It's said even a broken clock gives the correct time twice a day. Which would make the disabled timepiece twice as accurate as Peggy Noonan.
There's this from the former Reagan speechwriter's WSJ column, "He Was Supposed to Be Competent," to appear in tomorrow's print edition:
I don't see how the president's position and popularity can survive the oil spill. This is his third political disaster in his first 18 months in office...There was the tearing and unnecessary war over his health-care proposal and its cost. There was his day-to-day indifference to the views and hopes of the majority of voters regarding illegal immigration. And now the past almost 40 days of dodging and dithering in the face of an environmental calamity. I don't see how you politically survive this.
Here's Noonan on Bill Clinton's Lewinsky confession speech, from an Aug. 31, 1998 column, "Why The Speech Will Live in Infamy":
After this speech, with its sullen anger and trimming, a chord may been broken, an estrangement begun. Something tells me 'He's not a slob, he's a bad man' is on the way, which will be especially wounding for one who so needily gulps the people's approbation.
And here's Noonan two days after Clinton was impeached by a GOP-controlled Congress, from a Dec. 21, 1998 column, "The Good Guys Finally Won":
It was moving, because they did it against the odds, and they stood on principle, and they didn't let the polls rule them, and they acted in a way that may have put them in both short-term and long-term political jeopardy. But they did what they thought was right. And down the road Republicans may see these nerve-jangling days as the time when their party, long buffeted by doubt and confusion, began to find its soul again.
Any attempt - a successful one in this remarkable case - to reshape one-fifth of the U.S. economy and make healthcare a right, rather than a privilege, of U.S. citizenship will be accompanied by much tearing and unnecessary war. The "unnecessary" part, incidentally, was wrought by GOP and blue-dog Dems. A mite of history scholarship is to be expected of the Noonan's of the world. A reading of the infighting among the Founding Fathers and Lincoln's cabinet, of leaders in the civil-rights movement, of even relatively minor initiatives like the creation of a national holiday marking MLK's birthday, reveals much tearing. The "unnecessary" depends on whether one supports or opposes the initiative. Noonan, of course, opposed Obamacare.
Obama has been wisely silent on immigration until the planets better align themsleves. So I have no idea what alternative-reality plane Noonan was on when she crafted this column. As for the oil spill, Obama could have directed the Coast Guard to act sooner - toward the end of Week One, I think - to begin amassing the booms required to rein in an immense oil spill in a worst-case scenario. As it is, the booms and other measures to dilute the growing slick took effect beginning in Week Two of what has been a six-week ordeal.
The less said on these matters the better, I think, for Noonan. Yes, there have been major disasters of late, most inherited from the president's laissez-faire predecessor. The Great Recession. The routine reneging on healthcare claims and the spiralling healthcare premiums. The Upper Big Branch mine disaster in West Virginia. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. These all have been private-sector disasters that have inflicted tremendous damage on the wider community. The principal failure of government in each case was its regulatory inclination to let the free market rule with an absolute minimum of supervision.
Americans know Barack Obama did not cause the worst oil spill in American history, any more than they blamed George H.W. Bush for the second-worst, the Exxon Valdez. They blame BP and a predecessor company to Exxon Mobil Corp. And after the battering he has taken, mostly from right-wing distortions of who he is (a foreign-born socialist) and what he means to accomplish (a government takeover of our lives - although, oddly he chose not to oblige progressives in nationalizing the crippled banks, as Britain effectively did, and has successfully imposed not one but two massive middle-class tax cuts on Americans), Obama's popularity is unusually resilient. His current public-approval ratings, in an economy of more than 9% unemployment, range from 45% to 51%.
As to Clinton, the American people recognized a lynch mob when they saw one, and Clinton left office with higher public-approval ratings than the sainted Ronald Reagan. He was not convicted by the Senate. Richard Nixon remains alone among the 44 presidents in being driven from office. (1)
The post-presidential Clinton became a multi-millionaire from a bestselling memoir and so many invitations to speak that he has to turn down $100,000 offers to appear in Berlin and Biloxi. With his Clinton Global Initiative he managed to put nemesis Jimmy Carter in the shadows as a model of post-presidential effectiveness in humanitarian causes.
The GOP certainly tried to hound Clinton out of office, beginning very early with its ceaseless inquiry into a Whitewater non-scandal that morphed into a searching examination of Clinton's personal life until the discovery was made of presidential perjury on a matter of no bearing on the health of the nation. Not compared with the record economic boom of the Clinton years and the creation of a staggering 23 million new jobs, for instance, or the double-digit decline in crime rates in every major U.S. city for the duration of Clinton's two terms in office. In embarking on this gutter enterprise, the GOP did not jeopardize, or imagine it was jeopardizing, its short- or long-term prospects. Which in any case it didn't, capturing the presidency in 2000 against long odds and retaining control of Capitol Hill.
Neither did the party "begin to find its soul," being sharply divided between the hard-right McCain and yet another centrist named Bush in the 2000 primaries. The hardliners got their revenge with a McCain presidential nomination in 2008, a disaster that finds the GOP now hopelessly fragmented, held hostage by an insurgent and politically unviable Tea Party movement and required to kiss the ring of its de facto leaders Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh.
And actually, it was the vastly more experienced Hillary Clinton and John McCain who were supposed to be competent, not the obscure former Illinois state senator with a notoriously thin resume. Obama's remarkable string of legislative accomplishments as president belies that thin resume. But in reading Noonan, one is never in doubt about hers.
Note: Only 43 men have held the presidency. Grover Cleveland, whose two terms of office were separated by the one term presidency of Benjamin Harrison, is counted as the 22nd and 24th president.