Peggy Noonan, Then and Now

Past performance is no guarantee of future results:

Mr. Cruz knows his reputation as the angry, surly face of the dark side of conservatism. He’s the government-shutdown artist*, the living answer to the question “What if Joe McCarthy went to Harvard Law?” He says it’s a caricature.**

He once noted to me in conversation that when people on TV call him angry and snarling, they never show video to illustrate the point. He says there is no angry, snarling video because he isn’t angry and doesn’t snarl. He never throws mud, he says, and won’t. He sees himself as a happy warrior.

I don’t think the snarling image thing is his main problem. He has two others.

One is much remarked upon. He is 44 and a first-term senator. He entered the national stage less than three years ago, though it seems like longer because he made himself so famous so fast. He talks about Reagan, but Reagan in 1980 had been a union president, two-term governor of a huge state, candidate for the GOP nomination in 1976, and longtime leader of modern conservatism. He had been an executive; he had run things; his accomplishments could be measured.

Mr. Cruz here is not like Reagan. He’s like a first-term senator named Barack Obama, 45 when he announced.

This prompts a major 2016 question: Did Mr. Obama permanently lower the bar? Did his winning and holding the presidency with such limited experience, and his governing in many eyes so unsuccessfully, leave a whole generation of politicians thinking “I can do that!” and “Even I can do better than that!” Or, after Mr. Obama, will there be among Republicans voters a hunger for deeper biography? Is the country in the mood for more on-the-job presidential training?


I don’t know — some Washington insiders see first-term senators engaging in seemingly quixotic presidential bids as awfully inspirational, even in-spite of the on-the-job presidential training they might eventually require:

He has within him the possibility to change the direction and tone of American foreign policy, which need changing; his rise will serve as a practical rebuke to the past five years, which need rebuking; his victory would provide a fresh start in a nation in which a fresh start would come as a national relief. He climbed steep stairs, born off the continent with no father to guide, a dreamy, abandoning mother, mixed race, no connections. He rose with guts and gifts. He is steady, calm, and, in terms of the execution of his political ascent, still the primary and almost only area in which his executive abilities can be discerned, he shows good judgment in terms of whom to hire and consult, what steps to take and moves to make. We witnessed from him this year something unique in American politics: He took down a political machine without raising his voice.

“The case for Barack Obama, in broad strokes,” Peggy Noonan, October 31, 2008.

Oh and by the way, “Nearly two-thirds of Iowa Republican insiders believe Cruz can win the caucuses,” Politico’s James Hohmann writes, after first declaring Cruz “unelectable.” As NewsBusters’ P.J. Gladnick quips, “After you switch to a more highly caffeinated coffee to make you aware of what you later write, Hohmann, you might want to hit a highly fortified bottle of bourbon to make yourself forget how laughably you completely contradict yourself.”


*Yeah, that government shutdown sure worked out terribly for the GOP.

** But one that Noonan herself is willing to pander to. That’s really a cheap shot from someone who once held herself out as a conservative.


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