A special Peggy Noonan mashup. Paragraphs from November 4, 2004, and June 1, 2007, mashed together and arranged in random order:
The president has taken to suggesting that opponents of his immigration bill are unpatriotic--they "don't want to do what's right for America." His ally Sen. Lindsey Graham has said, "We're gonna tell the bigots to shut up." On Fox last weekend he vowed to "push back." Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff suggested opponents would prefer illegal immigrants be killed; Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said those who oppose the bill want "mass deportation." Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson said those who oppose the bill are "anti-immigrant" and suggested they suffer from "rage" and "national chauvinism."
The leaders of the Bush effort see it this way: A ragtag band of more than a million Republican volunteers who fought like Washington's troops at Valley Forge beat the paid Hessians of King George III's army. Savor.
Now conservatives and Republicans are going to have to win back their party. They are going to have to break from those who have already broken from them. This will require courage, serious thinking and an ability to do what psychologists used to call letting go. This will be painful, but it's time. It's more than time.
As I write, John Kerry is giving his speech. He looks hurt. Who wouldn't? He fought to the end, for every vote, untiring and ceaseless. I told some young people recently who were walking into a battle, "Here's how to fight: You fight until they kill you, until they kill you and stop your heart, and then you let them carry you out of the room. But you fight until they carry." I think that's how the Democrats fought. Good for them.
For almost three years, arguably longer, conservative Bush supporters have felt like sufferers of battered wife syndrome. You don't like endless gushing spending, the kind that assumes a high and unstoppable affluence will always exist, and the tax receipts will always flow in? Too bad! You don't like expanding governmental authority and power? Too bad. You think the [Iraq] war was wrong or is wrong? Too bad.
Last note. As much as anyone, the POW wives of Vietnam, who stood against the Democratic nominee for president and for the Republican, can claim credit for the Bush victory. Everyone with a computer in America, and a lot of people with TVs, saw their testimony about the 1970s, and their husbands, and John Kerry. You could not come away from their white-haired, soft-faced, big-eyeglasses visages without thinking: He should not be commander in chief.
One of the things I have come to think the past few years is that the Bushes, father and son, though different in many ways, are great wasters of political inheritance. They throw it away as if they'd earned it and could do with it what they liked. Bush senior inherited a vibrant country and a party at peace with itself. He won the leadership of a party that had finally, at great cost, by 1980, fought itself through to unity and come together on shared principles. Mr. Bush won in 1988 by saying he would govern as Reagan had. Yet he did not understand he'd been elected to Reagan's third term. He thought he'd been elected because they liked him. And so he raised taxes, sundered a hard-won coalition, and found himself shocked to lose his party the presidency, and for eight long and consequential years. He had many virtues, but he wasted his inheritance.
Who was the biggest loser of the 2004 election? It is easy to say Mr. Kerry: he was a poor candidate with a poor campaign. But I do think the biggest loser was the mainstream media, the famous MSM, the initials that became popular in this election cycle. Every time the big networks and big broadsheet national newspapers tried to pull off a bit of pro-liberal mischief--CBS and the fabricated Bush National Guard documents, the New York Times and bombgate, CBS's "60 Minutes" attempting to coordinate the breaking of bombgate on the Sunday before the election--the yeomen of the blogosphere and AM radio and the Internet took them down.
The beginning of my own sense of separation from the Bush administration came in January 2005, when the president declared that it is now the policy of the United States to eradicate tyranny in the world, and that the survival of American liberty is dependent on the liberty of every other nation. This was at once so utopian and so aggressive that it shocked me. For others the beginning of distance might have been Katrina and the incompetence it revealed, or the depth of the mishandling and misjudgments of Iraq.
It will be hard for the mainstream media to continue, in the face of these facts, the mantra that we are a deeply and completely divided country. But they'll try!
The White House doesn't need its traditional supporters anymore, because its problems are way beyond being solved by the base. And the people in the administration don't even much like the base. Desperate straits have left them liberated, and they are acting out their disdain. Leading Democrats often think their base is slightly mad but at least their heart is in the right place. This White House thinks its base is stupid and that its heart is in the wrong place.
It was to me a great historical development in the history of politics in America. It was Agincourt. It was the yeomen of King Harry taking down the French aristocracy with new technology and rough guts. God bless the pajama-clad yeomen of America. Some day, when America is hit again, and lines go down, and media are hard to get, these bloggers and site runners and independent Internetters of all sorts will find a way to file, and get their word out, and it will be part of the saving of our country.
President Bush has torn the conservative coalition asunder.
So Much to Savor
Why would they speak so insultingly, with such hostility, of opponents who are concerned citizens? And often, though not exclusively, concerned conservatives? It is odd, but it is of a piece with, or a variation on, the "Too bad" governing style. And it is one that has, day by day for at least the past three years, been tearing apart the conservative movement.
A big win for America, and a loss for the mainstream media.
If they'd really wanted to help, as opposed to braying about their own wonderfulness, they would have created not one big bill but a series of smaller bills, each of which would do one big clear thing, the first being to close the border. Once that was done--actually and believably done--the country could relax in the knowledge that the situation was finally not day by day getting worse. They could feel some confidence. And in that confidence real progress could begin.
The Democrats have lost their leader in the Senate, Tom Daschle. I do not know what the Democratic Party spent, in toto, on the 2004 election, but what they seem to have gotten for it is Barack Obama. Let us savor. The elites of Old Europe are depressed. Savor. The nonelites of Old Europe, and the normal folk of New Europe, especially our beloved friend Poland, will not be depressed, and many will be happy. Let's savor that too. George Soros cannot buy a presidential election. Savor. "Volunteers" who are bought and paid for cannot beat volunteers who come from the neighborhood, church, workplace and reading group. Savor.
What political conservatives and on-the-ground Republicans must understand at this point is that they are not breaking with the White House on immigration. They are not resisting, fighting and thereby setting down a historical marker--"At this point the break became final." That's not what's happening. What conservatives and Republicans must recognize is that the White House has broken with them. What President Bush is doing, and has been doing for some time, is sundering a great political coalition. This is sad, and it holds implications not only for one political party but for the American future.
But on immigration it has changed from "Too bad" to "You're bad."
Mr. Kerry graced democracy today. He showed his love for it. Savor.
I suspect the White House and its allies have turned to name calling because they're defensive, and they're defensive because they know they have produced a big and indecipherable mess of a bill--one that is literally bigger than the Bible, though as someone noted last week, at least we actually had a few years to read the Bible. The White House and its supporters seem to be marshalling not facts but only sentiments, and self-aggrandizing ones at that. They make a call to emotions--this is, always and on every issue, the administration's default position--but not, I think, to seriously influence the debate.
George W. Bush is the first president to win more than 50% of the popular vote since 1988. (Bill Clinton failed to twice; Mr. Bush failed to last time and fell short of a plurality by half a million.) The president received more than 59 million votes, breaking Ronald Reagan's old record of 54.5 million. Mr. Bush increased his personal percentages in almost every state in the union. He carried the Catholic vote and won 42% of the Hispanic vote and 24% of the Jewish vote (up from 19% in 2000.)
What I came in time to believe is that the great shortcoming of this White House, the great thing it is missing, is simple wisdom. Just wisdom--a sense that they did not invent history, that this moment is not all there is, that man has lived a long time and there are things that are true of him, that maturity is not the same thing as cowardice, that personal loyalty is not a good enough reason to put anyone in charge of anything, that the way it works in politics is a friend becomes a loyalist becomes a hack, and actually at this point in history we don't need hacks.
God bless our country.
Hello, old friends. Let us savor.
Bush the younger came forward, presented himself as a conservative, garnered all the frustrated hopes of his party, turned them into victory, and not nine months later was handed a historical trauma that left his country rallied around him, lifting him, and his party bonded to him. He was disciplined and often daring, but in time he sundered the party that rallied to him, and broke his coalition into pieces. He threw away his inheritance. I do not understand such squandering.
To admit defeat with attempted grace is a moving sight. Kerry did well. His talking about his "good conversation" with the president was gracious and helpful. He was honest about the facts of the vote in Ohio. When he thanked his people from the bottom of his heart it was a real thanks. "Thanks to Democrats and Republicans and Independents. . . . Thanks to everyone who voted." "Don't lose faith, what you did made a difference . . . and building on itself . . . the time will come when your votes, your ballots, will change the world. And it's worth fighting for." A lot of pundits and editorialists are going to say, "His best speech of the campaign was his last." But that's not the point.
Oh, another last note. Tuesday I heard three radio talkers who refused to believe it was over when the ludicrous, and who knows but possibly quite mischievous, exit polls virtually declared a Kerry landslide yesterday afternoon. They are Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. The last sent me an e-mail that dismissed the numbers as elitist nonsense and propaganda. She is one tough girl and they are two tough men. Savor them too.
And now the president is speaking. He looks tired and happy. He looks as if the lines on his forehead are deeper. Maybe it's the lighting. "We had a really good phone call," he said of Mr. Kerry. "He was very gracious . . . and he and his supporters can be proud of their efforts." Good for them both. He announced his agenda: reform the tax code, privatize Social Security, help the emerging democracies of Iraq and Afghanistan. "And then our servicemen and -women will come home with the honor they have earned." "Today I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent. . . . I need your support. . . . I will do all that I can do to earn your trust. . . . We have one country, one Constitution, and one future that binds us." All good. Savor.
Let us get our heads around the size and scope of what happened Tuesday. George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States, became the first incumbent president to increase his majority in both the Senate and the House and to increase his own vote (by over 3.5 million) since Franklin D. Roosevelt, political genius of the 20th century, in 1936. This is huge.
They are trying to lay down markers for history. Having lost the support of most of the country, they are looking to another horizon. The story they would like written in the future is this: Faced with the gathering forces of ethnocentric darkness, a hardy and heroic crew stood firm and held high a candle in the wind. It will make a good chapter. Would that it were true!