Thursday, September 04, 2008

Trying to recall words carelessly spoken

Sorry, can't be done.

Tonight Mark Levin played an audio recording of Peggy Noonan speaking to an MSNBC reporter Chuck Todd and someone described as a Republican strategist named Mike Murphy. In this audio clip, which was recorded after the on-air segment closed and Ms. Noonan and the others did not realize that the mikes were still live, Ms. Noonan let slip what were her real thoughts about the nomination of Sarah Palin as the Republican vice presidential candidate.

Here is what Ms. Noonan has to say about the incident:

Well, I just got mugged by the nature of modern media, and I wish it weren't my fault, but it is. Readers deserve an explanation, so I'm putting a new top on today's column and, with the forbearance of the Journal, here it is.

Wednesday afternoon, in a live MSNBC television panel hosted by NBC's political analyst Chuck Todd, and along with Republican strategist Mike Murphy, we discussed Sarah Palin's speech this evening to the Republican National Convention. I said she has to tell us in her speech who she is, what she believes, and why she's here. We spoke of Republican charges that the media has been unfair to Mrs. Palin, and I defended the view that while the media should investigate every quote and vote she's made, and look deeply into her career, it has been unjust in its treatment of her family circumstances, and deserved criticism for this.

When the segment was over and MSNBC was in commercial, Todd, Murphy and I continued our conversation, talking about the Palin choice overall. We were speaking informally, with some passion -- and into live mics. An audio tape of that conversation was sent, how or by whom I don't know, onto the internet. And within three hours I was receiving it from friends far and wide, asking me why I thought the McCain campaign is "over", as it says in the transcript of the conversation. Here I must plead some confusion. In our off-air conversation, I got on the subject of the leaders of the Republican party assuming, now, that whatever the base of the Republican party thinks is what America thinks. I made the case that this is no longer true, that party leaders seem to me stuck in the assumptions of 1988 and 1994, the assumptions that reigned when they were young and coming up. "The first lesson they learned is the one they remember," I said to Todd -- and I'm pretty certain that is a direct quote. But, I argued, that's over, those assumptions are yesterday, the party can no longer assume that its base is utterly in line with the thinking of the American people. And when I said, "It's over!" -- and I said it more than once -- that is what I was referring to. I am pretty certain that is exactly what Todd and Murphy understood I was referring to. In the truncated version of the conversation, on the Web, it appears I am saying the McCain campaign is over. I did not say it, and do not think it. In fact, at an on-the-record press symposium on the campaign on Monday, when all of those on the panel were pressed to predict who would win, I said that I didn't know, but that we just might find "This IS a country for old men." That is, McCain may well win. I do not think the campaign is over, I do not think this is settled, and did not suggest, back to the Todd-Murphy conversation, that "It's over."

However, I did say two things that I haven't said in public, either in speaking or in my writing. One is a vulgar epithet that I wish I could blame on the mood of the moment but cannot. No one else, to my memory, swore. I just blurted. The other, more seriously, is a real criticism that I had not previously made, but only because I hadn't thought of it. And it is connected to a thought I had this morning, Wednesday morning, and wrote to a friend. Here it is. Early this morning I saw Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, and as we chatted about the McCain campaign (she thoughtfully and supportively) I looked into her eyes and thought, Why not her? Had she been vetted for the vice presidency, and how did it come about that it was the less experienced Mrs. Palin who was chosen? I didn't ask these questions or mention them, I just thought them. Later in the morning, still pondering this, I thought of something that had happened exactly 20 years before. It was just after the 1988 Republican convention ended. I was on the plane, as a speechwriter, that took Republican presidential nominee George H.W. Bush, and the new vice presidential nominee, Dan Quayle, from New Orleans, the site of the convention, to Indiana. Sitting next to Mr. Quayle was the other senator from that state, Richard Lugar. As we chatted, I thought, "Why him and not him?" Why Mr. Quayle as the choice, and not the more experienced Mr. Lugar? I came to think, in following years, that some of the reason came down to what is now called The Narrative. The story the campaign wishes to tell about itself, and communicate to others. I don't like the idea of The Narrative. I think it is ... a barnyard epithet. And, oddly enough, it is something that Republicans are not very good at, because it's not where they live, it's not what they're about, it's too fancy. To the extent the McCain campaign was thinking in these terms, I don't like that either. I do like Mrs. Palin, because I like the things she espouses. And because, frankly, I met her once and liked her. I suspect, as I say further in here, that her candidacy will be either dramatically successful or a dramatically not; it won't be something in between.

But, bottom line, I am certainly sorry I blurted my barnyard epithet, I am certainly sorry that someone abused my meaning in the use of the words, "It's over", and I'm sorry I didn't have the Kay Baily Hutchison thought before this morning, because I could have written of it.

First of all note the way that Ms. Noonan attempts to cast herself as a victim. This is worthy of a Clintonian Democrat. To be caught in an act of blatant dishonesty or rank hypocrisy and react by acting as though you were being unfairly attacked.

Next I must say that I heard the exchange and I do not find Ms. Noonan's explanation of what she meant by "it's over" to be credible. I suppose that the plain meaning of what she said wasn't the real meaning that she intended, but only she and God can know that for certain.

Note also that she attempts to distract from the content of what she said by making a huge deal out of the fact that she used the term "bull shit".

Ms. Noonan the fact that you uttered the "S-word" is far less significant than the fact that you trashed Governor Palin's nomination with your MSN buddies when you thought no one was listening.

Finally Ms. Noonan asks a question:
Early this morning I saw Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, and as we chatted about the McCain campaign (she thoughtfully and supportively) I looked into her eyes and thought, Why not her? Had she been vetted for the vice presidency, and how did it come about that it was the less experienced Mrs. Palin who was chosen?
To answer Ms. Noonan's question I would first state that Mr. McCain did not share his reasoning with me so I can only speculate, but my reasoning is that Ms. Hutchison has spent her entire political career as a member of the legislature. She has no more executive experience Obama, Biden or McCain himself and McCain needed someone on his ticket to balance out that deficiency.

Another reason for Senator McCain to pick Palin over Hutchison is that McCain needs to shore up his support among the Republican party's conservative base and while Ms. Hutchison calls herself "pro-life" she does not advocate overturning Roe v. Wade (so she opposes abortion but doesn't want to actually do anything about it). In fact she holds that the Supreme Court ruled correctly in Roe and that there is a legitimate constitutional right to abortion.

To sum up while Ms. Hutchison is certainly more conservative than liberal on most issues she has been a Senator for 15 years and is comfortably ensconced within the Beltway as a consummate insider. She simply doesn't meet McCain's requirement for a consummate outsider with a proven track record of reform and taking on established interests, even interests within her own party.

John McCain wanted his vice presidential pick to demonstrate courage and outside-the-box thinking. The fact that an insider like Peggy Noonan can't quite wrap her head around it proves that he was successful.

I know not what course others may take but as for me and my house we will delete Peggy Noonan from the list of pundits whose opinion we take seriously.