The National Review Online's editor, Kathryn Jean Lopez, is not one for internal dissent within the conservative movement — not that many conservatives are, apparently, given the backlash against people who aren't riding the
Straight Talk Bullshit Express over a cliff a la Thelma and Louise. But Ms. Lopez wants to pin Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan down on why Noonan isn't using her column to shill for McCain-Palin. I mean, why do you need intellectual honesty when you can get a Republican elected, right?Lopez's ostensible purpose for snagging an interview with Noonan is her new book, Political Grace, which Lopez uses as a jumping off point for attacking Noonan for not being sufficiently pro-Sarah Palin. But before she gets there, Noonan gets to discuss her inspiration for the book:
In my book I tell the story of a dramatic terror alert at the U.S. Capitol during the events surrounding the funeral of Ronald Reagan. I was in a ceremonial room in the Senate, part of a delegation asked to receive back the president’s body from California, where he had died, for the lying in state. A plane had entered Capitol air space, was headed toward the Capitol, was presumed to be weaponized. All were told, literally, to run for their lives — “Incoming aircraft, one minute out!” Quite a scene. As I walked I saw a great lady ... be carried down the Capitol steps in her wheelchair, as all around her fled. She held her cane in her hand, like the brave little prow of a ship. And as I turned and saw her a thought came with the force of an intuition, though it was not that, just a thought: Before this is over we’ll all be helping each other down the stairs. ... We must become more serious in the way we practice our politics, more equal to the moment. We need to take the long view; in the age of chatter we need forbearance, maturity, and grace.
What Peggy Noonan doesn't mention about this moment was that the Capitol was evacuated because Republican Governor and former Congressman from Kentucky Ernie Fletcher directed his state's plane to buzz the Capitol (in violation of Washington's air space) to get himself a better view. Fletcher was later forced to pardon his entire Administration to save them from ethics charges, was himself indicted, struck a deal with prosecutors and lost reelection in 2006. Anyway, K-Lo asks why Sarah Palin isn't politically graceful enough for Noonan, and then asks her if she doesn't feel guilty for getting Barack Obama elected by not being partisan enough. Noonan then schools her about the merits of intellectual honesty — and how it is that one gets a Wall Street Journal column in the first place:
My first thought is that any columnist who thought he was playing a major or minor role in people’s political decisions would be mildly delusional. Columnists tend not to have that power, nor deserve it. But my second is of course I try to think about the implications, if any, of what I write. But where I come down is this: I am a columnist, and my job is to try, within the limits of my abilities, to tell my readers what I think is happening, and what it means. I have to say what I believe to be true or I don’t deserve to write for the Wall Street Journal.
K-Lo isn't willing to let it go, though, asking Noonan how she could abandon John McCain and conservatives everywhere with her intellectual honesty noise, and Noonan swats her like a gnat, again.
In a larger sense, Kathryn, allow me to say here that I have been dismayed to see something new happen, in the past few years, in conservatism. ... When I was first struggling through as a young conservative, when Bill Buckley was heading NR and Ronald Reagan and then Bush I were in the White House, conservatism was marked — truly, distinguished as a political movement — in part by an air of profound latitude in terms of what could be said. We had brawls. ... Now there is, in the conservative movement, a greater air of fearfulness, of repression. And this is all so very un-conservative. "Which side are you on?", "You better not buck the team," "Declare your loyalties, comrade." Literally: comrade. This is not the way of conservatism, this is the way, the manner and tone, of the old leftism. I don’t think it’s defensible morally, and I know it’s indefensible practically. Movements must grow, must include, expand, gather in; politics is a game of addition.
Basically, Noonan is saying that K-Lo and her compatriots' attitude of "Our guy is our guy because he is our guy regardless of anything else" is harmful not only to the conservative movement, but to the Republican party as a whole because the vast majority of the country think that their attitude is ugly and exclusionary and, one might say, fascistic, in that it seeks to stifle all dissent in the name of consolidating power. K-Lo still wants her to explain why McCain isn't more like Reagan than Obama, which Noonan dismisses as a load of shit, asks her to define conservatism and then, most tellingly, says that "I tend to think there will be a serious revisiting of our founding principles." Naturally, as far as K-Lo is concerned, those founding principles are exclusively conservative ones, but in the midst of all her other idiotic biases, that's probably the least stupid. Noonan takes her — and, by extension, some of the ugliest elements of the modern conservative movement to task:
I happen to think careerism has become an unseen force in much of the fighting. Conservatism didn’t used to be a career, it was a sailing against the wind, a pushing back against the age that is pushing you, and it was often lonely, individual, painful. It has been for me.
By the end of this, I was almost to the point that I was digging Peggy Noonan as much as Moe used to, but then she said that the basis of all conservative and right-thinking philosophy was a belief in God, and she lost me again. Nonetheless, it was fun to watch her rip to shreds this idea that the conservative movement needs to be uniform in its beliefs and its support for the Republican candidate — and by "fun," I mean, I enjoyed watching someone who can actually think for a living try to talk to someone who can't. Grace Will Lead Me Home? [National Review] Related: Governor Pardons All But Himself In Personnel Investigation [WAVE 3]