Peggy Noonan Hopes the Republicans Lose This November

Peggy Noonan's OP-ED in the Wall Street JournalPeggy Noonan suggests that the Republicans need to lose their congressional majorities this November so that they will be chastised for not being consistently conservative in their governing philosophy (See “Is There Progress through Loss?“). Noonan says this as one who was once a staunch supporter of President George W. Bush, but who now thinks that he and the Republican majority in Congress have strayed from the straight and narrow path.

Gone are the days that Noonan would take a hit for the President. Now, she’s devastating in her description of the President’s prodigal flight from conservativism:

But there’s unease in the [Republican] base too, again for many reasons. One is that it’s clear now to everyone in the Republican Party that Mr. Bush has changed the modern governing definition of “conservative.” He did this without asking. He did it even without explaining. He didn’t go to the people whose loyalty and support raised him high and say, “This is what I’m doing, this is why I’m changing things, here’s my thinking, here are the implications.”

Noonan notes that the President’s problem is not just with his base, but also with the Republican party elites who also feel disaffected from the President they helped to get re-elected.

Republican political veterans go easy on ideology, but they’re tough on incompetence. They see Mr. Bush through the eyes of experience and maturity. They hate a lack of care. They see Mr. Bush as careless, and on more than Iraq–careless with old alliances, disrespectful of the opinion of mankind. “He never listens,” an elected official who is a Bush supporter said with a shrug some months ago. Along the way the president’s men and women confused the necessary and legitimate disciplining of a coalition with weird and excessive attempts to silence Republican critics. They have lived in a closed system. They now want to open it but don’t know how. Listening is a habit; theirs has long been to suppress. . .

[Republican leaders] sense, in their tough little guts, that the heroic age of the American presidency is, for now, over. No president is going to come along and save us, and Congress isn’t going to save us. Events will cause a reckoning, and then we’ll save ourselves. And in this we will refind our greatness.”

Perhaps Mrs. Noonan is right, and maybe she’s not. But it has been amazing to watch her transformation over the last several months. In 2004, she left her job writing for the Wall Street Journal in order to campaign for George W. Bush, but now she is one of his most effective critics.

Whatever it was that has led to this falling out, I think it’s clear that President Bush has lost a whole truckload of support from his base. I hope he gets the message before it’s too late. He needs to be reminded that

The conservative tradition on foreign affairs is prudent realism; the conservative position on borders is that they must be governed; the conservative position on high spending is that it is obnoxious and generationally irresponsible.

If he doesn’t get the message, especially on border security, I think he will be facing an ineffective and unproductive final two years of his presidency.

I do not agree with Peggy Noonan, however, that the Republicans need to be chastised by losing their majorities. I don’t know how anyone can say such a thing when a Republican majority in the Senate will be required in order to get conservative judges confirmed to the federal bench. Anyone who feels any urgency about the pro-life cause knows that handing the majority to Democrats during a conservative President’s tenure basically means that the confirmation of his judicial nominations is put in jeopardy. Moreover, a Republican majority in the House will be required for a successful prosecution of the war in Iraq. Since prominent Democrats in the house have already promised to defund the Iraq War if they are put in the majority, I am not persuaded that this is the year to rebuke the Republicans by not turning out to vote.

As I have said before, I’m no partisan gunslinger. I just support the those that will advance the causes I care most about. The pro-life issue and national security are the issues at the top of my list. I do hope the Republicans get chastised, but I hope that it doesn’t happen at the expense of winning in Iraq and protecting the unborn.


  • Steve Hayes

    It’s getting awfully hard to continually defend President Bush. I voted for him twice, and I can’t say I’d vote differently today, but I certainly wouldn’t feel the same kind of pride I felt two years ago. Bush is a poor statesman, and that has been his undoing. He consistently fails to communicate his vision effectively. If people were confident in Bush as a leader, they’d be confident in Iraq, the economy, the borders, etc. Instead of confidence in the President, Bush supporters wince when we see him in the public forum.

    I’d like to think he’s a stand up guy, but he gives off an air of cockyness and inflexibility. You ultimately judge a leader by how effectively he energizes his base. I’d say Bush hasn’t completely failed in this area, but he certainly hasn’t inspired much confidence.

  • dennyrburk


    That’s my frustration too. President Bush does not communicate well with the American people. He’s not a statesman, and it’s frustrating. He’s only now just figuring out that “stay the course” was not helping people to understand the importance of winning the war in Iraq.


  • Steve Hayes

    Yep. I don’t know what else to say about it. I had high hopes when he came into office about his “compassionate conservatism” platform. I’d consider myself a compassionate conservative. Instead of making that tag a that ushered in a conservatism marked by the kind of caring and concern for others that most conservatives embrace, Bush has instead made conservatives seem less compassionate than ever. It’s very frustrating.

    On another note, please don’t worry a bit about not being able to do the retreat. It’s all good. I’ll get you to come and speak at something in the future.


  • Brian W

    I’m not sure what you mean when you speak of Noonan’s transformation. Maybe the one whose made the changes isn’t Noonan, but Bush.

    If a clearly conservative advocate like Noonan is saying these things, maybe folks shouldn’t have been too quick to dismiss the democratic critique that was given years ago about Bush.

    I don’t like the other options either, but maybe by observing the failure of this Presidency to do what so many Christians were hoping he would do, we’ll stop putting our hope in princes where there is no power to save. Rather than placing our hope in a President, a Supreme Court, a Congress or a particular constitutional amendement, we’ll start trusting Christ again.

  • Paul

    When the writers from the Wall Street Journal start jumping from the Republicans’ ship, it’s time to give up.

    Denny, I don’t know how many more times I have to say that Republicans don’t actually care about pro-life issues as much as you think they do. I’m reading David Kuo’s book, Tempting Faith, and it is fascinating. And it’s doubly fascinating because he’s a guy that puts Christ first, and that comes out in every single passage of this book thus far. And he’s saying exactly what I’ve been saying: Christian conservatives are being U-S-E-D by this administration. Bush had his chance with Alito, he had his chance with Roberts, and guess what: they didn’t even hear an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade. This way we know exactly what they were thinking (there’s no way they’ll overturn it) but they don’t actually have to say it. Denny, how many more times do you have to be shown before you see what the real scenario is?

    As for Iraq, they weren’t a threat to us before, and they wouldn’t be that much of a threat to us now. I’d be far more worried about North Korea starving for attention and Iran having what they consider to be a legitimate beef with us. If we get out of Iraq, we can be more than simply a paper tiger in both of those situations.

    As for Noonan, these pundits very rarely change positions. When they seemingly “turn” on politicians, it’s because the politicians are messing up, not because the pundits are suddenly this, that or the other. One thing that I like about a lot of the better partisan pundits (regardless of which side they’re on) is the fact that their positions tend to stay put, no matter what the politicians from “their team” say or do.

    Let’s face it, those who continue to support the Republicans are not still conservative. Instead, these supporters of republicans are supporting big government programs, big government spending and big government intrusion. Simply, it’s disgusting, and it has nothing to do with right wing politics. So, if you claim to be a Republican, you need to be hoping for a huge Democratic sweep in November. You need to hope that the Republicans can and will go back to being the country of Goldwater and Reagan, instead of being the party of Bush and DeLay. Because the party of Goldwater and Reagan, for all of its faults, is the government of small government and the supporter of capitalism both large and small. But the party of Bush Jr. and DeLay is the party of Constantine and Machiavelli. And if you don’t already know their stories, I suggest some light reading is ahead.

  • light

    Republicans aren’t tough, I agree when Noonan says that. Waging war, does not make you tougher, invading a country and making up a paranoid reason doesn’t make the Right look tough and mighty either. I say paranoid because they was hardly any proof of the existence of WMDs, just what a few persons said.

    I suggest that some extensive reading should be undertaken.

  • dennyrburk


    Yes, I would urge you to do some more reading on the WMD question, because virtually every intelligence agency in the world agreed that Iraq possessed WMD’s, which is why U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 passed unanimously in 2002. Moreover, our staunchest allies, the Brits, continue to stand by their intelligence that said that Saddam Hussein sought to buy uranium from Niger. And even though this is far less than what our pre-war intelligence indicated, the U.S. has in fact uncovered over 500 chemical munitions in Iraq since the start of the war (see the 2006 Report from the Select Committee on Intelligence, though this has been under-reported and so is not well-known).

    You might argue that the intelligence was flawed, but you cannot argue with any credibility that only a “few persons” were saying that Iraq possessed WMD’s. The facts just don’t bear that out.

    Thanks for reading.


  • light


    Credibility depends on the source. Who was the source? A Rightist trying to further an agenda or an honest man who reported what he believed to be true?


  • Mr. Teko

    Dr. Burk,

    When are you going to address the issue of David Kuo accusing the Bush administration of taking advantage of evangelicals with faith-based initiatives? This is a clear intersection of religion & politics, and I’m suprised you haven’t commented on it.

  • Paul


    I’ll give you the official report from the UN, but The Weekly Standard is one of the most biased right wing rags ever to be published. The National Review isn’t exactly an unbiased magazine, either.

    When you find me an NPR or BBC report on found WMD’s in Iraq, then we can talk.

    And I’d like to second the questioning of your silence on David Kuo’s book. Especially as I’m reading it at the moment, and I’d love to get your thoughts.

  • Brian W

    Bias doesn’t equal fictional. Sure, The Weekly Standard and The National Review are conservative publications, but that doesn’t mean their information is wrong. The same goes with the New York or LA Times on the left. I’m biased towards the gospel; does that mean I can’t be trusted in its presentation? I hope not. So, rather than disqualifying Denny’s points because of source, disqualify his points with facts. I (and you as well) would expect the same from him.

  • dennyrburk


    As far as sources are concerned, I would add another thing to what Brian W. has written in #12. The author of the piece from the Weekly Standard is Christopher Hitchens, who everyone knows is no conservative, though he is a hawk on the war. Even so, it’s well known that the British still stand behind their intelligence that Iraq approached Niger about buying uranium. The British intelligence on this question pre-dated the forged Italian documents.

    Also, I gave three links in that last comment, only one of which was a secondary source. The other two were to primary materials: (1) U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 and (2) the 2006 Report from the Select Committee on Intelligence. These two items are not news reports, so there is not filter at all.


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