Saturday, June 07, 2008--Hillary Clinton, Peggy Noonan and me
I owe Ms. Peggy Noonan. My own infatuation with the tenacious campaign of Hillary Clinton almost made me lose my senses. Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan brings me back to earth. Before I explain, here's my take on Peggy Noonan - she's a better columnist than speechwriter, or television commentator.
For me, one of the most memorable parts of the disastrous Dukakis campaign in 1988, was when Dukakis mocked the then famous Noonan line written for George Bush, about "a thousand points of light" by asking, "What does that mean?" That was also my thought at the time. Similarly, I was baffled by the amount of recognition Ms. Noonan received for the phrase crafted for President Reagan to describe Washington D.C. as, "that shining city on a hill."
So much for my petty problems with her speech writing. On TV she's occasionally cheeky or demonstrative, leaving the impression that she is trying to hide some nervousness. Having one whole local television appearance under my belt, during which I was shaky as a slinky (and it showed) - I understand. So, I can't even imagine the pressure associated with the type of TV settings she is acquainted with. Stage fright (if that is the culprit here) breeds embarrassing gaffes.
I spotted Ms. Noonan on a TV program some years ago when she was expressing doubts about the notion that Lyndon Johnson was funny. (Presidential historians will tell you, Johnson was often hilarious. A brilliant mimic and comic story teller). It wasn't a difference she needed to have with her co-panelists that day and she needlessly revealed an ignorance of LBJ's persona. Again, minor quibbles. So much for the critique, I want to gush about her other work.
Each week I eagerly look forward to Peggy Noonan's Saturday column in the Wall Street Journal with that caricature of her sporting a smile next to her often compelling political prose. She has incisively expressed her views about the actions and character of Hillary Clinton in several columns and today's piece, "Recoil Election" - is a fine example. Ms. Noonan understands how both Clintons are brilliant, cunning and hopelessly deceptive.
Although I remain enamored with Ms. Clinton's tenaciousness and durability, the shameful playing of the gender card as reason for her downfall overshadows much of the virtue behind her campaign effort. In her piece this morning, Ms. Noonan makes comparisons to the character of an equally tenacious Golda Meir. (I might add Margaret Thatcher).
The point is this: other high profile women face equally if not more daunting gender challenges than Ms. Clinton, without falling prey to all the fallacious, excuse-making. Thanks Ms. Noonan - I had almost forgotten.
Monday, May 19, 2008--- True grit
I have been hard on the Clintons for a long time and I'll make no apologies for my words. A representative sample of my dissatisfaction with Mrs. Clinton's persona can be found in this post and an equally frank assessment of Mr. Clinton's presidential foibles can be found here.
Even if I set aside their policy positions, with which I almost uniformly disagree, it's their pathological dishonesty, smugness and selfishness that leaves me cold again and again. I see Bill and Hillary Clinton as one person who has never stopped disappointing me. With all that as the backdrop for this post, I am about to go positive on one of them...
Occasionally, we astonish ourselves and I wish to share a very personal moment when I astonished myself. Given the bile that all things Clintonian will arouse in me, I surprised myself when I began to feel something warm and inspiring while contemplating Hillary Clinton recently. It is redemptive to have had so much disdain for another person and then find something you admire. Strange feeling, but very human I think. My revelation is this: she's strong.
It's not Mrs. Clinton's usual pluck that I am referring to here. You know the in-your-face type of retort that she is both admired and reviled for, by millions. I'm talking about tenacity. The type of thing that reveals itself after one is knocked down again and again. Some people get hit harder each time and yet still manage to rise. Think of Richard Nixon in his teens as the tackling dummy on the school football team. Yes Mr. Nixon had this quality too.
You simply must respect another person who has taken so many punches and just keeps coming back. It's a very American quality that exists in people you've come to respect, but it is only delivered in spades, by a precious few. Senator Clinton has such chutzpah and I have come to respect it. It would be intellectually dishonest to ignore it, no matter how much contempt I have for her attitudes, ethics and policies. I called the Democratic race over almost exactly 3 months ago - Mrs. Clinton will not be her party's nominee for president.
What I didn't predict and never expected, was that she'd stay in the race this long, after so much bombardment, and still credibly come back for more. It's fascinating to watch. Iran has cause to be afraid...very afraid.
No, I could never support anyone, or anything Clintonian. However, at the time of this post, I must grudgingly concede, this woman's profile has risen in my mind, if only because of one single feature - true grit.