The Very Serious Peggy Noonan
In her Wall St. Journal column today, Peggy Noonan offers up a Santa-like checklist of which presidential candidates are “reasonable” and which ones aren’t. In describing the attributes that Americans want in a President, she says: “I claim here to speak for thousands, millions.” On behalf of the throngs for whom she fantasizes she speaks, Noonan proclaims: “We are grown-ups . . . We’d like knowledge, judgment, a prudent understanding of the world and of the ways and histories of the men and women in it.”
This grown-up then proceeds to pronounce that Romney, McCain, Giuliani, Thompson and Duncan Hunter are all “reasonable” — as are Biden, Dodd, Richardson and Obama (though too young and inexperienced to be President) — but this is what she says about John Edwards:
John Edwards is not reasonable. . . . .[W]e can’t have a president who spent two minutes on YouTube staring in a mirror and poofing his hair. Really, we just can’t.
So Peggy Noonan is a “grown-up.”
Indeed she is, sir. However, I think the very finest example of Ms. Noonan’s sober-minded and grown-up political judgment can be found in this column written right after the 2004 presidential election. The column’s title, if you can believe it, is an approving reference to George W. Bush’s testicles [my emphasis]:
‘He’s Got Two of ‘Em’: Why I can’t stop being happy about the election result.
Well, I just can’t stop being happy. I don’t mean elated–it’s hard to get elated by big history, as opposed to by the birth of a baby, say, or a child’s being elected president of the debating club–but I continue to feel relief (the exit poll hives have gone down) and satisfaction (my countrymen, such good sense they have). So let’s just let the mood continue and have fun. […]
I think the people tended toward Mr. Bush because they saw him as a good American man, a man they know–an imperfect one with an imperfect past who turned his life around with grit and grace. That’s a very American story. It’s one we all know, and respect. […]
The American people arguably did not pick the more interesting man in the race. Mr. Kerry strikes me as a complicated and intelligent person, and the one time I spent any time with him he seemed to be bright, and to have an interesting range of thoughts on many issues. Mr. Bush, on the other hand, does not strike me as the most interesting man in the world. That’s one of the things I love about him. I sort of have a theory that Americans don’t necessarily desire terribly interesting men as presidents. “Interesting” tends to bring with it a whole bunch of other attributes–“complicated,” “hard to figure,” “unknowable,” “startling,” even sometimes “tortured and tragic.” A lot of us are Republicans, and we just hate tortured and tragic. […]
About a year ago I was visiting West Point, and I was talking to a big officer, a general or colonel. But he had the medals and ribbons and the stature, and he asked me what I thought of President Bush. I tried to explain what most impressed me about Mr. Bush, and I kept falling back on words like “courage” and “guts.” I wasn’t capturing the special quality Mr. Bush has of making a tough decision and then staying with it if he thinks it’s right and paying the price even when the price is high and–
I stopped speaking for a moment. There was silence. And then the general said, “You mean he’s got two of ’em.” And I laughed and said yes, that’s exactly what I mean. And the same could be said of Reagan.
So three years after praising Bush’s balls, Peggy now wants a president who has “knowledge, judgment, a prudent understanding of the world.” Go figure.