Saturday, November 06, 2010

Peggy Noonan. Who's the Nincompoop?

Poor Peggy Noonan. She's not only less and less relevant (see the decline in Noonan's page views), she seems to have trouble understanding the "why" of important issues she writes about.
"[T]he tea party is not a "threat" to the Republican Party, the tea party saved the Republican Party."
. . .
"In a practical sense, the tea party saved the Republican Party in this cycle by not going third-party."
. . .
"Because of this, because they did not go third-party, Nov. 2 is not going to be a disaster for the Republicans, but a triumph."
Why didn't the Tea Party go third-party? Noonan never says.* Maybe she doesn't know. Maybe Noonan doesn't like the answer: Sarah Palin.

In Noonan's column yesterday she lambasts Palin for referring to the flack Reagan received for being an actor in B movies. Noonan goes on to "instruct" Palin on Reagan's accomplishments and infers that Palin is a "nincompoop" for not realizing Reagan's greatness.
"The point is not 'He was a great man and you are a nincompoop,' though that is true. The point is that Reagan's career is a guide, not only for the tea party but for all in politics. He brought his fully mature, fully seasoned self into politics with him. He wasn't in search of a life when he ran for office, and he wasn't in search of fame; he'd already lived a life, he was already well known, he'd accomplished things in the world."
Okay. So, Noonan's point is that to be a great leader you have to have lived a life, become well known, and accomplished things in the world. So much for Abraham Lincoln.

This isn't to say these attributes aren't good to have. It's just that such generalizations are, well, generalizations and not always true. People without worldly accomplishments can be great leaders and people with worldly accomplishments can be in over their head in political leadership. However, even giving Noonan the benefit of the doubt, if Palin runs for president, she will have fulfilled all these conditions. (see below)

Noonan goes on:
"And you need actual talent: You have to be able to bring people in and along. You can't just bully them, you can't just assert and taunt, you have to be able to persuade."
A good point. But, Noonan fails to give a single example of Reagan's ability "to bring people in and along." This is a writing and thinking failure.

On the other hand, Palin, just the day before Noonan's column, published her own article (in National Review) and touches on the very issue Noonan raises: Reagan's greatness in being able to bring people "in and along". Palin not only gives a concrete example of how Reagan did that but explains how to put that to work today. Palin:
"We are quickly approaching a fiscal turning point where these crucial reform discussions will be mandatory. We need to speak about them in a way that the public will embrace. During his first run for the presidency in 1976, Ronald Reagan found out that election campaigns aren’t necessarily the best settings for quasi-academic discussions about issues like Social Security reform. So for his next campaign, he resolved to build his platform out of tried and tested policies like tax cuts. Successful candidates in the next election cycle will have to test and develop similar policy platforms that address the crucial issues of entitlement reform and shrinking government in a way that the voters will find pragmatic and even attractive."
Peggy Noonan wrote speeches for Reagan but doesn't seem able to illustrate the center of his greatness or how others can apply his leadership style. Palin, who didn't know Reagan, but has studied him, goes right to the heart of how to bring people in.

Noonan seems unaware that the person she calls a nincompoop has had major accomplishments in life. In terms of private accomplishments Palin has helped run a successful private fishing business. She's a best selling author handily trouncing most everybody else in her genre including the current President (only bettered in political autobiography by President Bill Clinton). Palin is an often interviewed political commentator on the most successful cable news network in history--and which just trounced all the other stations (network as well as cable) in covering the 2010 elections. Noonan knows how hard it is to come by that sort of success since Noonan is in the political writing and commentating field too.

As for public service successes, Palin is the first woman governor of Alaska (winning without a political machine, family name or fortune) and successfully negotiated the biggest pipeline deal in Alaskan history with the big oil companies. Palin's fiscal savvy left Alaska with a major savings account during these last two years when most states have had to come to grips with empty coffers and state budgets heavily in the red.

Palin's success at bringing people "in and along" in keeping the Tea Party movement within the Republican party has already been covered.

So, even in terms of Noonan's own criteria, Palin has been a success.

Maybe it's Noonan who's the nincompoop.

*Other than throwing out the thought that it was a mysterious "rolling decision, group by group, to take part in Republican primaries and back Republican hopefuls." No known reason. Just happened to happen that all these little dissent-based groups came to the same conclusion that Republicans were OKAY.

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