Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Peggy Noonan backs me up

Peggy Noonan recalls this story that backs up my point.

"One summer day in the late 1990s I had a long talk with an elected official who was a friend and longtime political supporter of President Clinton. I asked him why, if Bill Clinton cared so much about his legacy, he didn't take steps to make America safer from terrorism. Why didn't he make it one of his big issues? We were at lunch in a New York restaurant, and I gestured toward the tables of happy people drinking golden-colored wine in gleaming glasses. They're all going to get sick when we get nuked, I said; they'd honor your guy for having warned and prepared.

"Yes, the official said, but you have to understand that Clinton is purely a poll driven politician, and if the numbers aren't there he won't move.

"Too bad, I thought, because the numbers will someday be there.

"The lunch was off the record, and I appreciated the official's candor; he didn't try to spin me. I wasn't shocked by what he said--Mr. Clinton was a poll driven animal. But you didn't have to be psychic to know bad things were coming; you only had to be watching the world. I found myself marveling at Mr. Clinton's thinking, which in the short term was savvy and in the long term spoke of a kind of moral retardation.

"It is not the job of a president to say, 'I'd like to do what's necessary to protect our country, but the people won't understand it or appreciate it.' It is the job of a president to say, 'I have to do what is necessary to protect our country, and so I'll try to persuade the people as to the rightness of my thinking. But if it comes to that I'll do what's needed and pay the price.'

"Mr. Clinton did not do that. He did not attempt to rouse the American people. "