November 1, 2002

Peggy Noonan, writer…

I admire Peggy Noonan as a stylist. I enjoy her writing as writing. But Peggy Noonan is not as smart as she thinks she is when it comes to the intersection of language and politics. She remains the author of one of the single dumbest lines in modern political history: “Read my lips, no new taxes.”

Today, Noonan has let the writer in her get the better of the political pundit in her. I can see it now–looking for a way to make a powerful comment on the Wellstone memorial-rally, she says to herself: “Paul would have hated it; I’ll write it from his point of view!” But her column should be political punditry, not Creative Writing 101. The problem is we cannot know for sure what Wellstone’s point of view is or would have been. And, because of the differences in the way conservatives and liberals think, it’s for sure that at best Noonan is guessing based on a skewed point of reference. Worse, Noonan indulges in the fiction that she understands the transcendant–a conceit possible only to writers who know how well they command the style of writing if not its political nuances.

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