Peggy Noonan is Taking Barack Obama More Seriously

Peggy Noonan has made a number of excellent points in recent months. She has questioned John McCain’s decision to pander to the religious right and written favorably of opposition to the war from both Chuck Hagel and John Kerry. In July she was even quite critical of George Bush. Now I see that that her views on Barack Obama have improved from last December when she considered him The Man from Nowhere.

Mr. Obama often seems to be thinking when he speaks, too, and this comes somehow as a relief, in comparison, say, to Hillary Clinton and President Bush, both of whom often seem to be trying to remember the answer they’d agreed upon with staff. What’s the phrase we use about education? Hit Search Function. Hit Open. Right-click. “Equity in education is essential, Tim . . .”

You get the impression Mr. Obama trusts himself to think, as if something good might happen if he does. What a concept. Anyway, I’ve started to lean forward a little when he talks.

She also has some favorable comments about Chris Dodd:

Chris Dodd is the head of the Senate Banking Committee, and nothing if not sophisticated. In the post-9/11 world, sophisticated is not so bad. He’s been in the Senate 27 years. In earlier years his thinking on government, his assumptions about what can and should be expected of it, veered from the utopian to the world-weary, and were sometimes both at once. But if you listen to him and watch him in debate, you might legitimately conclude this is a candidate who understands how it all works and what time it is. He’s one of the grown-ups.

Noonan returned to discussing Obama as an alternative to Hillary Clinton:

Mr. Obama’s experience, as we all know, is as limited as Mrs. Clinton’s, which is to say limited indeed. She has held elective office for only 6 1/2 years. Before that she was first lady of Arkansas and then first lady of the United States. He has held national office for only 3 1/2 years, and before that was a state legislator for eight years. But he has impressed people, and not with money, résumé or clout but something rarer, natural gifts. That’s not nothing. Big talent is rare, and deserves consideration.

And yet the Democrats remain in their Hillary trance.

Not all, of course. Each candidate has his band of supporters, his little base. Mr. Obama is fortunate to have one with the grace and vigor of Ted Sorensen, John F. Kennedy’s great staffer and speechwriter, who told me this week, “I am supporting Obama.” He has known and liked the other main candidates, has “no objection to a female commander-in-chief and no ill feelings stemming from the Clinton stains on the escutcheon of the White House.” But Mr. Obama is “the one serious potential nominee of the Democratic Party who is most likely to win” and most likely “to end the tragic occupation of Iraq on terms compatible with our country’s best interests and traditional values.”

When I asked if his support was connected in any way to the idea of breaking away from the Bush-Clinton-Bush rotation, he said, “Above all, I believe this country needs change, and continuing the 20-year hold on the White House of the same two families is not my idea of change.”

Noonan is tired of the alternation between a Bush and a Clinton and ends with a good point:

It would be understandable if they were families of a most extraordinary natural distinction and self-sacrifice. But these are not the Adamses of Massachusetts we’re talking about. You’ve noticed, right?

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  1. 1
    vwcat says:

    I am tired of bush and clinton and the bad sequels. I don’t know why democrats are so blind when it comes to the clintons. They don’t seem to even notice how fake she acts or are bothered by her corporate ties and ties to Murdoch.
    Even when she did the Iran vote. They even refuse to see that Obama and Edwards stand a better chance of winning the GE over her.
    Yet, democrats have convinced themselves she is a real democrat and not republican lite. They are also convinced she will be the easiest one to win the GE.
    I personally cannot stand her. I really like all our other candidates and can easily live with any of them except for Hillary.
    She makes me want to finally throw in the towel and move to canada.

  2. 2
    Brett says:

    One of the things I hate about people is how they can’t keep their dates straight. Ms. Noonan claims that “[Obama] has held national office for only 3 1/2 years.” His term in the Senate began in January 2005, TWO and a half years ago. It’s simply amazing how people cannot remember how long it has been since a particular event.

    But that’s a mere mistake, and doesn’t do anything to undermine her argument. Ms. Noonan makes an interesting point. The greatest knock against Obama is that, in the debates and in interviews, he seems horrendously unsure of himself, pausing almost every other moment. He just looks unprepared, and, in politics, perception is often all that matters. It’s improved since the first debate last April, but it’s still there. Hillary, on the other hand, has a clear, concise, graceful answer to every question thrown at her. In my opinion, it was this “flawless” debate performance, along with Obama’s stumbling act and reports of Edwards’s hypocrisy, that prevented either of these candidates from overtaking Hillary in the spring and summer. And now, she seems to be on the fast track to the Democratic nomination. But Ms. Noonan brings up an important question: do we really want another president so desperately attached to his talking points?

    She makes a very interesting asssertion, and defies the common political wisdom, by saying that perhaps Obama is simply THINKING during those pauses–not struggling for words because of unconfidence–which is certainly a desirable trait from a president. Obama is indisputably a smart, thinking man who deserves to be taken seriously, and, with the effective death of the Edwards campaign by hypocritically and disadvantageously accepting public financing, he seems to be the one with the greatest chance to upset Clinton. But, unfortunately, it is the perception of things that counts in these presidential races, and Obama appears to have greater confidence when he’s giving a rhetorical, flowery speech than when he’s at debates or answering reporters’ question, a perception problem underscored and perhaps worsened by his decision in August to actually skip some debates. Such a perception is unfair most definitely, since there is nothing wrong in thinking things through before and during speaking–as Noonan points out, but that is how the world works, and it’s clear that Obama either needs to refine his still-shaky debate performance or risk giving up the nomination to Hillary Clinton.

    I too am tired of an alteration between a Bush and a Clinton. What are our great-grandchildren going to think when they open up a history book and see over twenty years of two families occupying the presidency? What is that going to tell them about American democracy? It’s time for someone else to take up the reins. At this point, the best alternative looks like Mr. Obama, but he needs to shed this perception of uncertainty soon, or else the Bush-Clinton dynasty will become a reality.

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