The Way We Were

I’ve been bravely ignoring Peggy Noonan’s weekly columns and occasional blogs in the Wall Street Journal for a while now, on grounds that it’s impossible to add much to her continuing descent into self-parody. But I have to break the habit briefly today, if only to honor the many, many journalists from every point of view who are unemployed or toiling in obscurity while Ms. Noonan occupies one of the more valuable and visible spaces in the public arena with insights like this one:

This week something changed. George W. Bush is back, for the unveiling of his presidential library. His numbers are dramatically up. You know why? Because he’s the farthest thing from Barack Obama.

Obama fatigue has opened the way to Bush affection.

Yes, Noonan attended the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, where someone must have thrown her a life jacket to keep her from drowning in bathos:

George W. Bush was emotional: “In the end, leaders are defined by the convictions they hold. . . . My deepest conviction . . . is that the United States of America must strive to expand the reach of freedom. I believe that freedom is a gift from God and the hope of every human heart.” He then announced that on Saturday he would personally invade Syria. Ha, kidding. It was standard Bush rhetoric and, in its way, a defiant pushing back against critics of his invasions and attempts to nation-build. Who isn’t for more freedom? But that bright, shining impulse, that very American impulse, must be followed by steely-eyed calculation. At the end Mr. Bush wept, and not only because the Bush men are weepers but because he means every word of what he says, and because he loves his country, and was moved. John Boehner weeps too when he speaks about what America means to him. You know why they do that? Because their hearts are engaged. And really, that’s not the worst thing.

No it’s not. The worst thing is the conclusion of Noonan’s column:

Back to the point. What was nice was that all of them—the Bush family, the Carters and Clintons—seemed like the old days. “The way we were.” They were full of endurance, stamina, effort. Also flaws, frailty, mess. But they weren’t . . . creepy.

Anyway, onward to Obama fatigue, and the Democratic Party wrestling with what comes next. It’s not only the Republicans in a deep pit.

Gaze in awe.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.