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Noonan Tries to Explain… And Fails.

Peggy Noonan [1] has written up a second op-ed, a follow on to her last one. I suppose she felt the need to respond to what must have been harsh chatter… harsher, I think than I was in last weekend’s BitsBIT. [2]

“Why don’t I see the speech as so many others do, as a thematic and romantic statement of what we all hope for, world freedom? Don’t we all want that?

Yes. But words have meaning. To declare that it is now the policy of the United States to eradicate tyranny in the world, that we are embarking on the greatest crusade in the history of freedom, and that the survival of American liberty is dependent on the liberty of every other nation–seemed to me, and seems to me, rhetorical and emotional overreach of the most embarrassing sort. ”

Does it? well, let me ask you, Peg… what you thought of JFK’s 1961 Inaugural Address?  I think perhaps you should re-read it. Here’s a few bits of it to get you started.

“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility—I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it—and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.”

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty”

Does that sound “Over the Top” to you, Peg?  Does it sound like the policy of the US in 1961 was to, in your words, “eradicate tyranny in the world”? It sure does to me.  Gee, sounds rather like what the President said a week and a day
ago, huh?

Peg says:

“What’s wrong with a little overweening ambition? Shouldn’t man’s reach exceed his grasp?

True. But history is quite big enough right now. We’ve already been given a lot to grasp.”

Well then, Peg, the trick is something that both Mr Bush and Mr Kennedy have a better line on than do you, apparently: Survival calls for being bigger than the times you live in.

That said, I give Peg credit, however, on one thing; she confirms my thought expressed in last weekend’s BIT that she didn’t pick the headline for last week’s column. She isn’t that far gone yet. But in reading her column today I must admit wondering if that point was all that far away.

Or perhaps her complaints about the presidential speech are based in something a bit more petty; She’s no longer writing them.