By Art Gallagher
Peggy Noonan is an extraordinary wordsmith. As President Reagan’s speechwriter she helped the Gipper change the world. As a columnists, Noonan brings clarity to complex political events with eloquent prose and illustrious alliteration.
In her October 2008 book, Patriotic Grace: What It Is and Why We Need It Now, a pre-election call to America to support the next President after the stresses and divisions of the Bush years, Noonan wrote:
“What we need most right now, at this moment, is a kind of patriotic grace – a grace that takes the long view, apprehends the moment we’re in, comes up with ways of dealing with it, and eschews the politically cheap and manipulative. That admits affection and respect. That encourages them. That acknowledges that the small things that divide us are not worthy of the moment; that agrees that the things that can be done to ease the stresses we feel as a nation should be encouraged, while those that encourage our cohesion as a nation should be supported.”
“We must try again to be alive to what the people of our country really long for in our national life: forgiveness and grace, maturity and wisdom.
What a difference three years makes. Yesterday in the Wall Street Journal Noonan wrote of President Obama:
So he is losing a battle in which he had superior forces—the presidency, the U.S. Senate. In the process he revealed that his foes have given him too much mystique. He is not a devil, an alien, a socialist. He is a loser. And this is America, where nobody loves a loser.
What has changed in three years is that we have gotten to know Barack Obama. We didn’t know who he was when we elected him President. We still know very little about the man before he became a U.S. Senator. Those who question his youth, his college years at Occidental, Columbia and Harvard, and his associations in Chicago are labeled as racist by the leftist media elite. Had the media done its job and vetted Obama in 2008, Hillary Clinton would probably be President. Rather, the media anointed Obama and protected him from those who had the incentive to vet him, like the Clintons, or the audacity to do so, which John McCain did not, by playing the race card.
We have learned more about Michele Bachmann in the month that she has been a Presidential candidate than we know about the pre-U.S. Senate Barack Obama.
In 2008, America assumed Obama was a leader. He looked like one and acted like one. Those who didn’t assume he was as leader hoped he was. The Hope that Obama evoked for many was that he was up to the job.
Since his inauguration we’ve learned that he is not a leader and he is not up to the job.
He didn’t lead on ObamaCare. He left that up to Frank Pallone and Nancy Pelosi,who still don’t know all that is in that bill 16 months after they passed it.
He’s not leading now as Congress “works” through the weekend to come up with a debt ceiling deal to prevent a default or downgrade of the full faith and credit of the United States of America. If Obama was a leader, the situation in Washington would never have gotten to where it is today.
What is happening in Washington is not about our country’s finances. It is not about taxes or spending. If it was, an agreement would have been made weeks ago. What is happening in Washington is entirely about Barack Obama and his desire to get elected to another term before America wakes up to who he is.
As Noonan wrote:
The fact is, he’s good at dismantling. He’s good at critiquing. He’s good at not being the last guy, the one you didn’t like. But he’s not good at building, creating, calling into being. He was good at summoning hope, but he’s not good at directing it and turning it into something concrete that answers a broad public desire.
And so his failures in the debt ceiling fight. He wasn’t serious, he was only shrewd—and shrewdness wasn’t enough. He demagogued the issue—no Social Security checks—until he was called out, and then went on the hustings spouting inanities. He left conservatives scratching their heads: They could have made a better, more moving case for the liberal ideal as translated into the modern moment, than he did. He never offered a plan. In a crisis he was merely sly. And no one likes sly, no one respects it.
When I first read the last two sentences of Noonan’s piece my head snapped. I was shocked that such a dignified writer would end a brilliantly written and insightful piece (which in addition to Obama, accurately described the Republican vs Tea Party relationship) so colloquially.
But if there was a better way to say it, Noonan would have. Once again Peggy Noonan has nailed it. She has articulated the obvious truth of our situation before anyone else crystallized it.
We may have needed Patriotic Grace in 2008. We didn’t get it because we did not elected a graceful leader.
What we need now is leadership. We’re not likely to get it this week or this year. We can Hope for 2012.