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Peggy Noonan Awakes

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Noonan may have been Reagan’s best speechwriter, but recently she seems to have lost her way. I remember that embarrassingly infantile, giggly piece she wrote after Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech on board the USS Abraham Lincoln, and her paean to Bush on his 2004 re-election. This is, I thought, the triumph of partisanship over reason. She’s lost her bearings as a conservative. She’s been blinded to the fact that George W. Bush is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a conservative. And in the last half year there have been a handful of pieces here and there signaling her distress; something’s not right, she seemed to be saying.

Today we have arrived at the Noonan clean-break.

What political conservatives and on-the-ground Republicans must understand at this point is that they are not breaking with the White House on immigration. They are not resisting, fighting and thereby setting down a historical marker–“At this point the break became final.” That’s not what’s happening. What conservatives and Republicans must recognize is that the White House has broken with them. What President Bush is doing, and has been doing for some time, is sundering a great political coalition. This is sad, and it holds implications not only for one political party but for the American future.

The White House doesn’t need its traditional supporters anymore, because its problems are way beyond being solved by the base. And the people in the administration don’t even much like the base. Desperate straits have left them liberated, and they are acting out their disdain. Leading Democrats often think their base is slightly mad but at least their heart is in the right place. This White House thinks its base is stupid and that its heart is in the wrong place…

Bush the younger came forward, presented himself as a conservative, garnered all the frustrated hopes of his party, turned them into victory, and not nine months later was handed a historical trauma that left his country rallied around him, lifting him, and his party bonded to him. He was disciplined and often daring, but in time he sundered the party that rallied to him, and broke his coalition into pieces. He threw away his inheritance. I do not understand such squandering.

Curious in my mind that she takes the immigration reform measure as the ne plus ultra. In fact, there is no inherently “conservative” position on this measure. Or, rather, there are two. There is the Lou Dobbs seal-the-borders approach, and there is the view of the conservative business community – the dwindling manufacturers and the agricultural base, which rely on cheap immigrant labor to handle their crops and manage their harvests. These two views are not reconcilable.

The more fundamental conservative divide from Bush goes to waging a war of choice on foreign soil and mismanaging the budget. Noonan should really focus on that. America needs its conservatives. They’ve gone silent for too long. Indeed, their silence is deafening.

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