December 15, 2006

"I wonder if historians will see the era that started in the mid-'90s as The Long Freakout."

So says Peggy Noonan at the end of her meditation on what Barack Obama is all about.
First the Clinton era left more than half the country appalled--deeply appalled, and ashamed--by its series of political, financial and personal scandals. I doubt the Democratic Party will ever fully understand the damage done in those days. In reaction the Republican Party lurched in its presidential decision toward a relatively untested (five years in the governor's office, before that very little) man whom party professionals chose, essentially, because "He can win" and the base endorsed because he seemed the opposite of Bill Clinton. The 2000 election was a national trauma, and I'm not sure Republicans fully understand what it did to half the Democrats in the country to think the election was stolen, or finagled, or arranged by unseen powers. Then 9/11. Now we have had six years of high drama and deep division, and again a new savior seems to beckon, one who is so clearly Not Bush.

We'll see what Sen. Obama has, what he is, what he becomes. But right now he seems part of a pattern of lurches and swerves--the man from nowhere, of whom little is known, who will bring us out of the mess. His sudden rise and wild popularity seem more symptom than solution. And I wonder if historians will call this chapter in their future histories of the modern era not "A Decision Is Made" but "The Freakout Continues."
Somehow I doubt that historians will adopt Noonan's name for the era or even the notion that the Clinton Era and the Bush Era are the same era.

Meanwhile, speaking of Obama, I am putting you on notice about Eargate. And the main thing I'd like to say about Eargate is: somebody doesn't have a very good ear for humor on this one. Too bad they don't have a cochlear implant for that.

38 comments:

caffeine soldier said...

"First the Clinton era left more than half the country appalled--deeply appalled, and ashamed--by its series of political, financial and personal scandals."
I wonder what Noonan's sources for this statement are. Where do we find this in the polls?

Oxbay said...

Noonan writes "The 2000 election was a national trauma, and I'm not sure Republicans fully understand what it did to half the Democrats in the country to think the election was stolen, or finagled, or arranged by unseen powers." She's trying to affect Olympian evenhanded discerning wisdom here. It rings false. I understand it was Gore conspiring with the Florida Supreme Court who was trying and nearly succeeding in stealing or finagling the election. They were arranging things alright. Gore and the FSC would have arranged everything until one count showed Gore with more votes. Another thing she got wrong is that this arrangement was being done in plain sight. The whole premise of her piece is fatuous.

stephenb said...

Who the hell is Barack Obama to be putting anyone on notice? He's what, a first term senator? I don't care if they do call him a rock star. Come talk to me when he can "put [me] on notice" and back that up with something.

The Drill SGT said...

what Obama did with the ear comments was ensure that political cartoonists will use large ears as his identifiable feature in their satire from now on. BIG EARS. Bigger than BUSH EARS

Joseph Hovsep said...

And the main thing I'd like to say about Eargate is: somebody doesn't have a very good ear for humor on this one.

I assume you mean Rush isn't able to catch on to Obama's sense of humor? It seems like a self-deprecating joke on Obama's part, not an admission that's he's not tough. Especially considering he said it to Maureen Dowd.

I kind of see Noonan's comparison of 2000's Bush as the anti-Clinton to today's Obama as the anti-Bush. But although Bush was relatively inexperienced, rightly or wrongly, people also saw him as somewhat of a known quality because of his father. So, it seems Hillary Clinton could also be the anti-Bush under Noonan's logic.

I don't believe that "Clinton left more than half the country deeply appalled, and ashamed--by its series of political, financial and personal scandals." Clinton was pretty popular with more than half the country throughout the scandals of his administration. I admit to wearing somewhat partisan lenses that may bias my perception, but I genuinely think that statement is more appropriately applied to the country's reaction to the Bush administration's scandals.

Dave said...

I hate Noonan's writing style.

tjl said...

"the Clinton era left more than half the country appalled."

Noonan really is overstating her case here. Even at the height of the Monica scandal, polls consistently showed about 60% of the country was satisfied with Clinton's job performance. Most people were content with Clinton's management of the economy even as they expressed distaste for his personal conduct. (Their distaste didn't prevent them from wallowing in every detail of Monica-a-Rama, as TV ratings and magazine sales proved).

In retrospect, it's really hard to understand why some on the right hated Clinton as much as they did. Despite the ick factor of his personal life, he was a competent manager, a total pragmatist, and every bit as unburdened by liberal dogma as he was by private ethics. There's nobody with these qualities among the current crop of Democrats, least of all his wife.

stephenb said...

I love Noonan's writing style.

AJ Lynch said...

I think Peggy's calendar is off.

The Freakoutistene Period began when SCOTUS called the 2000 election and the baby boomer DEM libs realized that the Presidency (which they had for 8 years and now thought of as their birthright) would not be in their hands uninterrupted and til they die. Sooooooo, this is the true and accurate origin of the Freakoutistene Period according to my calendar.

Bissage said...

"[A]nd I just want to put you on notice . . ."

Okay, I agree that it's a stupid, legalistic way of saying "and I just want to say . . ." But it's also common.

For some strange reason too many lawyers can’t say the word say. Somebody represents or avers or alleges or utters or gives notice or swears or memorializes or testifies. All these words have their appropriate use but lawyers and government officials feel too comfortable using a 50 cent word when a twenty-five cent word will do.

But Obama wasn’t threatening Dowd. I chanced to hear the Limbaugh show when it broadcast the (barely audible) conversation. I didn’t think he did anything wrong. He simply asked in a respectful and polite way for Dowd to treat an irrelevant personal issue as irrelevant and he extended to her the courtesy of a reason: the teasing hurts his feelings. He didn’t have to give a reason but he did. That was nice.

If anything, his crime was being naïve enough to think she would have done the decent thing and responded with "Oh, I'm sorry. Yeah, I guess that is kind of juvenile. It won't happen again."

Toughen him up? Dowd’s a liar. The duty of candor that is common decency bound her to say, "I’m not your friend and I'm not nice."

stephenb said...

He simply asked in a respectful and polite way for Dowd to treat an irrelevant personal issue as irrelevant and he extended to her the courtesy of a reason: the teasing hurts his feelings. He didn’t have to give a reason but he did. That was nice.

You may not have noticed, but this is presidential politics. I'm not sure if there is such a thing as "an irrelevant personal issue." And we both know that he didn't extend to her "the courtesy of a reason." Politicians never extend the courtesy of a reason; they spin, or they work damage control. They don't give out reasons as courtesies. They give out reasons because they have to.

Dave said...

Stephenb--I can appreciate that a lot of people like her writing, and I understand there are a lot of people who value what she has to say.

I've never been able to put my finger on it but whenever I read her my mind starts to wander, bored.

Tim said...

I think Noonan is right about one thing - the disputed 2000 election put Bush at a significant disadvantage as too many Democrats disbelieved his legitimacy. This has compromised our political will to wage war against our enemies, but too many think Bush is the enemy instead, so no matter...

David said...

If Obama can't overcome sensitivity about something as insignificant as the size of his ears, he is not Presidential material. Playing the victim card in this came too early and too predictably.

The encounter with Dowd was seismic!

Balfegor said...

Rush Limbaugh says:

We're just trying to toughen you up. You sexy, exotic rock star, sexy, sexy, sexy, we're just trying to toughen you up!

Clearly, the man loves to say "sexy." Does anyone commenting here listen to him? Did this sound as bizarre as it looks on the page?

Re: Joseph Hovsep:

It seems like a self-deprecating joke on Obama's part, not an admission that's he's not tough. Especially considering he said it to Maureen Dowd.

I don't know -- he's apparently playing the statement repeatedly on his radio show (this looks like a transcript), so if there were "self-deprecating humour" in the statement, you'd imagine it'd come out in the replay. And if not, well, it was a stupid thing for him to deadpan then. He's a politician, after all.

And re:

Clinton was pretty popular with more than half the country throughout the scandals of his administration.

I think this is probably true for 1998, when the Lewinsky scandals came out, and he started bombing Iraq and Afghanistan and the Sudan and all that -- but remember also that our turnout was (comparatively speaking) quite low during the 1992 and 1996 elections, and Clinton never managed to get a majority. In fact, if I recall correctly, he never even managed to get as high as Bush in 2000, let alone Bush in 2004.

So he was popular, but not that popular, at least when people were comparing him against the alternatives. Now, of course (like Bush I during the late 90's, in fact, when his reputation improved dramatically), his presidency has a bit of a rosy glow about it, but that's a recent thing.

Joseph Hovsep said...

balgefor & david:

Obama was being coy and funny. I think its actually pretty effective politics, most people find that kind of thing endearing.

Rush is running it and rerunning it not because it says something substantive about Obama, but because its an opportunity to make fun of Obama, whether for to point out his big ears or to make him seem wussy, the same thing that motivates Rush to use Obama's middle name.

Obama may not be saying much of substance yet and he's wide open for criticism on that front, but he's quite endearing and talented as political figure and I think this is an example of how good he is, not how bad he is.

paul a'barge said...

Speaking as a committed conservative, Peggy Noonan is the Blanche Dubois of the right wing, a fainting hysteric.

of whom little is known, who will bring us out of the mess.

Please, Peggy. Grab some smelling salts.

The mess we're in is not a GWB mess. It's a culture war. And the sooner conservatives win this war, the better.

stephenb said...

...he's quite endearing and talented as political figure...

Where's the talent? He's won one election. Hell, even John Kerry won an election to the Senate. I think we can all agree there's no talent there.

tjl said...

"Peggy Noonan is the Blanche Dubois of the right wing, a fainting hysteric."

No, no, a thousand times no. Noonan has far more of a down-to-earth quality than that.

Two years ago I would have said the Blanche Dubois of the right was Andrew Sullivan. But he's since left the right to inhabit a strange fourth dimension of his own making.

Joseph Hovsep said...

stephenb: Where's the talent? He's won one election.

He has won more than one election, but only one to the U.S. Senate, and that was against a certain-to-lose opponent. He has won elections to the state legislature. He also was elected Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Law Review, no small feat. But your point that he's not really been politically tested is well taken.

How do I prove that he's got the personal charisma and political acumen that I suggest? I don't know, but I feel it when I see him talk. I think others see it too.

By the way, I don't support Obama's run for the 2008 nomination and I don't think he's really going to run. He's probably just putting himself out there to help his future political prospects or to make himself a more attractive VP choice.

Pogo said...

The search for a political savior is a common enough desire. It is never successful, of course. At times, I'll rail about the whole useless approach, but it's like getting mad at the rain.

This is how people are. Logic and rational assessment fall far behind being in love with that knight, that protector and hero we seek.

Me, I'd be satisfied with a merely competent manager who wants to get bad guys before they get us. "National Health Care" is nice and all, but right now I'm worried about mullahs with bombs, mullahs on planes, mullahs insatiable.

Balfegor said...

Speaking as a committed conservative, Peggy Noonan is the Blanche Dubois of the right wing, a fainting hysteric.

I stopped reading her when she started going on about seeing the Devil's face in the smoke coming out of the WTC. Let me see if I can find that old column . . . Ah, here it is.

Joe Baby said...

Noonan frequently interweaves rapier insight and schmaltzy pablum.

Reminds me of the time I had a delicious bowl of peach cobbler, but the cook had obviously used the same knife to slice the peaches and chop garlic. You're goin' along enjoying things and then -- yecch.

I can't take too much of Frank Deford, either.

PS -- my WV's are getting more and more complex! Like some damned word version of "Simon" (the game).

peter hoh said...

The end of the Cold War was the end of a historical era. We're in the next era, and while I don't know what future historians will call it, I'm sure they will regard it as a time of missed opportunities.

Good for Noonan to admit that GWB was wet behind the ears in 2000. The non-Clinton indeed. This lurching can probably be traced back a ways. Carter was another one who came out of nowhere and presented himself as the opposite of what ailed us. He was the non-Nixon. And Reagan was the non-Carter. Heck, Clinton was the non-GHWBush.

Going back to '76, we have a string of former governors winning presidential elections, with the exception of GHW Bush, who beat a governor in 1988.

Pogo said...

Hey, Joe, no fair.
Rapier Insight and Schmaltzy Pablum were my parents.

reader_iam said...

Pogo:

I resisted.

Pogo said...

reader_iam

Bad humor is at brainstem level for me.
It'd be like trying not to breathe.

Tim Sisk said...

Balfegor: sexy, sexy, sexy

It does look weird in the transcript but Rush is riffing on Anna Marie Cox:

He is a rock star! He hasn't gone old for us! Uh, he hasn't developed into some joke that he tells over and over! He's the neeeew, vaguely exotic foreign exchange student! He's the sexiest of the new people! We talk about him being vaguely exotic... Sexy and rock star! ... Drop dead sex appeal! He's someone who you want to follow! Suuuure, I like Obama, too! I actually was at a cocktail party where Barack was! Talk about sexy! He's so young! It's the first blush... Obama can do no wrong! Sexy! Sexy! Sexy!

Which looks even more bizarre in the transcript.

Professor Althouse: Who are you riffing on (ear transplant for humor)? Limbaugh or Obama? From the transcript (I didn't hear the broadcast) it sounds like Obama doesn't have the sense of humor. And its not clear to me if Rush is riffing on Obama or Dowd or both (although it would be just to say just Democrats in general).

Jonathan said...

In retrospect, it's really hard to understand why some on the right hated Clinton as much as they did.

He abused power, lied about almost everything and treated political opponents as class enemies.

reader_iam said...

Oh, Pogo, I wasn't criticizing you or your humor. I was resisting riffs on what your name would be based on having parents with names like that.

I can have a stupid sense of humor.

Revenant said...

I wonder what Noonan's sources for this statement are. Where do we find this in the polls?

During the impeachment proceedings, polls typically found that approximately half of the country thought unfavorably of Clinton, though only a third wanted him impeached. Similar numbers also felt his behavior had caused harm to the country's moral fiber and respect for government.

hdhouse said...

Noonan..ahhh the 1000 points of light...she always seems to me to be on drugs for depression.

1. not half the democrats but half the country think that florida was stolen and the longer we examine the crap that went on in florida - from that feckless ick harris to the delay office staff storming the chad counters. ... should we mention the purged voter rolls or the 40,000 missing votes? where could we stop...

so you get this empty suit in office and the other half of the country is happy because he seems harmless and now we know that he may be the worst president ever (move over millard filmore) - a liar and a charlatan - and this fool of fools Noonan is still opining and revising.

she is a bore at best and a long known fool at heart.

Cat said...

Geez! Kids say mean things to kids every day! Get over it. My fave from my childhood? Cow eyes. "Don't talk about my eyes....painful childhood memories...*sniff*"

Peter Ho - Excellent observations.

JHovsep - name one piece of legislation he is introduced? What does he stand for?

All of his good press is biased - frankly, if he wasn't black and if Hillary were a man, neither one of them would generate much heat. In fact one of AOL's stupid polls last week was, "Who would you vote for? A black man or a white woman?" That's what it's about to the media at this point for both of them.

The media will put him on his pedestal and take him down the same way. He should enjoy it while he can.

OhioAnne said...

The link went to Rush Limbaugh.

I swear if it wasn't for #^&&@# liberals, like Althouse (;-)) linking to him, I would never have to see or hear what that man says.

Why does this person on the right not like Clinton? 2000 personal files of only Republicans kept in the White House with no explainable oversight or accountability was the first reason. When the person supposedly responsible for those files and their managment tells a Congressional hearing that he does not know who told him that he had the job or who told him to report to the White House to work - and gets away with it - I know that my personal privacy and civil liberties is not high on that administration's list of concerns. If they did it to them, they will do it to me.

As to what "half the country" thinks (or thought) ...

I suspect the only thing "half the country" agrees on is that it wants it's next president to not be named Bush or Clinton.

peter hoh said...

OhioAnne wrote: I suspect the only thing "half the country" agrees on is that it wants it's next president to not be named Bush or Clinton.

Agreed. Now, how about an election in which neither of the major party candidates is a graduate of Yale or Harvard?

Menlo Bob said...

There goes Harvard grad Obama.

The partisan moderate said...

The country is always divided, which is why even our "blowout elections" are still reasonably close i.e. Clinton won the electoral college by a landslide in 1996 but didn't even get 50% of the vote.

Obama has one advantage that no other candidate seems to have: he can pander to the base yet be seen as a centrist.

No other credible candidate can say that at this point. That said, I suspect it will be either Hillary or Gore against McCain at this point with maybe a third party run.

Revenant said...

Now, how about an election in which neither of the major party candidates is a graduate of Yale or Harvard?

The 1980 and 1984 elections had that.