Peggy Noonan has the uncanny ability tell you something you already know and still surprise you with it. Often, when she writes of a situation or a person (more often a person), you feel as if you already knew what she is saying before but had never been able to articulate it. She gives voice to your gut.
I’ve had several of these Peggy moments recently. For example, when Noonan wrote of the Clinton-Bosnia-Tarmac debacle.
Her fictions about dodging bullets on the tarmac—and we have to hope they were lies, because if they weren’t, if she thought what she was saying was true, we are in worse trouble than we thought—either confirmed what you already knew (she lies as a matter of strategy, or, as William Safire said in 1996, by nature) or revealed in an unforgettable way (videotape! Smiling girl in pigtails offering flowers!) what you feared (that she lies more than is humanly usual, even politically usual).
For Hillary, the lies come too easily. Yes, I knew that. Again when she recently wrote of the Obamas. She looked at the radical left wing politics, the “For the first time, I am proud of my country” remark, and the Jeremiah Wright scandal and gave me words for something I already knew.
Are the Obamas, at bottom, snobs? Do they understand America? Are they of it? Did anyone at their Ivy League universities school them in why one should love America? Do they confuse patriotism with nationalism, or nativism? Are they more inspired by abstractions like “international justice” than by old visions of America as the city on a hill, which is how John Winthrop saw it, and Ronald Reagan and JFK spoke of it?
Have they been, throughout their adulthood, so pampered and praised—so raised in the liberal cocoon—that they are essentially unaware of what and how normal Americans think?
Snobs. Right, that’s it. Today, Peggy Noonan turns her gaze toward the upcoming visit to the U.S. by Pope Benedict. Noonan, who wrote a wonderful book on John Paul II, sees the differences between the former and current pontiffs, and sees the work of the Holy Spirit in it.
When I was writing a book about John Paul, I’d ask those who’d met him or saw him go by: What did you think, or say? And they’d be startled and say, “I don’t know, I was crying.”
John Paul made you burst into tears. Benedict makes you think. It is more pleasurable to weep, but at the moment, perhaps it is more important to think.* * *
…Benedict, the reporter noted, is the perfect pope for the Internet age. He is a man of the word. You download the text of what he said, print it, ponder it.* * *
…I forgot to say that as he went through the crowds last week, after the mass, thousands from all over the world ran toward him, reached for him, applauded. It was festive, sprawling, and as they cheered, for a moment St. Peter’s felt like what Benedict said it was in the days after John Paul’s death, the beating “heart of the world.” It was rousing, but also comforting. Afterward I thought: Nothing is ended, something beautiful has begun, we just won’t understand it for a while.
Yes. Pope Benedict is the Pope we need now. The show is over, the time now is for thoughtful action. Today the required industry of evangelization is not the striking papal image or the sound bite. The crucial labor of today is the behind the scenes work. The thinking and actions that come before the next act of the great show. The work that makes it beautiful. I think I knew that.