Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Personal Aside: More Bitterness About Being Neglected from Peggy Noonan.


Neglected… Neglected.

Not long ago I wrote about Peggy Noonan, the all-American Irish Catholic ex-Democrat wordsmith for Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush…who took a leave of absence as Op Ed columnist for “The Wall Street Journal” to campaign for George W. in 2004. I got the idea then that she was trying for a slot on “This Week” on ABC-TV to replace Cokie Roberts. In the estimation of the Establishment punditocracy if one is to hold down a conservative chair he should have a healthy, wide streak of liberalism to be palatable. George Will nailed down his permanent seat by coming out against the Iraq War and dismissing GOP over-concern with social issues—contradicting two earlier views he expressed. Bill Kristol used to be on ABC but got canned because he was too pro-Bush (and is now on Fox). Noonan seems to be making a pact with herself that she’ll praise other Democratic presidential candidates except Hillary Clinton (about whom she wrote a catty book last year: can’t go so far as to contradict a book that was on the “New York Times” best-seller list).

Earlier this month—October 6--Peggy played up Barack Obama (“[he] has a great thinking look…Mr. Obama often seems to be thinking when he speaks, too, and this comes as a relief, in comparison, say, to Hillary Clinton and President Bush both of whom often seem to be trying to remember the answer they’d agreed upon with staff. What’s the phrase we use about education? Hit Search Function. Hit Open. Right-click. “Equity in education is essential, Tim…”

Turning to Joe Biden she gushed: “Joe Biden used to seem mildly giddy, vaikn but in a small way, not a big and interesting way….But it has been 35 years since he a became a figure in Washington and in the past few years in particular he has been ahead of his peers on Iraq—ahead with warnings, ahead with tripartite thinking, ahead with a seriousness and sobriety about the fix we’re in. He is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee and he’s been reading daily threat reports for a long time. He is impressive. Why don’t the Democrats notice?”

Then once more with feeling to that old liberal warhorse Chris Dodd: “…the head of the Senate Banking committee and nothing if not sophisticated. In the post 9/11 world sophisticated is not so bad. He’s been in the Senate 27 years. In earlier years his thinking on government, his assumptions about what can and should be expected from it, veered from the utopian to the world-weary and were sometimes both at once. .l But if you listen to him and watch him in debate, you might legitimately conclude this is a candidate who understands how it all works and what time it is. He’s one of the grown-ups. Anybody notice?

Last Saturday on October 13 came another column that crucified the last White House director of communications who is now on the speech circuit, Dan Bartlett. What did Bartlett do? Helped “steer a president to a sundered base, a flattened party and some of the lowest approval ratings since polling began.” Pardon me? Bartlett did all these things? Didn’t George W. Bush’s decision on Iraq—which others than Bartlett executed—prove to be the culprit? The culprit which proved to be unpopular…even though it is unproven that the decision was a bad idea since we have not had a serious terrorist attack on these shores since?

Now we seem to be getting to the nub of Peggy’s problem. “The Bush people don’t seem to spend much time on loyalty to the party per se, only to their guy.” Hmmm. Where did Bush turn disloyal to his party. Or was Peggy’s resume in the White House for yet another job and she wasn’t picked up? “Who, after all, is looking out for the Republican nominees, for the group of them?” Is that Bush’s job? Earlier she praises Dwight Eisenhower. The self-same Ike who said when Nixon was running for president, “if you give me a week I’ll think of an important idea he submitted.”

Moving closer to the key itch that Peggy wants somebody to scratch: “Why, for example, are they forced into debates that seem almost designed to diminish them?” Huh? What does that mean? Is that Bush’s fault? Ah now we focus more closely: “Having as moderator a preening cable jockey does nothing to enhance their stature. It is a recipe for sadness.” Who is the cable jockey she’s thinking of? Chris Matthews, on whose show she used to be featured as commentator.

“Why don’t the Republican campaigns try to get moderators of calm stature? Ted Koppel, for one is an old-school broadcaster; he makes you look classy because he’s classy; he lends it to you as he asks you questions. What does Chris Matthews lend?”

And look whom she recommends: “Why not Keith Olbermann? Or Al Franken?” Of course this is said in irony—Keith Olbermann is so hotly anti-Bush that were the president to say the sky is blue, Olbermann would insist it is green. And Al Franken is the unfunny satirist, formerly on “Saturday Night Live” who is running for the U. S. Senate in Minnesota against Norm Coleman. Methinks somebody forgot to ask Peggy Noonan to moderate.

Then there is the odd complaint: “The GOP challengers, no matter how they feel about Mr. Bush, can’t knock him because that would infuriate the president’s 20% in Iowa, New Hampshire and elsewhere.” I’ve watched all the debates and I don’t see remotely that any of the presidential candidates have larded praise on Bush—as you’d think some of them would with the surge coming on and the economy roaring along.” There is something to be said for an electorate that doesn’t relish a president wanna-be stabbing an incumbent of his own party no matter how unpopular the president is. Remember when Adlai Stevenson lost control of himself and asked voters to send him to Washington to “clean up the mess” there? That was Harry Truman’s mess. Stevenson lost the miniscule percentage of Democrats who still stood by Truman. Remember when Al Gore refused to invite Bill Clinton to campaign for him? Did it help him? I think not.

But, she’s right to this extent: The GOP should have found someone better than that clown Matthews who interjected his own views as a response to an answer from one of the candidates. And to be brutally honest, I think the Republicans could have done far worse than asking Peggy Noonan to host. Ted Koppel? Oh, all right. Probably one of the best interrogators would have been Michael Barone than whom few have a better grasp of historicity.

But the clue to Peggy’s discomfiture is not that Bush has been ignobly inconsiderate of the Republican presidential candidates who want to succeed him…it is not that the GOP erred in forgetting about Ted Koppel (I don’t think it did). It’s that somebody forgot to hire Peggy for something—be it White House Communications Director (that’s what I think it is: Ed Gillespie was chosen to substitute for Bartlett) and that other weekend panel seats are opening up—for an attractive female who is “independent” in attitude.


  1. Tom remember it is YOU who has cozied up to the Ex-Troskyite-neo-cons! I keep hearing about all the enlighted conversions all these EX's have. But then they turn like worms and act like their former selves. But some how you don't seem to get it when it comes to the neo-cons, most of whom at one time sang the praises of the far left.

    Embrace these people at your peril!

  2. Tom, if you want to see a funny picture of "Mayor Daley" go to We all need a laugh. Please say hi to your wife and Tom M.