In Friday’s Wall Street Journal, columnist Peggy Noonan did a hatchet job on Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry.
Oh, not directly, of course. That’s not Noonan’s style. She has passive-aggressive down pat.
Mr. Perry’s now-famous gaffes, for which he’s been roundly criticized, are said to suggest an infelicity of language. But they [the gaffes] look more like poor judgement [sic]….
See? Noonan’s not saying the “gaffes” are poor judgment [my spelling]. They just “look more like” poor judgment to her. Here’s another one:
His primary flaw appears to be a chesty, quick-draw machismo that might be right for an angry base but wrong for an antsy country. Americans want a president who feels their anger without himself walking around enraged ….
Not that Noonan herself thinks Perry is “walking around enraged,” of course. It’s just that unidentified “Americans” don’t want a president who is.
In 2012, the Republican candidate will be called either mean or dumb, or both. Certainly, his politics will be called mean. And if the candidate is Rick Perry, people will look at him and think: Hmmm, is there something to the charge?
The “people” might be thinking “Hmmm” – Perry is “mean” and/or “dumb.” Not that Noonan is thinking this, though.
Tone is important, she says:
He should keep that in mind as he pops off. If there is a deeper, more reflective person there he’d best show it, sooner rather than later. This is the point where out of the corner of their eye, people are starting to get impressions ….
It’s the politics of destruction, Noonan style.
The Perry quotes she uses are not new, except she does something new in stringing them together as examples of how he is “mean,” “dumb,” and/or “enraged.”
But it doesn’t work.
Perry was not mean or dumb or enraged to say, when asked if President Obama loves his country: “ask him.”
And he was not mean/dumb/enraged when he responded to a question about the president’s lack of military service, “The president had the opportunity to serve his country I’m sure, at some time, and he made the decision that that wasn’t what he wanted to do.”
In Noonan’s defense, I thought maybe Perry sounded mean/dumb/enraged when he said the words out loud. He didn’t. Check it out on video.
I wincing, though, as I read the Noonan piece, Perry totally did look totally dumb when she said he said “I dunno” like some ignorant Texas hick. Skeptical by now, though, I checked the video from Real Clear Politics. He clearly said “I don’t.” Noonan doctored the quote. Listen for yourself.
Perry ought to show he is a “deeper more reflective person,” Noonan continues, rather than exhibiting a flaw: his “chesty, quick draw machismo.” This, of course, is in addition to his “walking around enraged.” Best illustrated, perhaps, by his remarks about printing money as treason.
Here, too, Noonan does her quote-doctoring thing. She said he said: “If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y’all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treasonous in my opinion.”
First, Perry said: “I don’t,” not “I dunno.” (He did indeed say “y’all,” but that’s not as damning.)
Second, Perry actually said: “almost treacherous or treasonous,” not just “almost treasonous.” That’s important. “Treacherous” can mean “treasonous” but also can mean having “hidden dangers, hazards, or perils.” To say printing money to pay off America’s debt is dangerous is hardly a radical statement. Indeed, the Wall Street Journalsays so all the time. I searched on the paper’s website for “quantitative easing danger” and found 415 references.
As for the “almost … treasonous” part, that fits squarely within the legal definition of treason. A treasonous act is one “which weakens or tends to weaken the power of the United States to resist and attack” its enemies. (United States v. Haupt, 47 F. Supp. 836 (D. Ill. 1942). Inflation certainly weakens this country’s ability to defend itself. Perry was right to use the qualifier “almost,” though, because to be criminally charged, a defendant must act with the intent to weaken this country’s power.
Last, review of Perry’s comments on printing money, beyond the short quote, definitely shows he has reflected deeply on this issue:
To play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous or treasonous, in my opinion. All it’s going to be doing – all it’s going to be doing – We’ve already tried this. All it’s going to be doing is devaluing the dollar in your pocket and we cannot afford that.
We have to learn the lessons of the past three years. They’ve been devastating. The president of the United States has conducted an experiment on the American economy for almost the past three years and it has gone tragically wrong, and we need to send him a clear message in November of 2012 that new leaderships is coming.
No evidence here Perry is mean/dumb/enraged. He spoke calmly and with great conviction.
One can disagree with him, of course, as Noonan evidently does. But one cannot responsibly accuse him of “popping off,” which is what Noonan did.
Last, there is the secession issue. Perry’s comments date to 2009, when, as Texas governor and a candidate for reelection in 2010, he rejected $550 million in federal stimulus money because of the strings attached. He said:
You know, my hope is that America and Washington in particular pays attention. We’ve got a great union. There is absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what may come out of that? But Texas is a very unique place and we’re a pretty independent lot to boot.
Pay attention to the “pays attention” part of Perry’s comment – his comments worked perfectly in attracting this country’s attention. As I recall, it was posted on Drudge. And it wasn’t a threat to secede – it was just raised as a possibility.
And it wasn’t the first time someone talked about secession since the Civil War – Martha’s Vineyard did twice. Once was in 1937 over steamship lines serving the island.
The second time was in 1977, when the Massachusetts legislature threatened to deprive the island of its state representative. One participant recalled:
I went to the redistricting hearing held in the old Oak Bluffs School gym. We decided after some discussion that one way we could show our displeasure was to threaten to secede from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the United States of America – and then apply for foreign aid.”
A blogger noted recently:
There’s been a lot of criticism of Rick Perry’s talk of Texas secession, but at least he’s not giving his vacation dollars to a government that recently voted to secede—like President Obama is. OK, it’s a stretch, I admit … but it is kind of funny that Obama is vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard—one of the only places in the north that actually voted in favor of secession. And it wasn’t centuries ago… it was 1977. The people of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket were so mad at Massachusetts, they actually voted to leave the state. There was some talk of forming a new country, but most of the proposals had Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard joining Vermont. Or perhaps Hawaii. Yeah, Hawaii offered an invitation. Wait a minute, that’s where Obama’s from! Conspiracy theorists, start your engines!
OK, nobody actually believes that President Obama sides with Martha’s Vin[e]yard’s lingering secessionists. So if secession came up, on say, a political talk show, I’d expect Obama’s spokespeople to deny any silly secessionist talk. Wait a second! Obama’s campaign advisor Robert Gibbs can’t seem to stop talking about secession! And press secretary Jay Carney is no better. Yes, I know they are poking at Perry, but it strikes me as odd to point the “He’s a secessionist” finger when their man is actually staying on Secession Island.
It’s very sad to read Noonan’s latest descent into character assassination, but she’s done it before — with Obama.
In October 2008, just a few days before the election, Noonan was in full Obama-swoon. A little over two years later, Obama’s January 2011 State of the Union speech was mushy and irrelevant, she wrote, and the administration didn’t have its act together. By July 2011, Obama was in her view “a loser.”
Would Perry make a good president? Early to say. But is he dumb, mean, and “walking around angry?” Does he pop off without reflecting? I don’t think so.
I wish Noonan would give up political writing. Her stint as a Reagan speechwriter didn’t prepare her to do political analysis, in my view. But when Noonan writes about emotional events, her words soar. Who can forget the Reagan speech she wrote when the Challenger spacecraft exploded:
The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”
Or my personal favorite, her riveting October 12, 2001 column called “Welcome Back, Duke: From the ashes of Sept. 11 arise the manly virtues.” Here is part of what she wrote back then:
It is not only that God is back, but that men are back. A certain style of manliness is once again being honored and celebrated in our country since Sept. 11 ….
I am speaking of masculine men, men who push things and pull things and haul things and build things, men who charge up the stairs in a hundred pounds of gear and tell everyone else where to go to be safe ….
And their style is back in style. We are experiencing a new respect for their old-fashioned masculinity, a new respect for physical courage, for strength and for the willingness to use both for the good of others.
You didn’t have to be a fireman to be one of the manly men of Sept. 11. Those businessmen on flight 93, which was supposed to hit Washington, the businessmen who didn’t live by their hands or their backs but who found out what was happening to their country, said goodbye to the people they loved, snapped the cell phone shut and said, “Let’s roll.” Those were tough men, the ones who forced that plane down in Pennsylvania. They were tough, brave guys.
Let me tell you when I first realized what I’m saying. On Friday, Sept. 14, I went with friends down to the staging area on the West Side Highway where all the trucks filled with guys coming off a 12-hour shift at ground zero would pass by ….
I joined a group that was just standing there as the truck convoys went by. And all we did was cheer. We all wanted to do some kind of volunteer work but there was nothing left to do, so we stood and cheered those who were doing ….
And suddenly I looked around me at all of us who were cheering. And saw who we were. Investment bankers! Orthodontists! Magazine editors! In my group, a lawyer, a columnist and a writer. We had been the kings and queens of the city, respected professional in a city that respects its professional class. And this night we were nobody. We were so useless, all we could do was applaud the somebodies, the workers who, unlike us, had not been applauded much in their lives.
And now they were saving our city.