Sunday, January 02, 2011

Peggy Noonan: Ow! That Hurts!

Peggy Noonan - November 28, 2010
Last Sunday Peggy Noonan made a very revealing statement.

She was a panelist on NBC's Meet the Press. Others in the discussion were centrist Tom Brokaw with Doris Kearns Goodwin and Bob Woodward leaning liberal. Only Noonan was on the conservative side. Here's what she said (full transcript below*):
"MS. NOONAN: I got to tell you, I'm one of those who thinks Palin will not run, and I happen to think if she runs, it will not work. Her people love her, support her, watch her on TV, read her books, love to cheer her. They especially love to defend her when people like us criticize her. They will not vote.... They won't vote for her for president."
[emphasis added]
First, there's the strange idea that people "love to defend" a major political figure they wouldn't vote for. When's the last time you heard of that? I'm an activist, and I can't remember the last political figure I vigorously defended who I wouldn't vote for. I would defend someone with opposing views, but probably not vigorously enough for a pundit to notice. Certainly not in a manner to be described as loving to defend the political figure. That's just strange analysis.

What's also interesting is the second part of the emphasized text: "when people like us criticize her."

What Noonan meant was "when people like me criticize her." I'd be surprised if Bob Woodward, Doris Kearns Goodwin or Tom Brokaw get much static, let alone vitriol, for criticizing Palin. Certainly not from their base. They more likely get cheers.

But, Peggy Noonan doesn't get cheers from her base when she criticizes Governor Palin. Unfortunately for Noonan, it turned out that she was the only one of the four who implied that Palin was not "[a] credible alternative, a serious man or woman, someone with experience and some weight and heft who can get through Iowa and South Carolina."

Opinions like that get Noonan on liberal-leaning talk shows and give her spikes in page views of her Wall Street Journal columns. Her normal page view volume is a fourth or even an eighth of what her anti-Palin columns draw. To gin up interest, Noonan usually has to say something controversial, but the overall effect of that has been to further cut her off from the conservative base.

Noonan is no longer admired as a woman of gently persuasive opinions. That's what happens when you talk about "patriotic grace" on the one hand and yet call people "nincompoops" on the other. The two don't mesh. So, she no longer gets invited on the major audience conservative shows.

I and many others only read her column when she says something boorish or silly that grabs headlines. Poor Peggy Noonan. How the mighty have fallen, and it hurts enough that she can't help thinking that even the liberal panelists must feel the pain of criticizing Sarah Palin.

But they don't. Instead they lure Peggy into doing the criticism (notice Bob Woodward's leading below). Even if they did criticize Palin themselves, their natural base agrees with them. Brokaw, Goodwin and Woodward are spared the ire of conservatives. But, Peggy Noonan is not.

Now if Noonan had David Brooks and George Will with her, they could all feel the pain. But who would watch them? Well, maybe Kathleen Parker. (I wonder if any of them watch Parker's show?)

Update: Post edited for clarity by extending initial quotation.

----
*MS. NOONAN: Gosh, what do the, the Republicans need to beat Obama? A credible alternative, a serious man or woman, someone with experience and some weight and heft who can get through Iowa and South Carolina.

MR. WOODWARD: And so, not Sarah Palin, you're saying, is that right?

MS. NOONAN: Thank you, Bob, so much...

MR. WOODWARD: Yeah, yeah.

MS. NOONAN: ...for clarifying that.

MR. WOODWARD: Yes.

MS. NOONAN: I got to tell you, I'm one of those who thinks Palin will not run, and I happen to think if she runs, it will not work. Her people love her, support her, watch her on TV, read her books, love to cheer her. They especially love to defend her when people like us criticize her. They will not vote...

MR. GREGORY: But it almost, as a matter of fact, I mean, she...

MS. NOONAN: I'm telling you, they will vote for her.

MR. GREGORY: ...she could run without running. She could be a factor without running.

MS. NOONAN: They won't vote for her for president.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

MS. NOONAN: What I think she'll do is sit back. She's a realist, she'll know she's not going to--this isn't going to work. And so she will sacrifice herself and support somebody else...

2 comments:

denny said...

The media will do their best to build up the meme:
"Sarah Palin is the front runner in the GOP."

They will cover her to the exclusion of all other candidates. They hope she will win on name recognition, as all the other candidates will be known to political junkies (that's you and me, dear reader) only.
Then, if she wins the primary they will tear her apart. Every criticism from the right (some valid) will be replayed endlessly. The meme will become:
"Sarah Palin is so unqualified even (conservative name) doesn't want her as president."

We can call this "giving her a McCain."

The media want her as a candidate.

T. D. said...

The "even conservatives (or other Republicans)" meme will be run against any candidate. Primaries dredge up intra-party hits. Remember "voodoo economics" H. W. Bush's hit against Reagan?

It's not that the media wants Palin as a candidate, it's that they just can't keep from covering her. They half believe she can't win and half fear that she can. If they could wave a magic wand and make her go away, they would. Just as they similarly would have done with Reagan.

No one presented him as a real election threat to a sitting president before he became the presumptive nominee.

"As recently as last month, before Reagan's New Hampshire victory, White House advisers looked forward with relish to the possibility of Reagan as their target. No longer."
Time, March 1980

More from Time:

"But to say that Reagan can be elected is by no means to say that he will be. On the contrary, he looks very much the underdog. Some party operatives are plainly unhappy with his selection. In Massachusetts, where both Bush and Anderson defeated Reagan, party leaders are not yet reconciled to the Reagan candidacy. Says one: 'There's a vacuum of leadership at the national level; and what appears to be the Republican Party's response? A 69-year-old man who has done virtually nothing for years. We're at the same stage the Whigs were. There's no choice.'"
. . .
"Worse perhaps than the verbal gaffe is Reagan's relentlessly simple-minded discussion of complex problems. He is aware that he is charged with this failing, and in his 1967 inaugural address on becoming Governor of California, he asserted: 'We have been told there are no simple answers to complex problems. Well, the truth is there are simple answers, just not easy ones.'"
. . .
"Reagan's loose statements and flabby positions will make splendid targets for Jimmy Carter. John Sears, Reagan's former campaign manager, was worried by that very problem during his year-and-a-half reign, and after Reagan fired him in late February, Sears complained publicly that Reagan does not have well-prepared policy positions. Frets Sears: 'I'm not sure that he is now adequately briefed on matters on which politicians and the press and the people hold him to account.'"

Along with "loose statements" and "flabby positions", the press also played Reagan as a B-grade actor and an "amiable dunce". He was not presented by any major press source as a political genius or even a sharp thinker.

After election, he was presented (even by some Republicans) as not good with details, apt to fall asleep in staff meetings, and easily manipulable such that Nancy Reagan was thought to be the real power behind his presidency (much like the on-again, off-again press assertion that Cheney was the real gravitas/policy power in W. Bush's presidency during his first term).

Besides charisma and clarity on her political position, Palin's strength as against all the other candidates is that there is no "surprise" hit in waiting. The press has thrown everything possible at Palin already.