Friday, September 05, 2008

What partisan hacks say when they think no one is listening

Peggy Noonan, gushing about Sarah Palin in the Wall Street Journal

She has the power of the normal. Hillary Clinton is grim, stentorian, was born to politics and its connivances. Nancy Pelosi, another mother of five,often seems dazed and ad hoc. But this state governor and mother of a big family is a woman in a good mood. There is something so normal about her, so "You've met this person before and you like her," that she broke through in a new way,as a character vividly herself, and vividly genuine.

Her flaws accentuated her virtues. Now and then this happens in politics,but it's rare. An example: The very averageness of her voice, the not-wonderfulness of it, highlighted her normality: most people don't have great voices. That normality in turn highlighted the courage she showed in being there, on that stage for the first time in her life and under trying circumstances. Her averageness accentuated her specialness. Her commonality highlighted her uniqueness.
In contrast to Noonan's substance free, trite character based propaganda gibberish above which is Noonan's trademark, here is what Noonan had to say about Palin when she thought no one would hear.

"It's over" she says in regards to McCain's election prospects.

This is the partisan hack who Brian Williams thinks should get a Pulitzer for her Republican propaganda. She's doing the same thing now as when she was a Reagan speechwriter, except that now it's under the guise of being opinion journalism.

h/t The Lippard Blog

Update: In a previous column - the first one I linked is from two days after the clip, this one from the day of - Noonan added an update disputing the context of the clip.

In our off-air conversation, I got on the subject of the leaders of the Republican party assuming, now, that whatever the base of the Republican party thinks is what America thinks. I made the case that this is no longer true, that party leaders seem to me stuck in the assumptions of 1988 and 1994, the assumptions that reigned when they were young and coming up. "The first lesson they learned is the one they remember," I said to Todd -- and I'm pretty certain that is a direct quote. But, I argued, that's over, those assumptions are yesterday, the party can no longer assume that its base is utterly in line with the thinking of the American people. And when I said, "It's over!" -- and I said it more than once -- that is what I was referring to. I am pretty certain that is exactly what Todd and Murphy understood I was referring to. In the truncated version of the conversation, on the Web, it appears I am saying the McCain campaign is over. I did not say it, and do not think it.
I'm skeptical, but it's presented in the interest of fairness. Still, it's interesting to note the disconnect from reality: when has the base of the current incarnation of the GOP ever been "utterly in line with the thinking of the American people?"

But regardless: Noonan is still full of it. In the clip she says that Palin is not the most qualified choice and - most astonishingly of all - says that her addition to the ticket is "bullshit" because the Republicans went for narrative over substance which is "not where they live and it's not what they're good at."

Ok, first: promoting a narrative - the same exact narrative, i.e. "liberals" want to kill the economy with regulation, want to take away your money with taxes, want to spend your money, make people dependent on the "big government" nanny state, etc. - is what Republicans do and excel at. It is the reason that the conservative movement has been able to remain in power despite promoting an agenda that is at odds with public opinion.

Secondly: promoting a narrative is Noonan's specialty. It is - as far as I can tell - what she exclusively traffics in. A mere two days after she said that Palin's choice was a "bullshit" attempt at selling a narrative, Noonan was selling that EXACT narrative in her op-ed column.

Which gets me to the most important element of the speech, and that is the startlingness of the content. It was not modern conservatism, or split the difference Conservative-ish-ism. It was not a conservatism that assumes the America of 2008 is very different from the America of 1980.

It was the old-time conservatism. Government is too big, Obama will "grow it", Congress spends too much and he'll spend "more." It was for low taxes, for small business, for the private sector, for less regulation, for governing with "a servant's heart"; it was pro-small town values, and implicitly but strongly pro-life.

This was so old it seemed new, and startling. The speech was, in its way, a call so tender it made grown-ups weep on the floor. The things she spoke of were the beating heart of the old America. But as I watched I thought, I know where the people in that room are, I know their heart, for it is my heart. But this election is a wild card, because America is a wild card. It is not as it was in '80. I know where the Republican base is, but we do not know where this country that never stops changing is.
And recall that Noonan said that Palin "has the power of the normal." Does that ring a bell for anyone? Here's Noonan on Bush back in 2004: "I was asked this week why the president seems so attractive to the heartland, to what used to be called Middle America. A big question. I found my mind going to this word: normal." [Bold emphasis in both instances mine, italics Noonan's.]*

How can anyone take anything Noonan writes or says seriously? She seems to be able to believe whatever is convenient to believe at the moment. Did she really think the campaign was over or that the time (which never existed) when the Republican Party's base was in line with the thinking at large of the American public was over? Could it be both? How can anyone know - anyone who thinks that the message above is in anyway different from the message that Republicans always deliver at election time is someone whose grasp on reality can not be trusted.

Here's another instance of Noonan promoting substance free narrative. And another. You'll notice both of those links promoting the same narrative that Noonan is promoting in this column: that McCain represents traditional heart of America patriotic values and that Obama does not. This is Noonan's modus operandi: Republicans are saintly, virtuous patriots (until they're sufficiently unpopular or failed like Bush 43 and can be denounced) and Democrats are not.

Back to Noonan's ever changing grasp on reality, in the McCarthy-esque column above from April 25, she asserts that "I finally understand the party nostalgia for Reagan. Everyone speaks of him now, but it wasn't that way in 2000, or 1992, or 1996, or even '04."

What? Is she serious? Again, how can anyone know if she is able to believe something so absurd. I mean, heck, you tell me if this video from the 2004 Republican National Convention seems a tad bit nostalgic

Does Noonan believe the Reagan nostalgia is new? Probably. But she probably does because it serves the purpose of her propaganda, and she can or will probably believe the opposite in the blink of an eye if it becomes convenient to do so.

*This one is from 2000: "[Rick Lazio and George Bush] appear to be good, honest men, normal men, maybe too normal." She continues on to promote several of the numerous false stories about Gore being a serial liar that circulated back then (one of those narratives that Noonan asserted the Republicans aren't good at) and then gives us this mind-numbing sentence: "Interestingly, I think, Mr. Gore, with his cast iron pecs and the superman hair and the steely cold eyes, actually looks like Evil-Smart. Mr. Bush in his shambling gray suit and every-which-way hair and sweet insecurity looks Dumb-Good."

Update II: Another example of Noonan's ability to induce selective amnesia when convenient. Back in April of 2000, in a column about angelic miracle dolphins of God saving Elian Gonzalez and the evil Clintons capitulating to communists, Noonan wrote (bold emphasis still mine):

And some of us, in our sadness, wonder what Ronald Reagan, our last great president, would have done. I think I know. The burden of proof would have been on the communists, not the Americans; he would have sent someone he trusted to the family and found out the facts; seeing the boy had bonded with the cousin he would have negotiated with Mr. Castro to get the father here, and given him whatever he could that would not harm our country. Mr. Reagan would not have dismissed the story of the dolphins as Christian kitsch, but seen it as possible evidence of the reasonable assumption that God's creatures had been commanded to protect one of God's children. And most important, the idea that he would fear Mr. Castro, that he would be afraid of a tired old tyrant in faded fatigues, would actually have made him laugh. Mr. Reagan would fear only what kind of country we would be if we took the little boy and threw him over the side, into the rough sea of history.

He would have made a statement laying out the facts and ended it, "The boy stays, the dream endures, the American story continues. And if Mr. Castro doesn't like it, well, I'm afraid that's really too bad."

But then he was a man.
This Reagan nostalgia/worship was subtitled "And what would Jesus Reagan have done?"

Ok, I imagined the striked out bit.

Update III: More evidence from 1995 that the Reagan-talk is a totally new and what not. [Blogger's Note - sentence should be read as extreme sarcasm.]

WITHOUT a trace of embarrassment, Senator Bob Dole this summer delivered an utterly undisguised political appeal: "I'm willing to be another Ronald Reagan," he told members of the Republican National Committee gathered in Philadelphia, "if that's what you want."

Giving the impression that his transformation from a pragmatist to a devoted Reaganite occurred overnight, Mr. Dole said he was responding to people who told him the night before that "what they are really yearning for in Philadelphia is another Ronald Reagan."

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