Peggy Noonan was a speech writer for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. She was a master. These days, she writes columns for The Wall Street Journal.
When she writes on politics, I pay attention. She was inside Washington at the highest level, yet she did not have to get into any fights to defend institutional turf. She watched. She thought. Then she wrote speeches.
To write a speech that works with an audience, you must understand the audience. You must then craft your words to gain the support of the audience. Peggy Noonan has understood the Republican audience for three decades better than anyone else I can think of.
OUTSIDERS AND INSIDERS
Her latest article surveys the Republicans running for the nomination for President. She asks the obvious question: Why are two outsiders, Trump and Carson, ahead of the others? She comes up with a plausible answer.
What is going on, and not only with Republicans, is that American voters are surveying the past 15 years. At home they see an economic near-collapse followed by a feeble recovery, a culture that grows every day grosser and more bizarre, falling educational results, a bigger, more demanding and more corrupt federal government. In the world: two unwon wars, ISIS, a refugee crisis greater than any since the end of World War II, Putin on the move, American clout and prestige on the decline.
They think: Who gave us this world? Who led us the past 15 years? They realize: It was the most credentialed, acclaimed and experienced political professionals in both parties. The pros gave us this world–the people who knew what they were doing! Who had a lifetime of political attainment!
This is the joint work of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. This has been the Bush-Obama Administration. She of course does not say this openly, but she describes its outcomes.
We should not blame today’s bizarre culture on Washington. The federal government is not in charge of American culture — fortunately. But everything else on her list of horrors is the product of the United States government. I include the Federal Reserve System.
Educational standards have been visibly falling since 1963, the year that SAT scores peaked. But Bush took possession of the decline with his preposterously named program, “No Child Left Behind.” That was right up there with “Mission Accomplished.”
Bush’s PR flaks had a kind of perverse ability to name things wrong, beginning with the war on terrorism in the Middle East. Bush announced: “this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take awhile.” Crusade. Yes. Memories of old — just perfect to gain the support of Saudi Arabia. The Pentagon then backtracked, renaming the invasion of Afghanistan “Operation Infinite Justice.” I see. A Western crusade for infinite justice. Saudi Arabia again. This was soon renamed “Operation Enduring Freedom.” That operation officially ended with America’s military victory in Afghanistan on December 28, 2014 — a Sunday. Mission accomplished! The Bush Team had a kind of reverse Midas touch, rhetoric-wise.
Not to be outdone, Obama followed “No Child Left Behind” with his own rhetorical disaster: “Race To The Top” slogan. I see. Obama. Race. Get that front and center, guys!
In the field of rhetoric, these are bipartisan Keystone Kops.
That scraping sound you hear is the bottom of the barrel.
(For the rest of my article, click the link.)