Noonan on A-jad and Presidential Candidates
|by Allen Thornburgh|
So much silencing. It seems so weak, so out of keeping with who we are. We love the tradition of free speech in America, but you don't want to judge its health by what we've done with it lately, or to it.
In 1960 the premier of the Soviet Union came and spoke in the United States. Nikita Khrushchev was our sworn enemy, and a vulgarian--sweaty faced, ill educated, dressed in a suit just off the racks from the Gulag Kresge's. I was a child, but I remember the impression he made. He took off his shoe and banged it, literally, on the soft beige wood of a desk at the U.N., as he fulminated. His nation had nuclear weapons. They were aimed at us.
...Khrushchev's trip and Castro's were all about propaganda, all about sticking it to Uncle Sam. And here's what happened: Nothing. Their presence hurt our country exactly zero percent. In fact it raised us high, reminding the world we are the confident nation that lets its foes speak uncensored. As an adult nation would.
Noonan expands the point to the presidential candidates:
Domestically, the Democratic presidential candidates appear only before supportive groups. They don't speak to antitax groups and talk about their own assumptions regarding tax policy. They don't go to traditional values groups.
It's all very controlled. And it's unworthy of a great nation. When people say the campaign feels artificial, that's what they mean. It's not John Edwards's hairspray or Hillary Clinton's makeup. It's that they give every sign of being afraid to speak and listen to those who haven't been patted down by thought-cops for unacceptable views.
The Republicans are the same. An invitation to debate on Univision, the Spanish-language network? They have scheduling conflicts. What about the Log Cabin Republicans? No time right now.
...The staffs, gurus and handlers of all the candidates are always afraid their guy will get booed. But do they realize how tired we are of hearing the tepid applause that follows the predictable pander?
I know they're all always eager to laud Ronald Reagan. But Reagan began his fall 1980 campaign in the South Bronx, and argued his case with people on the street. After he was elected, he pleaded for peace in letters to Leonid Brezhnev. Too bad he wasn't tough enough. Oh wait.
Though this is somewhat tangential, it's telling and unfortunate that Noonan had to hearken back to the 1980s to find a leader who stood insistently for principles. Back then, the two national parties really stood for different principles and different fundamental policies. But I'm not even sure why we have two national parties anymore. Aren't they the same? Two boats sailing for 5th-century Rome by way of modern Amsterdam, merely at different speeds?
Perhaps I'll be forgiven for dreaming of another 1854.