Reading Peggy Noonan’s column before bed last night, I had at first thought she offered a kind of neutral piece, highlighting the strengths of each of the two major party presidential candidates. She had kind words for Barack Obama. She had kind words for John McCain.
It was a unique piece of opinion journalism. The tone was quintessentially Peggy, a wise female voice, looking at things from a distance without passion or rancor. Such articles remind me why I once compared her to the Greek goddess Athena. She did not attempt to demonize, but to understand.
As I finished the essay and pondered the passages I had underlined and the comments I had scribbled in the margins (of my print-out), it seemed that without saying so directly, she favored the Republican nominee.
The first clue was when she recounted a conversation with two former U.S. Senators:
The talk turned to presidents they had known, and why they had wanted the job [the presidency]. This one wanted it as the last item on his résumé, that one wanted it out of an inflated sense of personal destiny. Is that why Mr. McCain wants it? “No,” said one, reflectively. He wants to help the country.” The other added, with almost an air of wonder, “He wants to make America stronger, he really does.
She then questioned those “who have historically been sympathetic to the Republican Party or conservatism, and who support Barack Obama,” countering:
But conservatives must honor prudence, and ask if the circumstances accompanying an Obama victory will encourage the helpful moderation and nonpartisan spirit these supporters attempt, in their endorsements, to demonstrate.
Borrowing an expression from Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, she described an Obama victory with increased Democratic control of Congress as a “runaway train:”
A runaway train with no one to put on the brakes, to claim a mandate for slowing, no one to cry “Crossing ahead”? Democrats in Congress will move for innovation when much of the country hopes only for stability.
Yes, all these comments suggest support for John McCain — or at least the Republican Party at the congressional level. But, where she really tipped her hat for the Republican nominee was the final quote she offered about his Democratic rival. She address his response to Pastor Rick Warren’s question on abortion Saddleback Civil Forum on Presidency:
For Mr. Obama, whose mind tends, as intellectuals’ minds do, toward the abstract, it all seems so . . . abstract. And cold. And rather suggestive of radical departures. “That’s above my pay grade.” Friend, that is your pay grade, that’s where the presidency lives, in issues like that.
Telling someone he doesn’t know where the presidency lives doesn’t indicate much confidence in his ability to handle the job.
All that said, just read the whole thing. And know that while I appreciate Peggy’s tone and her insights, I disagree with her that a liberal moment is at hand. Next week, we Americans may have a more liberal government, but we remain a center-right nation. That liberal government may well help galvanize those on the center and on the right to reassert ourselves at the ballot box and in positions of power, policy and influence.
Ok, maybe she’s right. Perhaps a liberal moment, but not for very long.