Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan has been getting a lot of attention for her post-election takedown of Sarah Palin as an intellectual lightweight. But Noonan, a former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, is careful to avoid the implication that it's always been a bad idea to send ill-informed people to the White House. Here's her rationale for turning against Republican VP nominee Palin:
Here's why all this matters. The world is a dangerous place. It has never been more so, or more complicated, more straining of the reasoning powers of those with actual genius and true judgment. This is a time for conservative leaders who know how to think.
The world has never been more dangerous? Not even during the Great Depression or Cold War? Or the Black Plague? I'm open to the argument that human existence is at its most precarious because of climate change, but Noonan doesn't include that in her list:
Here are a few examples of what we may face in the next 10 years: a profound and prolonged American crash, with the admission of bankruptcy and the spread of deep social unrest; one or more American cities getting hit with weapons of mass destruction from an unknown source; faint glimmers of actual secessionist movements as Americans for various reasons and in various areas decide the burdens and assumptions of the federal government are no longer attractive or legitimate.
I don't see how Noonan's reasoning is any different than the cliche that each presidential election is "the most important ever."
I also wonder whether Noonan is giving herself room to back a Palin-caliber candidate in the future. The "prolonged American crash" probably won't last forever, and recovery is bound to bring another George W. Bush ready to run for president on the promise of tax cuts and more tax cuts. Noonan notes of Palin's national candidacy that "in another age it might not have been terrible." Will that "other age" be back in 2012 or 2016?