22 Jun 2008

Peggy Noonan’s Comeback

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Women’s Wear Daily profiles the Republican Party’s female Celtic bard, noting that she has recently developed a certain cross-over appeal.

Ordinarily, Noonan loves giving interviews. She particularly loves boys with political roundtables, and boys with political roundtables love her back. George Stephanopoulos, Chris Matthews and the late Tim Russert have all invited Noonan on air repeatedly, partly because she is a good counterpoint to people on the left and partly because she is reliably theatrical and can be counted on to flatter her host. Nearly any time a question is directed at her, she will turn her head slightly, look off into the distance and do what might be described as a long-studied blink, followed by the signature Noonan double-nod of agreement. It’s a dramatic gesture that says that her host is so unbelievably smart he’s caused Noonan to consider, for the first time ever, something that is, in fact, her job to consider all day long. Then comes her response, which more often than not begins with a sigh and is then followed by a Dale Carnegie-esque incantation of the host’s name. Such as, “Here’s the thing, Chris” or “I’ll tell you the truth, George.” As if Noonan and he are best, best friends and she is going to tell him (and the whole audience) a big secret. “It’s full-body communicating,” says Stephanopoulos. …

in 2005, Noonan broke with President George W. Bush’s administration over the Iraq war, among other things, and it gave her an air of cross-partisan credibility going into the current presidential season. Then, as Clinton stumbled in the Democratic primaries, Noonan found herself being embraced by an unlikely coalition of Obama supporters and disaffected Republicans to whom she was no longer a boilerplate conservative, but an iconoclast who’d turned on President Bush and been vindicated by anti-Clinton sentiment that was growing among Democrats. What’s more, being a woman gave Noonan a freedom to write critically about Clinton with little risk of being labeled sexist by the senator’s supporters.

“With Peggy Noonan, not only did I share many of her views about the election, I felt she was coming at it in a fair-minded way,” says New York Magazine columnist and Obama supporter Kurt Andersen. “It wasn’t like Bill Kristol, who you know what he’s going to say before he says it.”

“This moment was made for her,” Stephanopoulos says by phone. “She has a special feel for Hillary, though I’m sure it’s not one Clinton supporters always appreciate. And she’s had tremendous insight into what has been a troubled period for the Republican party. It gave her an opportunity to show some independence.””This moment was made for her.­­”— George StephanopoulosOr, as William Greider of the left-wing staple The Nation puts it: “She’s come face-to-face with what happened to the Republican party and acknowledged it rather than pretending it’s not so or blaming the Democrats. I think she’s terrific.”

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that a sizeable chunk of the left eventually fell in love with (or at least got a crush on) Noonan

And, perhaps predictably, some of Noonan’s critics already are predicting the end of her comeback. Last week, the political blog Wonkette ran a post about her first post-primary election column, saying: “Our girlfriend Peggy Noonan has been more enjoyable than usual this year, as a tragically drawn-out Democratic primary battle provided her with endless opportunities to touch herself while Barack Obama spoke pretty things….Now, that tortured eloquence has vanished.”

Not so fast.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.


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