Friday, March 21, 2008

PROS BEFORE HOS. In her recent Obama column in the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan slaps the main stream media, then disingenuously describes herself as a "proud member since 2000." In a way, that's quite true; she wrote speeches for Reagan, fatally setting the tone for what we still describe as the liberal media, which has done nothing since then but cosset her old boss, amplify and exacerbate every half- and quarter-baked scandal-story about Bill Clinton, and treat subsequent Democratic Presidential candidates as if they were third-party radicals. In that sense there is no one more mainstream than her.

So let us in this instance give Noonan the credit she deserves as a big-time operator. Her praise of Obama, before the knife-twist, is almost as syrupy as her Reagan encomia from back in the day. She does not tip her hand too soon, as this well-regarded amateur does. Executive summaries of the sort he offers ("While I was impressed by his argument, I could not help but return to the central question of his candidacy...") may impress other right-wing internet essayists, but Noonan has been to the Show, and knows to keep the forkball hidden until it's time to release it. Her depth-charge is truly deep:
But "a similar anger exists within segments of the white community." He speaks of working- and middle-class whites whose "experience is the immigrant experience," who started with nothing. "As far as they're concerned, no one handed them anything, they've built it from scratch." "So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town," when they hear of someone receiving preferences they never received, and "when they're told their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced," they feel anger too.

This is all, simply, true. And we are not used to political figures being frank, in this way, in public. For this Mr. Obama deserves deep credit. It is also true the particular whites Obama chose to paint -- ethnic, middle class -- are precisely the voters he needs to draw in Pennsylvania. It was strategically clever. But as one who witnessed busing in Boston first hand, and whose memories of those days can still bring tears, I was glad for his admission that busing was experienced as an injustice by the white working class. Next step: admitting it was an injustice, period.
I have already mentioned the "You already admitted black people have prejudices, now insult some black parishioners" approach of such as Andrew Sullivan, but Sullivan is a mere columnist, and not so accustomed to dishing the poisoned treacle as a practiced operative like Noonan.

Sullivan could never find room in his columns for a call to revival of the Louise Day Hicks doctrine. He has staked too much on his "post-racial" angle. To call for Obama to revisit and renounce busing would harsh Sullivan's modish and studiously-established cross-cultural mellow.

Noonan, on the other hand, is old school. She recalls the ancient racial wars, and knows from long experience how to make segregation look reasonable to white people. Though in the current state of play it would look bad to endorse white mobs screaming at buses full of black children, Noonan knows she can, in the cacophony and confusion attending to Obama's speech, reframe that disgusting episode as a legitimate white grievance. And she knows that no one on her side, least of all Sullivan, will raise a demurrer.

I have to say Noonan's rancid, racist gambit is well-played. I only wish there were someone with establishment credentials and balls to refute her, or to plainly state why they won't.

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