I don’t know what planet Peggy Noonan inhabits, but I’m quite certain its atmosphere is critically lacking in oxygen. There’s no other way to account for her periodic dispatches to Earth via the Wall Street Journal. One of the latest, concerning last week’s opening of the George W. Bush Library, Museum and Crawfish Hut, is a textbook example of oxygen-deprived punditry at its flailing, gasping worst.
Like so many of Noonan’s ruminations, the piece reads like something written well in advance of the event it supposedly comments on, with just enough anecdotal detail added afterward to lend it a flimsy plausibility. And like so many of Noonan’s ruminations throughout Barack Obama’s White House tenure, it follows a paint-by-numbers approach: Peggy Noonan loathes the President, therefore obviously everyone else does too.
“Obama fatigue has opened the way to Bush affection,” proclaims Noonan, and having picked up that mythical ball, she runs like hell with it, dodging historical fact, empirical evidence and mountains of polling data as she makes her way downfield:
One thing Mr. Bush didn’t think he was was superior… He always seemed moved and grateful to be in the White House.
And so would I if five conservative Supreme Court Justices had installed me there over the express wishes of the electorate, but – come to think of it – I don’t remember any occasions where Bush seemed to be genuinely moved or grateful, for anything.
Glibness and triteness fight for dominance in Noonan’s portraits of the presidential attendees. It’s pretty much a draw:
Anyone can soften with age, but [Carter] seemed to have sweetened. That don’t come easy. Good for him.
… [GHW Bush] feels the tugs and tides of history… [the] crowd, and the people watching on TV—the person they loved and honored most was him.
At first I didn’t understand how Noonan knew which ex-President TV viewers “loved and honored most” but then it occurred to me that she probably just phoned all four or five of them afterward to check.
Then she segues into some nice stuff about Bill Clinton, so you just know she’s fixing to move on to some really nasty stuff about Barack Obama. It’s always fascinating to see which adjectives Noonan resorts to regarding the President, when the words she really seems to want to use range from “shiftless” to “uppity” and back again: Continue reading TSW #37
John Hinderaker won’t admit it, but I think he haz a sad. It was inevitable, considering that a mere two weeks ago the Power Line co-founder, who manages to store within the same cranium litigation abilities that got him named one of the 100 best lawyers in Minnesota and all the impulse control and political insight of a hyperactive four-year-old, was on an intense sugar high after W. Mitt Romney’s performance in the first presidential debate.
Hinderaker is a guy you might assume is simply too intelligent to believe the utter crap he writes, but time and time again he actually comes off as a sincere believer in the unbelievable and a zealot for the very worst of what the right wing would do to the nation if given an unfettered chance. Hinderaker believes, or would at least have you believe he believes, that Paul Krugman is a “full-time shill for the Obama administration,” that Dick Cheney “oozed” competence, and that “Barack Obama is a world-class liar.”
So his giddy appraisal of Romney’s handling of his first debate against President Obama, while essentially being a patchwork of falsehoods much like his candidate’s performance, was to be expected:
It wasn’t a TKO, it was a knockout. Mitt Romney was in control from the beginning. He was the alpha male, while Barack Obama was weak, hesitant, stuttering, often apologetic…
There was only one credible leader on the stage tonight, and it wasn’t our failed president.
Hinderaker was equally jubilant about what he believed was a world-shaking disaster of a debate performance by Barack Obama:
I don’t know how the Democrats will try to spin this one, but it just doesn’t matter. This was a huge night for the cause of freedom, one from which, one hopes, Obama can’t recover. The pitiful figure that we saw tonight was the real Obama, the loser behind the curtain who is finally revealed as an utter hoax.
For good measure, Hinderaker wrapped up the piece by characterizing Obama-supporting conservative Andrew Sullivan as “maybe the dumbest of all the liberals,” which is like describing a goat as “maybe the most four-footed of all the bipeds” or a bicycle as “maybe the least motorized of all motorcycles.”
While Hinderaker won’t dare acknowledge it, his “cause of freedom” seems to have suffered a big setback last night. Judging from his assessment of the town hall rematch between the candidates, Hinderaker was able to indulge in his typical puerile boosterism only by dropping, drinking or smoking something so mind-altering that he actually saw a debate nobody else did: Continue reading TSW #36
It’s a mercy that I caught every moment of prime time TV coverage of the Democratic convention (mostly via PBS, where the daft commentary was generally kept to a minimum, at least when David Brooks wasn’t talking). If I’d had to depend on certain myopic print and internet pundits for a retroactive overview, I’d be as hopelessly clueless about the event as they are.
Others, of course, aren’t myopic at all; they just have a naked agenda. In post-truth America, anyone can have a soapbox and say just as many patently untrue things as the mood, or the paymaster, might dictate. And it pays; there’s always someone somewhere – or thousands, or even millions – who, no matter the transparency of the falsehoods being pushed, will take the bullshit straight up. Recently, for instance, I ran across an absolutely remarkable Wall Street Journal piece by Charles G. Koch, a gentleman whose name, in some bright and, let us hope, not too distant future, will be as synonymous with “traitor” as Benedict Arnold’s. Koch’s piece is entitled “Corporate Cronyism Harms America.”
That’s sort of like Jerry Sandusky penning an impassioned appeal to street-proof your kids, or A-Rod bemoaning the effect of performance-enhancing substances on baseball, or David Koresh doing a PSA spotlighting the perils of cults.
Steve Huntley of the Chicago Sun-Times contributed a piece on the convention that splits the difference between the myopic and the agenda-driven. It reads suspiciously as though it had been written before a single speaker had taken the stage in Charlotte, although Huntley inserted a glib reference to the President’s and the ex-President’s speeches that could just as easily have been based on an intuitive notion of how they would unfold as on the actual speeches themselves. Huntley has a lot to say, most of it so utterly silly it’s hardly worth responding to, but responding to this sort of tripe is why TSW exists, so here goes.
Obama and Clinton tried to beguile the voters with soaring, emotional oratory. But voters have heard it before. This time they might be thinking about results. They might look at Mitt Romney and see success — success in starting familiar businesses like Staples, success in rescuing the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics from financial ruin, success in political bipartisanship as a Republican governor who ran a Democratic state.
To paraphrase the Beatles song, Obama’s words may give us a thrill, but they don’t pay the bills — or create jobs.
Well, sure, Steve, some voters could look at Mitt Romney and see success, but I suspect the better informed among them will look at Mitt Romney and see an amoral if not immoral bastard, whose experience “starting familiar businesses” kept him nowhere near as busy as did his experience destroying perfectly viable enterprises by loading them up with debt, selling off their carcasses and pocketing exorbitant fees for killing American jobs. Continue reading TSW #35
Colin Snell, The College Conservative, May 9:
As my Comparative Politics classroom once again became a haven for criticizing President George W. Bush… I found myself correcting many of the liberal lies and myths that are created about our 43rd President… I have never trusted a politician more. His proud patriotism, sentimental demeanor, and genuine delivery projected American courage, pride, and exceptionalism…
… Bush acquired much of his wisdom through the school of hard knocks. He served in the Texas Air National Guard, created and ran his own business, and advised a Major League Baseball team in its business operations… Intelligence is often linked with impressive public speaking. Judging by the current mess that smooth politicians like Barack Obama are facilitating, this association is unfortunate. George W. Bush may not have been a great orator, but to me, that just means he wasn’t a liar.
Whenever a liberal college student brings up George Bush, they usually claim that he deliberately lied and manipulated our nation into going to war in Iraq. This is another absurd accusation. Looking deeper, we see that the Iraq War had non-partisan and bi-partisan support…
One action of George W. Bush that particularly impressed me is his abandonment of golf during wartime. As an avid golfer, I know that giving up the sport must have been tough. But President Bush felt that playing golf while our nation’s servicemen were donating their lives would not be a desirable trait for a leader, proving that Bush is a man of high character. Unfortunately, our current President does not agree (his rounds tripled Bush’s total over eight years a mere two and a half years into his presidency…and counting).
… many areas of left-wing Bush hating are truly destructive to his legacy, and I hope that history will remember him for who he was: A staunch American patriot and man of great moral character. While his policies were not always conservative, his love and devotion to America was unwavering, and his character could not be more sincere… He remains one of my greatest political influences, not particularly because of policy, but because of character. Sometimes that is more important. His devotion to America shows that honesty and values are greater traits than rhetoric and charisma. His presidency radiated honesty and values…
Snell is a political science major at New Jersey’s Burlington County College, an institution that might want to rethink its admission standards based on this article. I have to wonder if any attempt at critical thought and research is being taught there, or if Snell is simply too far gone to absorb it.
I’m guessing Snell was seven or eight years old when Bush stole his first term, but at a certain point his youth will be no excuse for his astounding ignorance. Maybe when he’s older, Snell will learn the amply documented facts, that the Bush “presidency” was essentially a criminal enterprise, and that honesty, values, character and genuineness are concepts so completely inapplicable to Bush that Snell’s essay almost reads like irony-drenched sarcasm, especially the stupefying reference to “the school of hard knocks.” Continue reading TSW #34
Robert Knight, Washington Times, May 11:
Mr. Obama is asking us to put into law a requirement for us to recognize as a marriage something that is not a marriage. When you do that, you create the sinews of tyranny, which stretch out to strangle freedom of speech, freedom of association and, eventually, freedom of religion. The virtue of tolerance is strangled, too, morphing into the vice of mandatory celebration.
With this wicked move, Mr. Obama is insisting that we bow down and worship the false idol of sexual anarchy. That’s what his wealthy supporters in Hollywood demand. On Thursday, they ponied up a reported $15 million to his campaign at George Clooney’s pool party. When you accord more respect to liberal film stars and gay billionaires than you do to the Creator of the universe, you’re not leaving much doubt about what you really worship.
If there’s one issue guaranteed to drive the far right into paroxysms of hyperbole, hysteria and histrionics, it’s marriage equality. It’s instructive to compare Knight’s spittle-flecked claim that the President “is insisting that we bow down and worship the false idol of sexual anarchy” to what the President actually said:
“… at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”
Sinews of tyranny, indeed. On a side note, I don’t know, any more than I suspect Knight does, what “the false idol of sexual anarchy” is supposed to mean, but it does conjure up some heady memories of my university days.
The sort of lunatic rant Knight delivers himself of became a growth industry following the 2008 election. While I remember shaking my head in wonder over accusations that the Clintons murdered Vince Foster, those days seem a little quaint in retrospect, a kinder, gentler calumny than the apocalyptic bleating provoked now by every single word the President utters. The Clintons were simply villains to the right; Barack Obama, by contrast, is “the Other” – equal parts European socialist, radical Muslim, Chicago thug, ephemeral celebrity, shiftless rookie and Machiavellian tyrant. Oh, and he hangs out at George Clooney’s pool.
As disgusting as Knight’s vomitous little screed might be, it’s equaled or surpassed by one that the Times ran just the day before by Jeffrey T. Kuhner, a textbook “Obama as Other” philippic:
It is his latest onslaught on traditional America. Mr. Obama has made history. He is our first commander in chief to openly embrace legalizing homosexual and lesbian unions. He has crossed a cultural watershed, paving the way for the eventual triumph of the homosexual agenda. Rather than being a victory for “civil rights” or “marital equality,” Mr. Obama’s decision puts America on the path to moral disintegration.
Predictably, Kuhner trots out a miserably inaccurate historical overview of marriage to bolster his argument: Continue reading TSW #33
Ben Jacobs, The Daily Beast, April 29:
… the [Wisconsin Democratic primary] competition has boiled down to a two-man race between former Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, the 2010 Democratic nominee, and Kathleen Falk… It is a competitive primary, in which both sides are well financed and motivated. There just isn’t much difference between the two.
… Barrett is better known than Falk as a former mayor of Milwaukee and congressman … Barrett, however, is not a perfect candidate either, and has only been in the race since the end of March. He was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2010 against Walker and he lost…
… Wisconsin Democrats still have to sift through their candidates and pick one on May 8. They just may have a difficult time staying awake in the process.
They may? That’s strange, because I’m pretty damned sure Wisconsin Democrats are wide awake. It’s Jacobs who seems to be asleep. Otherwise, how are we to account for Kathleen Falk, a woman, being named as one-half of a “two-man race”? Or Tom Barrett, the current mayor of Milwaukee, being described twice as the “former mayor” of Milwaukee? He won a third term on April 3, as a matter of fact. There were balloons and everything.
As to Jacobs’ apparent objection to there not being “much difference between the two,” it’s difficult to understand why and how he would expect two generally mainstream, career Democratic politicians to have “much difference” between them. Continue reading TSW #32
William McGurn, Wall Street Journal, April 16:
Now, the president’s likability doesn’t mean Mr. Romney shouldn’t go on the offensive. It does mean he ought to attack hardest where Mr. Obama is at his weakest: his failed policies. For all the carping about Mr. Romney, this part he gets. We can see it reflected in both his embrace of the opportunity-oriented Republicanism of Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan—and his repeated refrain that Mr. Obama is simply “in over his head.”
Mr. Romney is hardly the first Republican presidential aspirant to take that tack against a Democratic incumbent. In 1980, Ronald Reagan zeroed in on Jimmy Carter’s competence…
Mr. Romney now has a similar opportunity. Certainly he can point out that Mr. Obama has no excuses. If ever the stars were in alignment for liberal Democratic policies to shine, it was during the first two years of Mr. Obama’s presidency, after he had handily defeated John McCain and been sent to Washington with huge, veto-proof majorities in Congress.
McGurn was apparently vacationing on another planet during the first two years of “Mr. Obama’s” presidency, but he’s right about those brightly aligned stars. Barack Obama and the best and brightest of his Democratic colleagues in Congress seized the hell out of that moment. Liberal Democratic policies shone brightly indeed, despite Republican efforts to dim the lights.
ARRA, the $787 billion bill signed into law by President Obama on February 17, 2009, was the largest economic stimulus package in the nation’s history. It saved and created millions of jobs and ensured that the Bush Recession didn’t become Great Depression 2.0.
At a projected final net cost to taxpayers of a mere $16 billion, 2009′s auto bailout saved GM, Chrysler and an untold number of ancillary companies, preserving millions more jobs. 100,000 new industry jobs have since been created, and for the first time in many, many years, the Big Three have actually gained market share.
Over 30 million uninsured Americans will have health coverage once all the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act kick in by 2014 (assuming McGurn’s party doesn’t succeed in killing it).
Withdrawal from Iraq, now complete, was then begun in earnest. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act became law. New financial regulations were enacted, including the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Banks were cut out of the student loan process. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed. Tax cuts were targeted to the poor and middle class, rather than the wealthy. Osama Bin Laden was killed. Two solid liberals, both women, were appointed to the Supreme Court. Continue reading TSW #31
Whether the prime mover of the president’s failure is incompetence or the consequence of a blinkered ideology, the past two weeks have been catastrophic for his re-election chances. In this space of time, every negative argument made against him was reinforced and additional evidence piled up of his certain inability to cope with his job…
Though the damage done is mostly ignored by the Obamalytes of the Manhattan-Beltway media elite, still obsessed with Mitt Romney’s occasional verbal twitch (think “two Cadilacs” and the $10,000 bet), the events of the past two weeks will return again and again in the months ahead to frame the campaign.
Hewitt’s ostensible focus here is on what he describes as “… President Obama’s erratic behavior of the past two weeks…” but that’s simply cover for yet another set of Hewitt’s stolid, uncreative variations on a very stale theme, that “Obama is in over his head” (or “o-double-i-o-double-h” in Hewitt-speak).
Rather than offering any convincing examples of “erratic behavior,” Hewitt is content to simply rhyme off a series of unrelated things, wildly mischaracterizing them for maximum effect. Thus we’re confronted with howlers such as “Obama easily sees and raises Romney on the minor gaffe front…” and ” the president’s constitutionally illiterate description of the Supreme Court’s powers and authority” and “… a speech bordering on hysteria to the Associated Press” and Hewitt’s sublimely silly description of President Obama’s comment to Dmitry Medvedev, picked up on an open mic, as “chilling and sinister.”
One paragraph, however, stands out as a small masterpiece of political spin:
Slow Joe Biden contributed an 11-minute-long answer to a ten-second question on why gas prices were so high, and suddenly, “He is risen indeed” seemed less a celebration of the Easter miracle than an assessment of what it would take for Obama to win back the shattered confidence of a country.
Not a word of truth there (in fact, it’s cartoonish), but it’s masterfully composed propaganda and you just know that every hardcore, dyed-in-the-wool conservative true believer who read it nodded in eager agreement, and got a racy little chuckle out of it besides. Continue reading TSW #30
George Will, Washington Post, March 2:
From Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to Wisconsin’s Rep. Paul Ryan, Republicans have a rising generation of potential 2016 candidates. This does not mean conservatives should be indifferent to the fate of this year’s nominee, and it is perhaps premature to despair of Romney’s and Santorum’s political aptitudes. Still, the presidency is not everything, and there will be another election in the next year divisible by four.
If merely being younger than the platoon of obtuse nincompoops in this year’s Republican field qualifies someone as being part of a “rising generation of potential 2016 candidates” then I suppose Will has a point. What he doesn’t seem to have noticed is that the GOP’s youth movement, by and large, consists of nincompoops even more obtuse and, well, nincompoopish than their elders.
Remember Bobby Jindal’s “response” to the President’s 2009 speech before a joint session of Congress? If you do, chances are you’re a Democrat; Republicans forgot that they had ever hyped it the moment Governor Jindal spat out the splinters of his last wooden sentence.
And of course the Republican stable of rising flops is rich with governors other than Jindal. Their names circle in the air like demons from some Fantasia outtake set to a Bartok string quartet played by meth-addled gibbons: Haley, Kasich, Snyder, Walker, LePage, McDonnell, Scott, Daniels, Christie… and, uh, Perry! That’s a lot of high-priced lack of talent.
As to Paul Ryan, remember his rebuttal to the 2011 SOTU? It was so full of falsehoods that CNN could only address one of them before it realized that nobody really expects fact-checking from CNN these days. Ryan has plenty of company in the House, of course, vicious, snotty little punks like Eric Cantor and Joe Wilson. Presidential timber? A starving termite wouldn’t consider that edible.
The Senate offers up an equally bleak range of names, although Will no doubt thinks otherwise, if his praise for “the canny Mitch McConnell’s legislative talents” is anything to go by. I suppose a person as stodgy as George Will might look at a person like Rand Paul, Marco Rubio or Scott Brown and see charisma, but even equipped with an electron microscope, the average voter won’t. Continue reading TSW #29
The Editors, National Review Online, February 13:
Santorum has been conducting himself rather impressively in his moments of triumph and avoiding characteristic temptations. He is doing his best to keep the press from dismissing him as merely a “social-issues candidate.” His recent remark that losing his Senate seat in 2006 taught him the importance of humility suggests an appealing self-awareness. And he has rightly identified the declining stability of middle-class families as a threat to the American experiment, even if his proposed solutions are poorly designed. But sensible policies, important as they are, are not the immediate challenge for his candidacy. Proving he can run a national campaign is.
The National Review editors using the word “appealing” to describe Rick Santorum is funny in a quease-inducing kind of way, I guess, but what really stands out here is what they conveniently overlook in their pitiable attempt to confer some gravitas on him.
For starters, if the press is portraying him as a social issues candidate, it’s probably because Santorum can’t make himself a sandwich without turning it into an opportunity to yap about social issues, implicitly or explicitly. In the past couple of weeks, he publicly sneered at a woman and her sick child when the woman had the temerity to mention that the cost of the boy’s medication is prohibitive. Santorum railed about people happily paying $900 for iPads but expecting the state to subsidize their medicine. Some days later he dismissed a gay man as undeserving of the “privilege” of marriage. In fact, beyond his medieval take on social issues, there isn’t all that much to distinguish Santorum from his rivals.
As for Santorum having “… rightly identified the declining stability of middle-class families as a threat to the American experiment,” I can honestly say this is the most jaw-dropping comment I’ve ever read at National Review Online, an enterprise with an obsessive-compulsive dedication to jaw-dropping commentary. Every policy put forward by Republicans going all the way back to the ’70s has been dedicated to subverting the stability of middle-class families, from off-shoring jobs to “free” trade to reckless deregulation to corporate welfare to borrow-and-spend policies that increased the national debt by mind-numbing increments. And virtually all of it has received nothing but hearty huzzahs from the National Review‘s dutiful amen corner, all the louder since William F. Buckley stepped down as its editor in 1990. Continue reading TSW #28