The Most Isolated Pundit Since Herself

It was a nice, sunny Friday afternoon and I was ahead of schedule on blogging and had already done my one immediate moonlighting chore and was fantasizing about a brisk walk down the coastal trail and maybe a nap. And then I had to–just had to–read Peggy Noonan’s Friday column. I mean, I knew from the headline–“The Loneliest President Since Nixon”–that it would enrage me, but I couldn’t resist. And yes, it’s a classic. Here’s just a taste, like a spoonful of castor oil:

I have never seen a president in exactly the position Mr. Obama is, which is essentially alone. He’s got no one with him now. The Republicans don’t like him, for reasons both usual and particular: They have had no good experiences with him. The Democrats don’t like him, for their own reasons plus the election loss. Before his post-election lunch with congressional leaders, he told the press that he will judiciously consider any legislation, whoever sends it to him, Republicans or Democrats. His words implied that in this he was less partisan and more public-spirited than the hacks arrayed around him. It is for these grace notes that he is loved. No one at the table looked at him with colder, beadier eyes than outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid , who clearly doesn’t like him at all. The press doesn’t especially like the president; in conversation they evince no residual warmth. This week at the Beijing summit there was no sign the leaders of the world had any particular regard for him. They can read election returns. They respect power and see it leaking out of him. If Mr. Obama had won the election they would have faked respect and affection.

You know, it’s pretty amazing. Peggy Noonan is treated by the marketplace (access to readers and viewers and presumably money) as someone at the pinnacle of the profession of political punditry. But you get the sense that she looks at the election last week and knows nothing of the mechanics of election battlegrounds and turnout patterns that the rest of us talk about incessantly. I’m not sure she’s even aware that presidential parties almost always lose midterm elections, and second-term presidents usually lose badly. Best you can tell from her columns, her impressions of politics come from a rare and uncontextualized glimpse of real life (e.g., briefly seeing a lot of Romney yard signs in Florida in 2012), and talking to people who are almost exactly like her (perhaps the longtime Democratic operative who inspired this column, who could well be Bob Beckel). Data? History, other than her hoarded treasures from the Golden Age of Ronnie? Nah. Why bother? She provides all the partisan B.S. the market can bear, which turns out to be an awful lot. And so she drifts along in the isolated splendor of a public figure inhabiting a world of her own imagining, which makes her concern trolling about Obama’s “loneliness” particularly ironic.

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.