Given the respect I’ve shown Peggy Noonan in the past, even comparing her to the Greek goddess Athena, I decided to put aside the other posts I had planned for today and address instead her latest column. A number of readers have written me, alarmed at her misrepresentation of conservatives and her harsh criticism of Sarah Palin.
I do agree that the McCain campaign should have made the party’s vice presidential nominee more open to the press, but also fault the mainstream for using their interviews with her not as a means to learn about her record, but almost as a game, posing questions they wouldn’t pose to a Democratic candidate. Did Katie Couric ask Joe Biden to detail Barack Obama’s legislative accomplishments, bills he supported, say, promoting a “new kind of politics”?
In a similar vein, Peggy faults Palin for following the base, a criticism which could also be leveled at the Alaska Governor’s rival for the Vice Presidency. Isn’t that what a running mate does? Serve as a kind of attack dog for the ticket while appealing to the base?
Oddly, after noting how Harry S Truman came out of nowhere to be a successful president, Peggy writes that after seven weeks on the national stage, “there is little sign that [Palin] has the tools, the equipment, the knowledge or the philosophical grounding one hopes for, and expects, in a holder of high office.” If she’s referencing Palin’s campaign style, shouldn’t she look back at the Missourian’s vice presidential campaign in 1944 and not his record in the White House?
Had Truman shown the qualities which distinguished his Administration in the 1944 campaign? We don’t know. Maybe he did. But, Peggy doesn’t look there. And that campaign would be a more appropriate means to compare the two politicians who rose to sudden prominence when their party’s standard bearer tapped them to be his running mate.
It’s not just the inappropriate comparison which troubles me about the piece. It’s also that Peggy echoes a charge she made in her book, Patriotic Grace (which I, by and large, enjoyed). There, she writes that, “On the right they busied themselves attacking anyone who deviated from the [Bush] administration’s line.”
Did we? Hardly.
On conservative blogs and in conservatives publications, we have seen some amazingly stinging criticism of the president and his team. As just one example, take a gander at this this April 2007 National Review piece on Bush’s competence problem.
Yet, today Peggy writes:
I gather this week from conservative publications that those whose thoughts lead them to criticism in this area are to be shunned, and accused of the lowest motives. In one now-famous case, Christopher Buckley was shooed from the great magazine his father invented. In all this, the conservative intelligentsia are doing what they have done for five years. They bitterly attacked those who came to stand against the Bush administration. This was destructive. If they had stood for conservative principle and the full expression of views, instead of attempting to silence those who opposed mere party, their movement, and the party, would be in a better, and healthier, position.
In a post on the Corner responding to Noonan’s charges, National Review‘s editor-in-chief, Rich Lowry points out that Buckley remains on NR’s board and that the magazine has published a number of pieces critical of Palin while welcoming dialogue in its various blogs on her merits as a candidate.
Peggy, it seems, has repeated the standard left-wing criticism of conservatives that we brook no dissent. There is, I repeat, much evidence to the contrary.
I don’t know why it is she chooses to smear those with whom she once traveled (and may yet travel). Alas that her dishonest critique of the right obscures some of her better point of her latest essay.