Peggy Noonan is worried about America. Again. The Wall Street Journal columnist’s newest worry arises, as is so often the case, from “a conversation this week with an acquaintance of considerable accomplishment in the political and financial worlds” who thinks America is going to break apart into red and blue factions. “I think a lot about the general subject of what deeply divides us,” Noonan writes, “occasionally with a feeling of some alarm.”
Like any pundit worth her salt, Noonan assumes that her own personal sense of alarm is shared by the country as a whole, and after many paragraphs of gauzy ruminations on the nature of political division, she finally arrives at her point: “No nation's unity, cohesion and feeling of being at peace with itself can be taken for granted, even ours. They have to be protected day by day, in part by what politicians say. They shouldn't be making it worse. They shouldn't make divisions deeper.”
And who are we to blame specifically for these deepening divisions?
In just the past week that means:
The president shouldn't be using a fateful and divisive word like "impeachment" to raise money and rouse his base. He shouldn't be at campaign-type rallies where he speaks only to the base, he should be speaking to the country. He shouldn't be out there dropping his g's, slouching around a podium, complaining about his ill treatment, describing his opponents with disdain: "Stop just hatin' all the time."
Ah, that divisive Obama, busting apart the country’s delicate sense of common unity by employing relaxed diction when chastising House Republicans for VOTING TO SUE HIM. That lawsuit was the “ill treatment” that Noonan apparently believes is a less of a contributor to the country’s intractable partisan divide than Obama’s momentary dips into colloquial modes of speech. The larger point Obama made was that Republicans should be more constructive partners in the governing process. Given yesterday’s embarrassing spectacle in which internal GOP divisions forced the leadership to cancel a vote on their border crisis legislation, you have to think the president might be on to something there.
And “slouching around a podium”? Can you imagine anything as divisive as leaning forward on a small wooden box while speaking? A real president – like Ronald Reagan, to pick an example entirely at random – knows that a shared sense of national unity begins with good posture.
As for impeachment, sure the White House is trying to make political hay out of the impeachment issue, primarily because there are a lot of Republicans who want to impeach the president. And those Republicans want to go down this “fateful and divisive” path for no real particular reason other than dislike of Barack Obama and his policies.
Who else does Noonan blame for our terrible divisiveness? Nancy Pelosi, who implied “that Republicans would back Democratic proposals if only they were decent and kindly,” and former IRS official Lois Lerner, who wrote some emails calling conservative radio hosts “crazy” and “assholes.” “All this reflects a political culture of brute and mindless disdain,” writes Noonan, “the kind of culture that makes divisions worse.”
This is all very silly. Most of what she’s upset about falls under the umbrella of garden-variety politics, and she seems to be operating under the assumption that divisive policies are less of a problem than what politicians say in public (or, in Lerner’s case, what a bureaucrat writes in private emails). Republicans can vote to sue Obama and bang the drum for impeachment, but it’s apparently incumbent upon Obama to show them the proper courtesies in public. “Unity, cohesion and respect are no longer things that can be lauded now and then in prepared remarks,” Noonan writes. “They actually have to be practiced.”
So stop dropping those g’s, Mr. President. You’re ruinin’ America.