Peggy Noonan's Open Eyes


I've long enjoyed Peggy Noonan's work (except for one dreadful book even she must regret writing). I don't always agree with her, but she represents for me that brand of blue-state conservatism that came of age in the Reagan era, one that was often Catholic (though not dogmatically so), repelled by the bile of the far left, respectful of religion and tradition but very much at ease with the modern world, often urban and ethnic, and very susceptible to the charm and rhetoric and deep seriousness of Reagan. I guess she reminds me of my mum and sister. These kinds of conservatives are meritocrats. They were much more Reagan than Bush. And they are deeply distrustful of dynasty and inheritance. They're not country club Republicans. But they're not Dobsonites either. And they don't always vote for the party of the right.

The idea of America being run by two families for two decades is anathema to such conservatives, as it is to many liberals. There is something inherently corrupting about it - not just corrupting of them, but corrupting of us. The experience of such power - presiding over the most powerful nation in modern history - cannot but corrupt; and our decision to delegate real decisions to various royal families while boning up on the latest news from Britney Spears is a sign of real decadence. In a war this dangerous, it's positively reckless, especially given the vast new neo-monarchical powers this administration has seized and will, in large part, bequeath to the next president. We have learned how one such succession has worked out. We should be extremely leery of another, especially since so many in the Washington establishment have already decided that this race is over, and it is now the voters' job to crown the next-in-line for the throne. So give Peggy a few minutes of your time today:

Barack Obama has a great thinking look. I mean the look he gets on his face when he's thinking, not the look he presents in debate, where they all control their faces knowing they may be in the reaction shot and fearing they'll look shrewd and clever, as opposed to open and strong. I mean the look he gets in an interview or conversation when he's listening and not conscious of his expression. It's a very present look. He seems more in the moment than handling the moment. I've noticed this the past few months, since he entered the national stage. I wonder if I'm watching him more closely than his fellow Democrats are.

Mr. Obama often seems to be thinking when he speaks, too, and this comes somehow as a relief, in comparison, say, to Hillary Clinton and President Bush, both of whom often seem to be trying to remember the answer they'd agreed upon with staff. What's the phrase we use about education? Hit Search Function. Hit Open. Right-click. "Equity in education is essential, Tim . . ."

You get the impression Mr. Obama trusts himself to think, as if something good might happen if he does. What a concept. Anyway, I've started to lean forward a little when he talks.

I've been following him for a while and got to interview him the other day for a forthcoming cover-piece in the Atlantic. He's still a real human being, a commoner. She's to the Manor wed. I don't believe this race is over. I think it has barely begun.

(Photo: Scott Morgan/Getty.)