would begin the process of reversing Clinton-era fiscal responsibility and put the United States deep into debt.

But boy, was Bush optimistic. And it felt awfully good to Noonan at the time.

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