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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Peggy Noonan's junk commentary « Previous | |Next »
January 3, 2008

I've often thought that the op-eds in the Australian mainstream media were pretty poor. The Fairfax op-eds increasingly drift towards lifestyle infotainment, whilst those in the Australian are written through the prism of the culture wars. Sometimes the recycled overseas op-eds in all our media are even worse.

A good example is Peggy Noonan's 'Let truth and common sense reign in Iowa' in The Australian, which is downloaded from her Wall St Journal column.This is not intelligent commentary by any stretch. It's so bad that one questions the judgements of the Australian's editorial crowd. Partisanship rules therein.

Noonan, who claims to speak for thousands, millions, states what she desires:

This is my 2008 slogan: Reasonable Person for President. That is my hope, what I ask Iowa to produce, and I claim here to speak for thousands, millions. We are grown-ups, we know our country needs greatness, but we do not expect it and will settle at the moment for good. We just want a reasonable person. We would like a candidate who does not appear to be obviously insane. We'd like knowledge, judgment, a prudent understanding of the world and of the ways and histories of the men and women in it.

Then she makes a checklist of which presidential candidates are "reasonable" and which ones aren't. Reasonable is not defined. We are offered examples of what reasonable means in political life---Senator Joe Biden a long term United States senator, who has read a raw threat file or two, has experience, sophistication, the long view, and knows how it works. 'Reasonable' for grown-ups refers to "knowledge, judgment, a prudent understanding of the world and of the ways and histories of the men and women in it."

Noonan then makes this judgment:

Duncan Hunter, Fred Thompson and Bill Richardson are all reasonable: mature, accomplished, nonradical. Huckabee gets enough demerits to fall into my not-reasonable column. John Edwards is not reasonable. All the Democrats would raise taxes as president, but Edwards's populism is the worst of both worlds, both intemperate and insincere. Also we can't have a president who spent two minutes on YouTube staring in a mirror and poofing his hair. Really, we just can't. I forgot Rudy Giuliani. That must say something. He is reasonable but not desirable. If he wins somewhere, I'll explain.

Why is Edwards populist agenda re health insurance companies and universal health care intemperate and insincere? Edwards is disqualified because four years ago, he was caught brushing his hair before a television appearance -- "poofing," in Noonan's words, which signifies a male homosexual. So he is not masculine. Not a real man like President Bush. So he can't possibly be President. Only real men can be the President of the US, not faggots.

Oh, by the way Hillary Clinton is not reasonable either. No, its not because she is not a man:

Clinton is the most dramatically polarizing, the most instinctively distrusted, political figure of my lifetime. Yes, I include Nixon. Would she be able to speak the nation through the trauma? I do not think so. And if I am right, that simple fact would do as much damage to America as the terrible thing itself.

Isn't President Bush polarizing? Barack Obama just squeezes through the reasonable door, though he's too young and inexperienced to be President. No problems with the Republican candidates though, apart from Mike Huckabee, the Prairie populist.

And this kind of junk represents intelligent commentary by the political and media elite in a national newspaper. We are meant to take this junk seriously? Who is kidding who.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:16 AM | | Comments (10)


It's entertainment, Murdoch style. We need to be amused as it is the silly season.

Noonan's earlier article, which I linked to above, says that Bush has balls. Two of them apparently. That's why he is a gutsy and courageous action man with his super aggression genes.

In this 2004 op ed about President Bush you find this paragraph:

Mr. Bush is the triumph of the seemingly average American man. He's normal. He thinks in a sort of common-sense way. He speaks the language of business and sports and politics. You know him. He's not exotic. But if there's a fire on the block, he'll run out and help. He'll help direct the rig to the right house and count the kids coming out and say, "Where's Sally?" He's responsible. He's not an intellectual. Intellectuals start all the trouble in the world. And then when the fire comes they say, "I warned Joe about that furnace." And, "Does Joe have children?" And "I saw a fire once. It spreads like syrup. No, it spreads like explosive syrup. No, it's formidable and yet fleeting." When the fire comes they talk. Bush ain't that guy. Republicans love the guy who ain't that guy. Americans love the guy who ain't that guy.

It's an insight into the anti-intellectual culture of a certain kind of Republican conservative. 'Tis a familiar figure in Australian conservatism.

that mindset is common in what Americans call the 'nativist' faction of the Republican party. This anti-immigration faction doesn't sit well with the free market, Wall Street elite faction. Huckabee cannot hold the conservative coalition together. Can it be held together?

It's very familiar and Howardian, but the American conservative idea of the ideal male leader seems a bit more hairily masculine than the Australian. I can't imagine an Australian leader getting away with the drawling swagger that is Bush's signature. Does Noonan suggest a good leader should also be able to drag his knuckles on the ground without stooping?

I'm no expert on American politics, but Nan's comment on the conservative coalition seems to be everywhere. The cultural conservatives have lost the economic conservatives with their nuttery but the Democrats don't seem to have exploited the split very well. To that extent it seems understandable that people would happily settle for someone reasonable.

On the topic of political commentary in our national (ahem) broadsheet, does anyone else suspect that we've passed the point where traditional media can be expected to provide intelligent commentary? Don't interested people look elsewhere for good analysis these days?

Noonan was also a fan of the "great man" Ronald Reagan.Wasnt she his "speech" writer?
This reference sums up the Reagan years in a completely different way.

I guess what we are reading and watching in the media's coverage of the Presidential primaries is the copy filed by the US Press Corps that is traveling round Iowa in their media buses and staying in five star hotels.

What is dished up is low grade copy that says very little---just like the political commentary from the Canberra Press gallery during the election. Only it must be a lot worse in the US. We have the political junk chatter that focuses on trivial matters media from media pack on the campaign. You know who is winning or falling behind now based on the latest of the moment poll.

My guess, from reading the US press corp, is that the Presidential conflict will between Hilary Clinton and John Cain. Clinton has operated on the assumption that she will win the Democratic nomination, and so she has been positioning herself vis-a-vis the Republicans by standing in the political centre ---what the Americans call the triangulation strategy. This was the one adopted by Bill Clinton.

will Brendon Nelson be able to hold the conservative coalition together after the Liberals big election defeat?

There are social conservatives and Club for Growth ecocrats; evangelicals and war-mongers; disgruntled blue-collars workers and Sydney bluebloods. A real mixture.

Standing on just liberal principles (economic and political) as Greg Hunt does won't unite the coalition.

Gary, I think the recent posting at Tom Dispatch featuring Susan Faludi (Hilary Clinton and the Rescue Card) also has something very important to tell us about how USA Presidential elections work.

Plus Noonan cals Hilary the most polarizing figure in USA politics. This is only because the rabid right have consistently demonised her from the moment that Bill Clinton was elected. The hate campaign was, and still is, extraordinary.

you are right--I hadn't realized. Peggy Noonan was a speech writer for both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in the 1980s. She fought for the Reagan conservative ascendancy that has ended up with a huge increase in the size, power, and spending of the federal government; executive dominance and the surveillance of the national security state, increased national debt and a huge trade deficit and ongoing war under George Bush.

It's all along way from Reagan's understanding of American conservatism:

I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals ...The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is

That would mean Noonan should be critical of the Bush, Cheney, Rove crowd surely.

Although Noonan is a Republican, this comment is all the more extraordinary because I believe she is actually talking about George W Bush:

"We are grown-ups, we know our country needs greatness, but we do not expect it and will settle at the moment for good. We just want a reasonable person. We would like a candidate who does not appear to be obviously insane."

A recent article in OpinionJournal suggests Noonan would vote Bush out:

"You hire a president and tell him to take care of everything you can't take care of--the security of the nation, its well-being, its long-term interests…

And if he can't do it, or if he can't do it as well as you pay the mortgage and help the kid next door, you get mad. And you fire him.

Americans can't fire the president right now, so they're waiting it out."

So it appears Noonan is being critical of Bush. However, I doubt this article would grade better than a C in a Year 11 English class. I don't think American politics, a year before their election, is relevant enough to Australian life to warrant an Editorial entry, particularly a poorly written one from a partisan American citizen.