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Robert J. Elisberg

Robert J. Elisberg

Posted: July 17, 2007 01:19 PM

Peggy Noonan Feels Bad About George Bush: A Nation Mourns


Last Friday (the 13th, oh-so appropriately), Peggy Noonan wrote what was seemingly a harshly critical essay on George Bush for the Wall Street Journal. As much as I enjoyed a good deal of what she said on one level - once you got past her distress, it was disingenuous in every heart-wrenching word.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for her criticizing President George Bush. Of course, I wish she did it six years ago. Or even one year ago. (Hey, it's not like anything she's complaining about has changed.) But that's not the problem. Criticism is criticism, and that's fine. But not once in her commentary is there even a sense of "mea culpa." Instead, it's nothing more than a complete whitewashing of her conscience. It was standing at the bottom of a deep, murky pit and trying to convince others you're on the high ground. It was like shooting someone in the face and trying to get him to apologize

In truth, past the surface, the insincere, deceitful passages leap out, as if trying to escape to freedom.

And so we're lamentably told that people who used to smile at President George Bush now "grit their teeth" -

"I'm not referring to what used to be called Bush Derangement Syndrome. That phrase suggested that to passionately dislike the president was to be somewhat unhinged. No one thinks that anymore."

The problem is, that phrase Ms. Noonan derides, it's one that she and her partisan pundit friends came up with all by themselves to paint Democrats as "unhinged" - the very concept that she now says she feels, too. No, "Oops, sorry for accusing you," in her heart anywhere. In fact, she sort of goes out of her way to repeat the name-calling.

Well, that's okay, because she's too busy describing the new-found disappointment about George Bush by an angry, die-hard Republican who had just written her -

"She said she'd had it. 'I don't believe a word that comes out of his mouth.' I was startled by her vehemence only because she is, as I said, rock-ribbed. "


Cool. A "rock-ribbed" Republican doesn't "believe a word" that comes from the president. Except that honesty would address the tense and acknowledge what came from him previously. Because George Bush is staying the course lying now about the exact same things he has been lying about since Day One. But conveniently, there's no mention of that by Peggy Noonan.

However, it's her ease at being "startled" that's striking. Throughout her piece, she explains being "disconcerted" by President George Bush, finding him "disorienting," "strange" and "weird." To be "startled" is to suggest that the rock-ribbed Republican base is so monumentally out of touch with reality that it's actually astonishing they wouldn't be bothered by a strange, disoriented, weird GOP president. There are two choices: either she damningly means that - or she doesn't want to honestly acknowledge that such anger at a Republican president is perfectly understandable.

"Her email reminded me of another, one a friend received some months ago: 'I took the W off my car today,' it said on the subject line.


Gasp, talk about civil disobedience!! Power to the People! Of course, in the midst of such hand-wringing about her morose Republican buddy, how about just one word for the Clinton officials who were blasted for supposedly taking the "W" off all White House keyboards when they left? Then again, that story later turned out to be the first official lie of the new Bush Administration. But it sure turned out to be prescient, didn't it?

"Americans hire presidents and fire them."


No. They don't. Only once did we fire a president. We hire them and are stuck with them until their term ends. Don't try to assuage your guilt over having supported what you now call a disoriented, strange and weird liar by suggesting it's in our power to get rid of him any time if the country is unhappy. We're not talking about the incompetent manager of a Dairy Queen outlet, although the comparison is apt. When you get a presidential nominee elected, we all live and die with the consequences. Literally, at least for 3,600 American troops. This isn't like buying a lemon of a car; you don't get buyer's remorse.

"I think that is one reason for the polarity and division of politics now. No one knows in his gut that the guy he supports will do any good."

Bunk. Primary for the polarity and division is because one side painted the other as treasonous, "unhinged" and made Swift Boat cowards out of war heroes. And equally important, Democratic guts believed their candidates would do "good." If Republicans didn't feel that about George Bush, it's for an understandable reason that they and Ms. Noonan are finally now coming to realize.

In fact, remarkably in the very next sentence, Peggy Noonan herself proves the very point about the Republican cause of polarity --

"But at least you can oppose with enthusiasm and passion the guy you feel in your gut will cause more trouble than is needed! This is what happens when the pickings are slim: The greatest passion gets funneled into opposition."


No, sorry, but the pickings weren't slim for Democrats. Al Gore and John Kerry were bright leaders with visions that have now been proven clear. Obviously Ms. Noonan believes the pickings were slim for Republicans. (They were.) But most importantly, she says right there in black and white the reason for division and polarity - Republican's greatest passion got "funneled into the opposition." Passionate lies about flip-flopping, passionate lies about Swift Boats, passionate lies about being "French" or about inventing the Internet. And on and on. Democrats may have hated George Bush, but their complaints weren't lies - they were the very same things Ms. Noonan is herself complaining about now, belatedly.

Of course, perhaps she can now explain which of the candidates she thinks would have brought us "more trouble than is needed"? The one trying to protect the world from global warming? The medal-winner trying to end the Iraq War? Or the weird one who lied a nation into that war and just increased the troops?

It's at this point that Peggy Noonan does her magical sleight-of-hand and attempts to erase all her culpability by conjuring up a "grand bargain" she says every American makes about presidents --

"President Bush was hired to know more than the people, to be told all the deep inside intelligence, all the facts Americans are not told, and do the right and smart thing in response."


Unfortunately, Ms. Noonan, there is little hidden intelligence that Democrats haven't been yelling about publicly for years. There publicly were no WMDs in Iraq when we went to war - yet you made your "grand bargain" and still supported George Bush. The budget deficit and national debt were massive - and public - yet you and your Republican party made its "grand bargain" and supported tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. It was public that there were no links between Iraq and 9/11, but you made your "grand bargain" to support George Bush and blast as traitors and cowards anyone who dared say otherwise. And when an agent whose job was specifically to know more than others - and tell her superiors about that deep inside intelligence - was outed by people even George Bush last Thursday acknowledged were "probably" in his Administration - you Republicans had long-since made your "grand bargain" and defended the White House.

But it's this insincere lament that's perhaps the most egregious of all -

"He doesn't seem to be suffering, which is jarring. Presidents in great enterprises that are going badly suffer: Lincoln, LBJ with his head in his hands. Why doesn't Mr. Bush? Every major domestic initiative of his second term has been ill thought through and ended in failure. His Iraq leadership has failed. His standing is lower than any previous president's since polling began. He's in a good mood."


"Why doesn't Mr. Bush?," you moan? Because people like you have supported him for 6-1/2 years, and told him that he was right to go into Iraq, to then stay the course, to try to privatize Social Security, to ignore New Orleans, to impose the federal government on Teri Schiavo, to under-fund education, to ignore the science of global warming, to veto stem cell research, to politicize the Justice Department, to wiretape Americans without warrants, to torture, to destroy millions of emails, and to commute the sentence of the man in his Administration convicted of obstructing justice in the outing of a CIA agent who was fighting terrorists.

Why on earth should he feel bad?! You've been telling him he's great since his brother, Katherine Harris and the Supreme Court helped him get more Electoral votes than Al Gore. You've all been telling him he's great ever since he went AWOL in the National Guard during Viet Nam and got away with it. You've been telling him he's great ever since he screwed up in college and got him out of it.

Feel bad? He probably thinks he's the luckiest man in the world.

He is.

Thanks to you. Sorry you only now feel sad about it, and that you and your friends all have to "grit their teeth a bit." The rest of ours are long-since ground down into dust.

So, amidst all your "criticism" of President George Bush, how about at least one little, "Oops, sorry, I was wrong, you were right" for Democrats? Just one. No? Shocking.

Hold on, my mistake. I mean, "I as rong, you ere right." There. I've taken a letter off my keyboard. Right on!