Peggy Noonan still has all the eloquence she put into Ronald Reagan’s mouth, but she has come to be despised by movement conservatives for being an élite Washington insider, and reasonable. I find her persuasive on the subject of the Prez’s disappointing oratorical restraint in the cause of the Iranian protesters:
To insist the American president, in the first days of the rebellion, insert the American government into the drama was shortsighted and mischievous. The ayatollahs were only too eager to demonize the demonstrators as mindless lackeys of the Great Satan Cowboy Uncle Sam, or whatever they call us this week. John McCain and others went quite crazy insisting President Obama declare whose side America was on, as if the world doesn’t know whose side America is on. “In the cause of freedom, America cannot be neutral,” said Rep. Mike Pence. Who says it’s neutral?
This was Aggressive Political Solipsism at work: Always exploit events to show you love freedom more than the other guy, always make someone else’s delicate drama your excuse for a thumping curtain speech.
Naturally, this leads the president’s full-bore despisers to characterize Noonan in ugly ways. Although, as a lover of words, I have to say “Obasmic” is a good one.
As Pat Buchanan said frankly on MSNBC today, the stirring, freedom-loving rhetoric coming from the right, which we would have thrilled to hear from the Leader of the Free World even if it was impolitic, is politics; it’s not pure emotion (I don’t think politicians have that), but a calculated play on the pure, or at least naïve, emotion of us the public. It’s the Republicans looking for any crack in Obama’s bulletproof aura to insert a crowbar into.
Unfortunately for him, I think he may have handed them a supersize crowbar by firing Inspector General Walpin. Also, as the economy continues to stagger, and the stimulus stimulateth not, his aura’s getting tattered; like any president past his honeymoon in rough times, he’s becoming mortal and vulnerable, if not yet a universal target of blame. Unfortunately too, the Republicans are far more focused on bringing him down than on working out something coherent to replace him with. They almost risk becoming the Palestinians of American politics, living in refugee camps in the political wilderness while dedicated solely to the destruction of their hated and envied enemy. Perhaps the party’s boldest prominent thinker, Newt, is despised personally, and its most popular candidate, Sarah Palin, is light in the thinking department. Mike Huckabee has a brain and a wit, and a loyal constituency, but he’s another big-government compassionate conservative, like Bush.
So volatile, so unpredictable is our world just now that we are, almost unavoidably, the blind leading the blind.
Noonan goes on to say (in a peculiarly contorted paragraph where her eloquence fails her):
If the American president, for reasons of prudence, does not make a public statement of the government’s stand, he could certainly refer, as if it is an obvious fact because it is an obvious fact, to whom the American people are for. And that is the protesters on the street. If he were particularly striking in his comments about how Americans cannot help but love their brothers and sisters who stand for greater freedom and democracy in the world, all the better. The American people, after all, are not their government. Our sentiments are not controlled by the government, and this may be a timely moment to point that out, and remind the young of Iran, who are the future of Iran, that Americans are a future-siding people.
I’m glad that today both the House and the Senate, acting as our elected representatives, made that declaration for us. The House approved the resolution 405-1, even though it “was initiated by Republicans as a veiled criticism of Obama.” The dissenter was Ron Paul, who said he didn’t think such pronouncements on the actions of foreign governments were in Congress’s constitutional job description. I wonder: it’s certainly served the purpose of expressing the sentiment of the people. While Congress’s main job is lawmaking, perhaps it’s also the right branch of government to do our venting and cheering for us, in resolutions that serve a real emotional need but carry no more than moral force.
Meanwhile, it’s a stomach-turning feeling to be sitting here safe and comfortable on the eve (the morning, really) of what may well be a massacre, unable to do anything to stop it.