Previously, on Peggy Noonan's Lost Weekend...
Readers, I hope there is mutual understanding for not dropping the entire Noonan blog in one post. As difficult as it was to parse “High Noonan” there are still more paragraphs to cover. I believe there are twelve. But I'm counting anything with a double space as a paragraph.
The president is interested in Ronald Reagan, and in the past has seemed mildly preoccupied with him, but he misunderstands him. Mr. Obama shows every sign of thinking Reagan led only through words.
From what is understood, he led through horoscopes provided by Nancy's astrologer. Mercury was in perpetual retrograde.
But Reagan led through actions, as every leader must. The words explained, argued for and advanced those actions; they gave people a sense of who it was who was acting.
He was, after all, president of the Screen Actors Guild!
Although, judging by the wistful, expressive eyes, I get a sense it was the chimp who was acting.
But Obama’s generation of the left could never see or come to terms with the fact that it was, say, the decision to fire the air traffic controllers, or the decision to take the hit and bleed out inflation, that made Reagan’s presidency successful and meaningful.
Not to mention dicier odds for air travelers. Plus lay-offs right and left ...
With an effective presidency, everything is in the doing.
For instance, looking at the way wage stagnation and income inequality spiked after 1981, you might say that Reagan was "doing" the Middle Class (sans lube), in a kind of conjugal conjugation.
But wait -- Reagan was the Great Communicator, and it seems counterintuitive to claim that everything is in the doing, when his whole claim to fame rested on the assumption that lots of things were in the saying.
The words are part of the doing and at some points can be crucial to it; at some interesting points they even are the doing...
For our readers who may be too young to remember mid-90s AOL chatrooms, "doing with words" is also known as "cybersex."
...such as looking at the Soviets and declaring that we knew what their system was and wouldn’t accept any but an honest interpretation of it, and yes, that constituted a change of attitude and approach.
“Ivan, we know what your doing, and it's just–like–really grody. Uck! Disgusting! Oh my gaaaawddddd.....”
I'm not sure what an “honest” interpretation of the Soviet Union might entail. How does one paranoid superpower, based on a consumer-oriented, free-market economy interpret another paranoid superpower with a state-controlled planned economy, particularly if they're not interested in speaking to one another and whose security interests are conducted through proxy wars in the developing world.
That took words. But it’s never all words, it can’t be. It’s making the right decision and carrying it through—executing it.
If words could kill, we could really streamline this whole process.
Mr. Obama learned only half of Reagan’s lesson.
That's the half of not accepting counsel from Psychic Friends Network.
And here’s something odd.
An untouched bottle of Tanqueray in my liquor cabinet!
The first President Bush, George H.W., learned half the lesson too, but the other half. Bush managed, executed and decided his way through the peaceful fall of the Soviet Empire and the reunification of Germany. But he couldn’t, for reasons characterological [sic] and having to do with his own highly refined sense of the demands of diplomacy, explain to people exactly what he was doing, why he was doing it and how. And so a feat of great historical weight and magnitude, deserving of a Nobel Prize for peace and utterly ignored by that silly committee, is half forgotten.
No Peggy, it is completely forgotten. The collapse of the USSR was decided long before G.H.W. Bush even paid notice. It was accomplished by reformists within the Communist Party. By the way, former President Mikhail Gorbachev won the Nobel Peace Prize for this particular achievement. He was there, after all.
Whereas Mr. Obama won that prize—for words.
He won it because the Nobel committee wanted to flip the bird to “W”. War criminals rarely achieve the Peace Prize.
But let’s go back to the first paragraph, and the original point of this piece.
Do we really have to?
Mr. Obama’s problem now is that people think he is smart.
We haven't forgotten, although by now it's becoming annoying.
They think, as they look at his health-care vows, that either he didn’t know how bad his program was, what dislocations it would cause, what a disturbance it would be to the vast middle class of America . . .
Peggy, to be honest, the entire piece of legislation is flawed. It is, as one wag put it, akin to applying duct-tape to a manifold when it's obvious a rod is going to blow.
I'm surprised you are so negative on PPACA since the legislation was written entirely by lobbyists from the health insurance and pharma industries, building on bullet-points provided by the American Enterprise Institute.
The entire notion of health insurance as a commodity exists only in the USA, where hacks like yourself eke out a living justifying the entire commoditization of society from top to bottom, including the poorest amongst us.
Or he knew, and deliberately misled everyone.
Well, you could have just said “Liar, liar … pants on fire” in the first place and let it go at that. But no.
If they thought he wasn’t very bright, they might give him some leeway on that question. But they think he’s really smart.
So you're saying that ignorance of the law is an excuse? Well, that explains why George W. Bush isn't currently occupying the Slobodan Milošević Suite at The Hague. But as long as we're on the topic of Presidential intelligence, Peggy, perhaps you can clear something up. Nixon thought Reagan was an amiable nitwit, a man whose brains were "negligible," and whose sole skill lay in persuasively delivering the words someone else wrote for him. Now, you spent years putting those words in Reagan's mouth, and you -- judging by your column -- have actual contempt for words, so I guess the real question is: were you the cynical one and he the stupid one, or was it the other way around? (I know Paul was the cute one and Ringo the funny one, but I'm fuzzy on the rest.)
So they think he knew.
And deliberately misled.
They think he knowingly quelled people’s fears when he knew they had every reason to be afraid.
Which makes him just another dishonest pol, just another guy hiding in the deliberately obscure paragraph on page 1,037 of the omnibus comprehensive reform bill.
My copy of the legislation comes in at a mere 906 pages. Where is page 1,037?
He has taken himself down, lowered his own stature.
Commentators like to decry low-information voters—the stupid are picking our leaders. I think the real problem is low-information leaders. They have so little experience of life and have so much faith in magic—in media, in words—that they don’t understand people will get angry at you when you mislead them, and never see you the same way again.
We here at WO'C like to decry low-information pundits and you, Ms. Noonan, are the perfect example of Dictaphone on auto-pilot. Your thoughts are transcribed by unpaid interns and published by editors who have no patience to review your work.
I took on this assignment as a challenge from the editor of this blog, since neither Scott nor Sheri were ever able to wrap their heads around the Swiss-cheese you parlay as serious political commentary. Now that I have, I'll join you at the bar. But only if it's on your tab. I need something completely nauseating to erase the memory of this exercise.