Political Animal


October 19, 2012 3:22 PM Obama Disappoints Noonan

By Ed Kilgore

Big national events apparently aren’t complete until Peggy Noonan pontificates about them—particularly if they involve The Presidency, the institution she invariably presumes to be protecting because Ronald Reagan—ah! the very heavens hum with the celestial pleasure of the angels at his very name!—once occupied it.

Nothing if not acutely aware of her pontifical status, Noonan weighs in soggily this week with a rather bent assessment of the second presidential debate, and then a condemnation of Barack Obama’s unseemly descent into the grubby political work of criticizing his opponent:

At some point after the Hofstra debate, we are going to find out whether a certain part of the old school American political style is now officially gone, or whether Mr. Obama, in ignoring it, paid a certain price….
This was the president of the United States standing with the other major party’s presidential candidate and saying things that were harsh and personal—you’re selfish and greedy, you care for nothing but yourself, you have no sense of responsibility to others. Later Mr. Obama called Mr. Romney “a good man” who “loves his family,” but it sounded pro forma and hollow because it was. He does not think Mr. Romney is a good man: He’d started the evening telling us at some length that he was a bad one.
What the president said at the debate was nothing he hadn’t said on the trail. His campaign has been personal, accusatory and manipulative. But there in the room on a tiny stage, for a sitting president to come out with that kind of put-down—I couldn’t imagine a JFK doing it, with his cool, or a Jerry Ford with his Midwestern decency, or a Reagan, or the Bushes.

You will notice Peggy has to go back more than a half-century to identify a Democrat who was apparently worthy of the presidency. I don’t believe any of the “gracious” debaters she touted faced an opponent that had spent the better part of five years relentlessly prevaricating about his policies, agenda and core convictions, and leading a party whose activists and leaders alike have regularly and at screaming levels of volume called the incumbent a traitor, an alien, a Marxist, a baby-killer, a granny-killer, a Christ-killer, and the greatest threat to America since at least World War II. And when Obama turned the other cheek in the first debate, did he get any credit from the Peggy Noonans of the world for being “presidential?” Of course not. He was “weak” and “disengaged” and “dispirited,” all but begging to be expelled from office.

But the even more hilarious—and with Noonan, there’s almost always this point where your dropped jaw seeks further room to drop—bit was when Peggy climbs down from the Olympian heights of presidential grace and gravitas and offers this shrewd précis of the real center of the debate:

The heart of the debate? Romney and the price of gas: “The proof of whether a strategy is working or not is what the price is that you’re paying at the pump. If you’re paying less than you paid a year or two ago, why, then, the strategy is working. But you’re paying more. When the president took office, the price of gasoline here in Nassau County was about $1.86 a gallon. Now, it’s $4 a gallon. The price of electricity is up. If the president’s energy policies are working, you’re going to see the cost of energy come down.”

Yeah, that was pure genius, Peggy, the kind of penetrating analysis that made Mitt Romney so rich at Bain Capital. And I’m impressed that you think the majestic traditions of your favorite presidents will be redeemed by a man who claims the election ought to be a referendum on gasoline prices.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Ned Hodgman on October 19, 2012 3:41 PM:

    First, thanks for "weighs in soggily," which gets the top hyperlink of the week award plus best adverbial phrase of the week. Second, may I say how odd it is that Peggy Noonan still gets so much real estate at the WSJ? Reading her in the print version would ruin my weekend if it weren't for the fact that reading her is like...watching a rerun of the Sound of Music or something. It was fresh and young once but now you notice the flaws. Noonan needs to take some time off from her column to compile another forgettable book from her forgettable columns, so we could finally forget her altogether.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on October 19, 2012 3:44 PM:

    RE: gas

    I've heard (and seen) that gas prices were starting to fall again.

    When the hell are the GOP going to learn to stop using something as unstable as gas price as their Obama-Satisfaction-Reader-Meter? As an argument of convenience it's not terribly reliable--unless Obama's rigging that too!!!!!!. EVIL MUSLIM!!!!!

  • c u n d gulag on October 19, 2012 3:48 PM:

    Nooners, after the column, with her pals:
    "'N 'f you ass me, I thin... thin... my tong is a pit barched...
    Hey, tarbender, make it ano... ano... another mouble dartooni... staken, not shirred!
    'N chop, chop, if you know what's food gore you, you little faggo... so, ash I was shay.. shay.. shayin'... where wash I...?
    Oh yeah, wha... wha... wha... Rhett Romney shoulda done was yell, 'Oh yeah, well up YOURS Ni...' mmmph, mmph, mmph.
    Hey, wadja put your mand over my houth for, Mick Dorris?
    Whaa! You san't cay it anymore? No wonder we got one of 'em as... BARF!!!!!!!!!!"

    And the bartender carried Nooners out, poured her into her FOX limo, and told the driver to be careful, that if he didn't want to clean the car up after dropping her off, he should drive slowly, so he doesn't shake or stir the 7 double martini's she's had in the last hour.

  • boatboy_srq on October 19, 2012 3:56 PM:

    You will notice Peggy has to go back more than a half-century to identify a Democrat who was apparently worthy of the presidency.

    You'll also notice that she picked the one most loudly condemned in his time because, as an RC, he wasn't "in the club" of Protestant Presidents - and who was the subject of much angst from "the club" as to whether he would be POTUS - or merely The Vatican's Man in the White House.

    Apparently, to Ms. Noonan, a President of "questionable beliefs" is somehow better than BHO. That's not a lot better than TABMITWH. Way to stay classy, Ms. Noonan.

  • sjw on October 19, 2012 3:57 PM:

    I used to respect Noonan as a talented wordsmith. She has, on occasion, been eloquent (eloquence is where rhetoric gets matched up with the truth). But her thinking skills are clearly lacking here; her partisanship has clouded her vision; her historical fantasizing stands ungrounded in the facts. Moreover, as Mr. Kilgore has pointed out repeatedly over the last several months, whatever skills she possessed as an op-ed writer have gone bye-bye.

  • Peter C on October 19, 2012 3:57 PM:

    Well, bless you Ed for reading Noonan so I don't have to. She and her fellow propagandists make my skin crawl.

  • Renai on October 19, 2012 4:04 PM:

    Since WSJ is the anti-climate change rag that opined CO2 was better for plants, tis only right that it's their Peggy Noonan's hot air that's melting the polar ice caps.

  • sceptic on October 19, 2012 4:19 PM:

    And how would Romney lower gasoline prices? By completing the Keystone pipeline, of course!

    The Keystone pipeline would then provide North American crude producers with an effective way to export crude, which they would do, because world crude prices are higher than North American prices. So that would reduce the supply to the North American market and bring it into line with the world market, i.e. increase it. Wouldn't higher domestic crude prices raise gasoline prices?

    So tell me again how the Keystone pipeline will bring down gasoline prices?

  • Lifelong Dem on October 19, 2012 4:20 PM:

    You're a real bastard, Ed. By making that column available via the hyperlink of the week (as noted by Ned Hodgman), you compelled me to ... actually read the damn thing! I shook my damn head over her assertion that Obama's attack opened the door for Willard to get aggressive and, oh god, I just can't go on.

    As Mark Halperin might say, Peggy Noonan is kind of a dick.

  • thebewilderness on October 19, 2012 4:21 PM:

    That gas price are your better off than you were four years ago deceptive schtick is exactly what she wrote for the sainted Ronnie. No wonder she thinks it golden.

  • FlipYrWhig on October 19, 2012 4:22 PM:

    "The Bushes" never used direct put-downs of their opponents? How much of her brain has rotted? "Mediscare," "Look, this is a man, he's got great numbers. He talks about numbers. I'm beginning to think not only did he invent the Internet, but he invented the calculator. It's fuzzy math."

  • T2 on October 19, 2012 4:30 PM:

    apparently the Salt Lake Tribune (as in Salt Lake, Utah, as in Mormonville) has endorsed Barack Obama for president, citing Romney as, basically, a two-faced say anything to win jerk. Pretty amazing.

  • jjm on October 19, 2012 4:34 PM:

    What!!? where?!! Noonan heard this!!???: "This was the president of the United States standing with the other major party’s presidential candidate and saying things that were harsh and personal—you’re selfish and greedy, you care for nothing but yourself, you have no sense of responsibility to others."

    Boy, those GOPers seem to be able to hear only what imaginary speech. They were all ego-wounded by Obama's very careful criticisms of Mitt's policies. Not one word about Mitt's personal character. (Maybe the target would have been toooooo easy, but no, Obama never said one word that Noonan claims he did.)

  • ceilidth on October 19, 2012 4:38 PM:

    A commentator so dumb as to not know that the president does not set the price of oil. My question is why we pay money to people like Peggy Noonan, who are dumber than dirt? Oh wait--the former CEO of Citigroup just got his golden parachute for destroying the company.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on October 19, 2012 4:40 PM:

    @T2 RE SLT:

    Well, damn. I think I might have to schedule my ski trip in Hell this year...

  • bos'n on October 19, 2012 4:45 PM:

    I've always thought Noonan had the talent of a writer for Hallmark greeting cards, which is what she should have been. Compare her work to that of the great Ted Sorensen. She was perfect for the dumbed-down Reagan administration though. Only the hacktastic editorial page of the WSJ would find a place for her mediocre talents.

  • g on October 19, 2012 4:46 PM:

    saying things that were harsh and personal—you’re selfish and greedy, you care for nothing but yourself, you have no sense of responsibility to others.

    Quotes,please, Peggy?

    Imagine how she would have reacted had President Obama said "You'll get your chance in a minute, I'm speaking now!"

  • Matt on October 19, 2012 5:21 PM:

    She's probably just mad that neither candidate stopped to give a speech in Brooklyn on the way to the debate.

  • Josef K on October 19, 2012 5:25 PM:

    Isn't this the same Noonan who wrote some WSJ editorial that stated Elian Gonzalez was rescued from the sea by a school of dolphins?

    And this woman is still being printed?

  • LAC on October 19, 2012 5:48 PM:

    God, it just gets harder and harder to decide which version of Peggy Noonan is more insufferable - live or in print. One day, I hope she swallows the marbles she uses to practice that locust valley lockjaw delivery of hers and we can be done with it.

  • maggie on October 19, 2012 6:05 PM:

    I'm a little gobsmacked by all this price of gasoline stuff... do that many people really not know that oil (and therefore gasoline prices) are determined by WORLDWIDE demand and WORLDWIDE supply??? Even Obama didn't answer that question correctly. The president does not have control of oil and gas prices. He does, however have some control of mpg auto standards. $4 gasoline is just fine if your car gets 100mpg. Or if there is a top notch public transportations system, including high speed rail.

  • David Carlton on October 19, 2012 6:59 PM:

    Frankly, I'm worried that this gas price meme may have legs. First, the economic data can get really confusing to an individual voter, especially when (I hope) a recovery begins to gather steam but isn't unambiguously clikcing. Second, the state of the economy probably matters less to an individual voter than her own economic welfare, and gasoline prices are the one economic welfare measure that everyone keeps track of. Third, it seems to be an article of faith with many voters that "energy independence" is a good thing chiefly because it gives Americans cheap energy, and that the fundamental objective of energy policy is to provide it. There's also a rampant notion that gasoline prices are high because we're importing expensive foreign oil when we could be pumping cheap oil here, but the gummint is pandering to the tree-huggers instead of the Real Americans. None of it is true, but it makes perfect sense to people who think that the President should be able to determine the price of gasoline, just as he should be able to single-handedly keep the economy humming. This gives a huge advantage to a snake-oil peddling challenger; Romney's solutions don't have to make sense, just sound plausible.

  • Joe Friday on October 19, 2012 7:02 PM:

    "When the president took office, the price of gasoline here in Nassau County was about $1.86 a gallon. Now, it's $4 a gallon"

    Ah, STOOPID Looney Noonan.

    Just a few months before Obama was elected, gas was OVER $4 a gallon.

    The woman is a blithering idiot.

  • Out & About in The Castro on October 19, 2012 7:03 PM:

    Peggy Noonan has turning pearl clutching into both an art form and Olympic Sport.

  • Rick B on October 19, 2012 7:39 PM:


    The world price of oil sets the base price gasoline approaches in the long run, but in the short run it's the amount of gasoline that the refineries decide to produce along worth the short run demand for gasoline that sets the final price.

    At each level the speculators purchase to or sell from supplies in order to jack up the final price. To the extent that the speculators profit the final gasoline prices have to rise to cover that also.

    It would be very nice if it were simply supply and demand on the world market for crude. Of course you are correct that neither the conservative propagandists nor the political media are aware of the complexities involved. Each of those complexities allows powerful groups to skim profits out of the system and increase the final price of gasoline. It's power as much as the markets that set the price.

  • Kenneth Almquist on October 19, 2012 7:59 PM:

    I was surprised to see Noonan admit that she couldn't understand Obama's response to Romney on the price of gasoline. I've reproduced it below. Is there anything in there that would challenge a high school freshman reading at grade level, much less a professional writer who wasn't benefiting from wingnut welfare:

    Well, think about what the governor -- think about what the governor just said. He said when I took office, the price of gasoline was $1.80, $1.86. Why is that? Because the economy was on the verge of collapse, because we were about to go through the worst recession since the Great Depression, as a consequence of some of the same policies that Governor Romney's now promoting.

    So, it's conceivable that Governor Romney could bring down gas prices because with his policies, we might be back in that same mess.

    What I want to do is to create an economy that is strong, and at the same time produce energy. And with respect to this pipeline that Governor Romney keeps on talking about, we've -- we've built enough pipeline to wrap around the entire earth once.

    So, I'm all for pipelines. I'm all for oil production. What I'm not for is us ignoring the other half of the equation. So, for example, on wind energy, when Governor Romney says "these are imaginary jobs." When you've got thousands of people right now in Iowa, right now in Colorado, who are working, creating wind power with good-paying manufacturing jobs, and the Republican senator in that -- in Iowa is all for it, providing tax breaks (ph) to help this work and Governor Romney says I'm opposed. I'd get rid of it.

    That's not an energy strategy for the future. And we need to win that future. And I intend to win it as President of the United States.

  • booch221 on October 19, 2012 10:56 PM:

    Oh, another corn syrup serving from Peggy Noonan.

    Just keep walking, it's only junk food.

  • E.Hatt-Swank on October 20, 2012 12:07 AM:

    Thanks for the laugh, Ed. You have a real talent for humorously skewering pompous fools like Noonan.

  • emjayay on October 20, 2012 12:10 AM:

    David Carlton etc: It seems that suddenly Mitt Romney has an incredible talent for saying stuff that the lowest common denominator low information voter will accept as reality. I think maybe some real smarty got to the top of the messsaging unit. Some etch-a-sketcher who knows a bunch of the voters out there are both not praticularly educated and have not been paying attention until now.

    Of course Romney has always been an alpha dog corporate guy. Morality or facts or anything else do not matter in that world. All that matters is making the deal and getting away with, as often happens, a whole lot of money. I have to assume that he, as an educated person, knows that most of the crap he has been ladelling out lately is just that: crap.

    For example the Keystone pipeline thing Romney brought up. As explained in the comments above, it has nothing to do with, well, anything. But it sounds like a big injection of cheap gas at the pump for many Americans. Oil sands oil is really only economically feasible given the high price of oil today, besides being the worst environmentally way to produce oil, polluting the air and water and using a bunch of energy to make it happen. Only sophisticated, educated people who read up on things have any idea of any of that.

    Romney isn't some moron like Rick Perry. He knows pretty much everything he has been saying is scripted PR crap. So I suppose the question is: how can he live with himself? And I suppose the answers lie in being a Mormon in the first place, and spending two youthful formative years peddling a bunch of rather obvious crap to French people (and lying about it later of course) while being supported and half the time living in a mansion in Paris, and then being incredibly richly rewarded for exactly this kind of no-morals behavior he is now engaged in in the corporate world. And who know what else. He mostly not his father's son.

  • Varecia on October 20, 2012 12:14 AM:

    I recall the 2003 Democratic primary post-debate discussion where Peggy Noonan and the panel host openly flirting during the pundit discussion. What a bimbo! My thoughts then: take it to a motel AFTER work, you two!

  • emjayay on October 20, 2012 12:15 AM:

    I would like to apologise for the editing errors in the ab0ve post. Please use your imagination. The last time I checked the Preview function on this site, which used to work really well, is pretty much worthless.

  • notoriousJRT on October 20, 2012 3:04 AM:

    Ef Peggy Noonan. Why read her drivel? She is a kook, who fancies herself an important arbiter of what is and isn't proper, effective, acceptable, yada yada yada in our political discourse. Christ, can we grant her most devout wish and bury her alive with St. Ronnie? She writes reactionary pap for childish people, who long for the days of their childhood that were filled with rainbows and free of uppity black folks. She cannot fathom that any commity "enjoyed" by the Gipper is just as much a credit to his interlocutors as to him. Obama has no analog to Tip O'Neill whom I suppose Nooners thinks was some crazy-assed beast that was tamed by the Reagan charm. Every time I see blog posts wasted on pointing out the sad, tired, silly, likely- contradictory- to -earlier -musings stylings of this one trick pony, I think I am reading someone who has a surfeit of time on his/her hands.

  • notoriousJRT on October 20, 2012 3:15 AM:

    @g and @LAC
    This and that.

  • Skippy-san on October 20, 2012 3:42 AM:

    Peggy Noonan has far outlived her shelf life. She makes her living playing off the fact that she was a Reagan speech writer, and has been writing turgid prose ever since then. Writing for Reagan was easy, because he gave speeches short on facts long on inspiration. The world today is much different-and even Reagan could not have existed in today's GOP. She's a hack and the WSJ is a wasted shell of its former self, Thanks to Murdoch.

  • Madeline on October 21, 2012 3:18 AM:

    Seriously, does Noonan ever write anything without a Reagan comparison?

    Of course, I'm younger than Peggy and don't remember what must have been, some kind of fainting screen presence. I do remember when Gov of CA, he wanted to shoot the Berkeley students who were protesting. Did Noonan write that speech also?

    Let him go Peggy. It's over.