It’s cold.
Cold enough that it’s some 25 degrees warmer inside my freezer. Cold enough that in a drive to work, my van heater doesn’t come on until I’m almost there. Cold enough that road salt, so much the staple of winter driving in these parts, doesn’t work.

Cold enough, in fact, to raise brass monkeys to legendary status.

Longtime readers will know I’m only perhaps a dozen miles off the southern shore of Lake Ontario. When it gets this cold around here, we tend to get a rather interesting kind of snow… a very light fine powder, that makes one mindful of shaved ice… it’s totally unlike what one usually will see falling ‘from the clouds’.  The lake, you see, is always evaporating, and is particularly so when it’s this cold; the relative Humidity tends to drop like a stone at these temps. This results on more moisture being pulled into the air from the lake… and a little wind out of the north… which is what drives these cold snaps, anwyay, pushes this moisture over the shoreline where it falls on us. This system has so far produced nearly a foot of this kind of snow around here.

This accumulation is about to be augmented however, by a storm that is making it’s way up the east coast, and raising hell as it comes. We’re seeing snowfall predictions form this combo of about 17-22 inches by the time it’s all said and done.

So it is, that once I shovel the driveway, and address a concern with the heater, I find myself with a largish amount of time on my hands. Time to catch up on my writing, some housework (Both on my house and on the site) and some work on the systems here at Casa De Bit. And of course, reading.

One of the must reads on my list is Peggy Noonan. When she comes out with a column, agree or disagree, it’s always worth a read. I have a world of respect for Peggy Noonan. And I find myself in loud agreement with her.

Not today, however.
Peggy seems to have some problems with the Mr. ush’s inauguration speech. Someone… and I doubt it was Peggy, though I don’t know… decided to use the headline for her commentary “Too Much God”. One can see how they’d come up with that for a headline, though.

“The president’s speech seemed rather heavenish. It was a God-drenched speech. This president, who has been accused of giving too much attention to religious imagery and religious thought, has not let the criticism enter him. God was invoked relentlessly. “The Author of Liberty.” “God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind . . . the longing of the soul.”

The reason he has not, as Peg notes, “let the criticism enter him”, is simple enough.
The people don’t want him to do so. What criticism has come his way has, for the most part, been launched by what has been exposed as an overly-cynical minority. What was John Kerry’s campaign, after all, but a exercise in criticism of all that is America… an exercise in the cynical?  The American people made their choice rather resoundingly, and the President is not only not being cynical because it is not in his nature to be so, but he is affirmatively and overtly responding to that desire for what I will call non-cynicism in it’s leaders.

“It seemed a document produced by a White House on a mission. The United States, the speech said, has put the world on notice: Good governments that are just to their people are our friends, and those that are not are, essentially, not. We know the way: democracy. The president told every nondemocratic government in the world to shape up.”

And that, my friends, is the best message of all of this. The White House has re-identified the mission… It’s one we were supposed to have been on since our founding.  Peggy seems daunted by the scope of it all. I sense she’d be more comfortable withdrawing from the challenge.

Mr Bush says, as quoted be Peg:

“We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.” “Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self government. . . . Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation’s security, and the calling of our time.” “It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in the world.”

Peg responds:

“Ending tyranny in the world? Well that’s an ambition, and if you’re going to have an ambition it might as well be a big one. But this declaration, which is not wrong by any means, seemed to me to land somewhere between dreamy and disturbing. Tyranny is a very bad thing and quite wicked, but one doesn’t expect we’re going to eradicate it any time soon. Again, this is not heaven, it’s earth.”

I daresay that the same was said about our own Declaration of independence, which held all men to be create equal.  I wrote some weeks ago,a and recently repeated it over at Dean Esmay’s place, that when Tom Jefferson wrote “WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT”….

….he was not speaking a universal truth at all. The operative word in that phrase is “WE”.

Rather than talking about a universal point of view, a universal truth, if you will, he was instead talking about the point of view of WE the new American culture. With this angle, many of the long-held myths about rights tend to disappear.

Consider; if it was in fact a universal truth that all men were created equal, it wouldn’t have been such a radical idea, for the time, much less then to now. Last I checked, it is quite true that a vast majority still do not consider these as any kind of truth, universal or otherwise; they consider them to be anything BUT self-evident. Royalty still exists, as do class structures, and slavery, as well.

Again, I say…Jefferson was speaking of the point of view of OUR culture, not that of others.

The reality was that we were not going to be able to get the rest of the world to perfectly adopt these ideals. That said however, that did not stop Jefferson and his contemporaries from speaking on that idea and ideal, and from trying to convince the remainder of the world that this was the way to go. 

So what would Peggy have Mr. Bush do? Just say up front, in the cynical tone of his former opponent: “Look, we’re gonna fail if we take on this large goal… there’s no way we’re gonna do it, so let’s not try’?  Yeah… THAT could go over well, huh? 

Look; Mr. Bush’s father was clobbered over what the press called ‘that vision thing’. Clearly that cannot be laid at this president’s feet; he shares the vision our founders had for this country and is, accurately I think, reflecting the cultural values expressed in the words of Jefferson, here.  Rights are a cultural concept, as I have said both in these spaces and elsewhere. But, as the President himself points up; how do we argue for our cultures values outside these shores, if we fail to hold them high ourselves… Particularly when our leaders do not? Clearly, Mr. Bush is not about letting that happen on his watch.

Peggy moans:

“This is–how else to put it?–over the top. It is the kind of sentence that makes you wonder if this White House did not, in the preparation period, have a case of what I have called in the past “mission inebriation.” A sense that there are few legitimate boundaries to the desires born in the goodness of their good hearts.

One wonders if they shouldn’t ease up, calm down, breathe deep, get more securely grounded. The most moving speeches summon us to the cause of what is actually possible. Perfection in the life of man on earth is not.”

I will say I am not what one would call a ‘fan’ of Mr. Bush. I have verbally opened fire on him when I felt the need in these spaces on several occasions. I will doubtless do so again. That said, however, I am again forced to remind Ms Noonan that many considered the ideals expressed in our Declaration of independence to be unattainable.

Well, this American, at least, is glad that we had such men as would not yield to what some saw as the reality that we’d never be able to achieve all that was laid out within those ideals. Iagine the state of our world today, had they followed the advice of the cynics then!

The truth is, that we are a nation of dreamers at heart… we always have been so. Usually, in spite of all that is seen as being realistic and possible, we’re able to make such dreams reality, transcending the stated reality, and overcoming it, and expanding by leaps and bounds the realm of what’s possible, by sheer force of national and cultural will. Even when we fail at bringing about exactly what we’ve dreamed, we manage to make things better both for ourselves and for the world as a whole, by what we do manage to do. Such dreams deserve not to be squelched by the cynical, but pursued by the willing. Experience has taught us repeatedly that the world is a worse place if we do not have, and exert, that will.

That was, I think, Mr. Bush’s purpose. Re-focusing our will. All Mr. Bush did, in reality, is to remind us and refocus us on who we are, pointing us toward that dream… the higher calling… and urging Americans down that road, set us over 200 years ago.

That’s called “Vision”. That’s called, dare I say it, “Leadership”.