Guy’s email (with significant edits) to reader, LR, about the Noonan piece mentioned in the prior post:
Yes, I, too, greatly admire Peggy Noonan. Anyone who prizes good writing but does not envy her ability to cast a phrase, has just not been reading enough of her stuff. You are right that I disagree with the substance of her Wall Street Journal piece. But I share her bottom-line: I believe that Barack Obama’s rhetorical gifts are overrated. Or possibly they are just not being well deployed in the service of the correct policies. But, in either event, Noonan is wrong about most everything else.
(1) Her claim that Obama’s “share the sacrifice” rhetoric is “divisive” is one made by a small subset of those who are sitting atop substantial piles of stocks, bonds, and cash — the sliver of society that needs the help of government least of all. I know some of these fortunate folks. While my sample is skewed toward liberals — without exception, they have been saying things like this, “if higher taxes are needed, then I want to do my part to help us all get back on our feet.” It’s difficult to believe that wealthy Republicans are of a different mind. Surely they are not.
(2) As to Noonan’s claim that Obama is the loser in the ridiculous debt-ceiling “duel,” she has either been reading different polls or misreading the ones I’ve seen, some of which have been previously cited in this blog. Republican congressmen have been by far the biggest losers. More recent polls make this even clearer.
(3) I find it not only bizarre, but Orwellian that the party who forced through the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthiest, who have proposed slashing Medicare to ribbons and privatizing Social Security, and who run “scare ads” in certain parts of the country about the dangers of immigration (using mainly photos of Hispanic faces) — could with a straight face accuse even Karl Marx himself of “class warfare.” After eight years of the prior president — you recall him, the “uniter, not a divider” chap who made marginalizing gay people a key part of his reelection strategy — I confess that I do bristle at Noonan’s claim that Obama is a divisive figure. If only he were more so. While “class warfare” is a term of Republican coinage, a grown-up discussion about what’s been happening to the middle class in this country over the past two decades is overdue. It’s now clear it will not take place on this president’s watch. And that’s too bad.
(4) Rather than a class warrior or “scary … socialist” (to use David Koch’s term or Senator Jim Demint’s), I see Obama as someone whose greatest fear is being cast as divisive. He has lost his way because of his refusal to fess up to his biggest policy blunder: his failure — against the advice of his best economists — to “swing for the fences” in seeking fiscal stimulus of the size that was (is) needed to turn the economy around. He could correct that now. But the political tea leaves are foretelling that he won’t. What a travesty. And he may lose in 2012 because of it.