Friday, June 26, 2009


Peggy Noonan has been fairly reasonable lately -- criticizing her party for some of the right reasons, giving President Obama's approach to ther Iranian situation some backup -- but this week she back to being a patronizing right-wing troll:

Something seems off with our young president. He appears jarred. Difficult history has come over the transom. He seemed defensive and peevish with the press in his Tuesday news conference, and later with Charlie Gibson on health care, when he got nailed by a neurologist who suggested the elites who support a national program seem not to mind rationing for other people but very much mind if for themselves. All this followed the president's first bad numbers. From Politico, on Tuesday: "Eroding confidence in President Barack Obama's handling of the economy and ability to control spending have caused his approval ratings to wilt to their lowest level since taking office, according to a spate of recent polls." Independents and some Republicans who once viewed him sympathetically are "becoming skeptical."

As I've explained, Obama's "bad numbers" aren't bad at all, and are much better than the numbers racked up at a similar point in his term by George W. Bush, even though he'd been the bearer of a hell of a lot less bad news and even though he'd just given the American public a big fat tax cut. Bush, of course, would go on to be the Shakespeare of peevishness.

You can say this is due to a lot of things, and it probably is, most especially the economy, which all the polls mentioned. But I think at bottom his problems come down to this: The Sentence. And the rough sense people have that he's not seeing to it.

The Sentence comes from a story Clare Boothe Luce told about a conversation she had in 1962 in the White House with her old friend John F. Kennedy. She told him, she said, that "a great man is one sentence." His leadership can be so well summed up in a single sentence that you don't have to hear his name to know who's being talked about. "He preserved the union and freed the slaves," or, "He lifted us out of a great depression and helped to win a World War." You didn't have to be told "Lincoln" or "FDR."

That's a pearl of wisdom? That's a guide to right conduct for a president? No -- that's a guide to getting a Hollywood film grrenlighted: you're supposed to have a premise so simple you can write it on a napkin

...New White Houses are always ardent for change, for breakthroughs. They want the sentence even when they don't know the sentence exists, even when they think it's a paragraph. The Obama people want, "He was the president who gave all Americans health care," and, "He lessened income inequality," and, "He took over a failed company," and other things.

That last one? The hell they want that. Stop listening to Limbaugh, Peggy. Occasionally you show signs of being smarter than that. I guarantee that nobody in this administration ever wanted to take over big companies any more than states want to take custody of abused children.

They wants a jumble of sentences and do a jumble of things. But an administration about everything is an administration about nothing.

Mr. Obama is not seeing his sentence. He's missing it. This is the sentence history has given him: "He brought America back from economic collapse and kept us strong and secure in the age of terror." That's all anybody wants. It's all that's needed.

Oh. Thank you. I'm sure the president is chastened now -- sorry that he tried to step out of the box that you, Peggy Noonan, speaking for all three hundred million Amrican citizens, have assigned to him.

Hey, Peggy -- we were in economic dire straits when Ronald Reagan was elected, and he presided over a brutal recession. What was his sentence then? Did it have anything to with running up massive debt in an attempt to destroy the Soviet Union? How would you have felt back then if you were in your West Wing office and someone had written that Reagan should limit himself to a task preassigned by history?

... we have a series of presidential actions that seem less like proposals than non sequiturs. A new health-care program that Congress itself says will cost a trillion dollars over 10 years? A new energy program that will cost however many hundreds of billions in however many years? Running General Motors, and discussing where its plants should be, and what the interiors of the cars should look like, and shouldn't the little cup holder be bigger to account for Starbucks-sized coffee? Wait, what if it's a venti latte? One imagines the conversation in the car czar's office: "You know, I've always wanted to see a mauve car because mauve is my favorite color, I mean to the extent it's a color."

Right. Trying to drag GM kicking and screaming into a greener, less oil-dependent future is exactly like micromanaging cup-holder size.

There is a persistent sense of extraneous effort, of ambitions too big and yet too small, too off point, too base-pleading, too ideological, too unaware of the imperatives.

Right. Dealing with our preposterous health care system is "extraneous." Preventing further climate change is "extraneous." Trying to actually be the greatest country in the world, rather than just boasting that we are, by leading on energy and climate innovations, which might actually be the foundation for an economy built on making stuff rather than creating financial bubbles -- that's "extraneous."

... In terms of our security, we face challenges all over the world, from state and nonstate actors. Today a headline popped up on my screen: North Korea has threatened to attack us. A mordant response: Get in line, buddy. The administration, which has been appropriately modest in its face toward the world, should be more modest internally, and seek a new and serious bipartisan consensus on our defense system, our security, our civil defense, our safety. This of course is an impossible dream, but it was impossible back in the fractious '50s to reach a workable consensus on a strategy toward the Soviets. And yet we did it. Do we have anything like a bipartisan strategy for our age? Not nearly. We're split in two, in three.

Too much foreign policy fractiousness strikes you as a problem, Peggy? Maybe you should talk to your boss about it, and all the rabble-rousers his media empire enables.

Our economy and our security are intertwined. They are at the heart of everything, even to our ultimate continuance as a nation. Mr. Obama cannot replace his sentence with 10 paragraphs, and he can't escape it, either. Because history dictated it. History wrote it. "He brought America back from economic collapse and kept us strong and secure in the age of terror." Sentences don't really get better than that. He should stop looking for a better one. There isn't a better one.

No, Peggy, history didn't write it -- you wrote it, because Obama just might succeed in taking history in certain directions that scare you.


And Ahab says:

But what about the Shrub? Hasn't Peggy a line for Mission Accomplished, the Decider, With Us or Against Us? Seems like it could write itself. How about:

He fucked up the world yet got re-elected.

I was going to say "He destroyed everything he touched." And I'm sure there are many other possibilities.

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