Anatomy of a Column
eggy Noonan’s glass was half empty or half full (“I’m an optimist about these things…”) as she recalled the scene at the Republican retreat in Hershey Pennsylvania, and as the official hagiographer of the Reagan Era, she had received her admirers as any dowager empress would. And the drinks flowed, so she was content to be the bell of the bar.
Her notes were sketchy—”mental note to self: Chocolatinis, not so much”—and she couldn’t remember which presidential-aspirant governor it was who she had such an in-depth conversation with, but perhaps it doesn’t matter? She thoughtfully chewed on the nub of her #2 Lead Pencil (Dixon Ticonderoga) after stirring her Mai Tai with it, and tried to summon up the conversation.
“I told him I’d been thinking about something and wanted his response. You can argue that a governor is a better presidential nominee than a senator because governors, unlike lawmakers, have to do something and can be judged by their performance, which is measurable. You can look at their terms and say they raised or cut taxes, which helped or hurt the economy.”
“Good lord, I hope it wasn’t Brownback,” she murmured to herself. She took a thoughtful sip of her rejuvenating beverage and worked on recalling the convo.
“They succeeded or failed in creating a favorable business climate. There are numbers and statistics that can to some degree test their claims. They know domestic issues and can be judged on domestic issues.”
“Good lord, I hope it wasn’t Scott Walker,” she gasped. This required more concentration, deeper thought and a fresh pineapple wedge.
But they know nothing about the world. They haven’t been filling their brain-space with foreign policy and foreign affairs the past 20 years; they’ve been filling their minds with the facts of Indiana or Louisiana or New Jersey.
Noonan looked up at the life-size cut-out of Ronald Wilson Reagan, the greatest president of the last half of the last century, maybe the greatest president ever. Her little bird-like hand fluttered up to the ever-present pearl necklace, a gift from the great man himself.
“Well, Peggy,” Ronnie seemed to say to her, “You know I was a governor before I was a president?”
“Present company excepted, Chief,” Noonan replied. “No offense,” she added for good measure. Her thoughts continued to focus on who she had spoken to. “Indiana would be Pence,” she giggled and added, “President Pence.” She had to wipe a tear from her eye after she said President Jindal, even Ronnie laughed at that one. “President Christi,” she murmured. Yes, it probably was him that she had talked to.
Anyway, to the governor I said, in a world in which foreign affairs continue to be more important than ever, in a dangerous world with which we have ever more dealings, shouldn’t we be thinking about senators for the presidency, and not governors?
The phone buzzed its happy little tune (the smash hit of the Reagan Era, “Afternoon Delight”) and checking it she saw it was from her boss, Rupert Murdoch. “Oh, Lord, he’s going to gibber-jabber about deadlines and aborigines, and shrimp on the barbe. I’m not answering,” and then the phone answered itself. “I hate that he knows how to do that,” she thought darkly.
“Peg, how was the boozer with the snoozers? Got some great quotes, what?” Rupe boomed at her, setting off a three-alarm hangover. “Need some thoughts on Romney, fool is going to run again,” and he rang off
Ronnie glared at her. “Well, Peggy, this isn’t very good. The pundits will keep bringing up that I ran for three times before winning.” Peggy cleared her throat and addressed the cardboard:
“I just spent two days at the Republican joint congressional retreat in Hershey, Pa., and can tell you there was exactly no Mitt-momentum. The talk, when it turned to 2016, was of others.”
Ronnie’s face returned to his usual pleasant, dare we say sunny smile. “Tell me more, Mommy, er, Peggy.”
This is a moment in history that demands superior political gifts from one who would govern. Mitt Romney does not have them. He never did. He’s good at life and good at business and good at faith. He is politically clunky, always was and always will be. His clunkiness is seen in the way he leaked his interest in running: to mega-millionaires and billionaires in New York. “Tell your friends.”
Ronnie beamed at her, and she returned his smile, shyly, and added:
There was something known as Reaganism. It was a real movement within the party and then the nation. Reaganism had meaning. You knew what you were voting for. It was a philosophy that people understood. Philosophies are powerful. They carry you, and if they are right and pertinent to the moment they make you inevitable.
There is no such thing as Romneyism and there never will be. Mr. Romney has never encompassed a philosophical world. He has never become the symbol of an attitude toward government, or an approach to freedom or fairness. “Romneyism” is just “Mitt should be president.” That is not enough.
“Peggy, I ought to give you another pearl necklace for that,” he deeply, seductively murmured to her as she picked up the lightweight cut out and retreated to the nether regions of her penthouse, quietly closing the bedroom door behind her.