Sober second thought; Peggy Noonan on Obama’s SOTU

From Peggy Noonan’s column at Wall Street Journal (spoiler alert —  this is her concluding remark, but it doesn’t actually spoil the reading of her column in its entirety):

I actually hate writing this. I wanted to write “A Serious Man Seizes the Center.” But he was not serious and he didn’t seize the center, he went straight for the mush. Maybe at the end of the day he thinks that’s what centrism is.

I sympathize with former President Ronald Reagan special assistant and author/columnist Peggy Noonan.  I searched for something even neutral to say about Barack Obama’s State of the Union Speech, but found nothing available, at least nothing that wasn’t itself banal and pedantic and frankly amateurish and possibly even childish — all of which the speech was to me.

So I’ll leave it to Peggy Noonan to be among the very few to do it right.

An Unserious Speech Misses the Mark

The audience found it tiresome. Here’s why it was irksome as well.

…As for small things and grace notes, there is often about the president an air of delivering a sincere lecture in which he informs us of things that seem new to him but are old to everyone else. He has a tendency to present banalities as if they were discoveries. “American innovation” is important. As many as “a quarter of our students aren’t even finishing high school.” We’re falling behind in math and science: “Think about it.”

Yes, well, all we’ve done is think about it.

“I’ve seen it in the shuttered windows of once booming factories. . . . I’ve heard it in the frustrations of Americans.” But our deterioration isn’t new information, it’s a shared predicate of at least 20 years’ standing, it’s what we all know. When you talk this way, as if the audience is uninformed, they think you are uninformed. Leaders must know what’s in the national information bank.

He too often in making a case puts the focus on himself. George H.W. Bush, always afraid of sounding egotistical, took the I’s out of his speeches. We called his edits “I-ectomies.” Mr. Obama always seems to put the I in. He does “I implants.” …

An avid and early (she already knew!) critic of the “uncivil discourse” we’re all enjoying/not enjoying today (years later), Peggy Noonan strikes a fun contrast with our own Ann Coulter in her writing.  I like them both.


“Patriotic Grace: What It Is and Why We Need It Now”
In this timely little book, written in the pamphleteering tradition of Tom Paine’s Common Sense, Noonan reminds us that we must face our common challenges together—not by rising above partisanship, but by reaffirming what it means to be American.


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Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen


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