Undaunted by recent developments, and urged on by the tiny canaries tweeting new information into her ears almost by the minute, Our Lady Of The Magic Dolphins brings us back to the IRS dumbassery, which she and the canaries believe is the functional equivalent of the Reagan Administration’s selling missiles to Iran to buy guns for the Contras so the Contras could sell them to Howard Hunt so he could break into Harry Daugherty’s files in order to steal Sherman Adams’s vicuna coat. Or something. Once again, before security noticed she was in the building, she has taken to the pages of The Wall Street Journal to caution us not to accept the fact that, earlier this week, Congressman Elijah Cummings pretty much blew up Darrell Issa’s scandal factory like it was an unregulated fertilizer plant in rural Texas
Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 because he was not George W. Bush. In fact, he was elected because he was the farthest thing possible from Mr. Bush. On some level he knew this, which is why every time he got in trouble he’d say Bush’s name. It’s all his fault, you have no idea the mess I inherited. As long as Mr. Bush’s memory was hovering like Boo Radley in the shadows, Mr. Obama would be OK.
This week something changed. George W. Bush is back, for the unveiling of his presidential library. His numbers are dramatically up. You know why? Because he’s the farthest thing from Barack Obama.
Obama fatigue has opened the way to Bush affection.
In all his recent interviews Mr. Bush has been modest, humorous, proud but unassuming, and essentially philosophical: History will decide. No finger-pointing or scoring points. If he feels rancor or resentment he didn’t show it. He didn’t attempt to manipulate. His sheer normality seemed like a relief, an echo of an older age.
And all this felt like an antidote to Obama—to the imperious I, to the inability to execute, to the endless interviews and the imperturbable drone, to the sense that he is trying to teach us, like an Ivy League instructor taken aback by the backwardness of his students. And there’s the unconscious superiority. One thing Mr. Bush didn’t think he was was superior. He thought he was luckily born, quick but not deep, and he famously trusted his gut but also his heart. He always seemed moved and grateful to be in the White House. Someone who met with Mr. Obama during his first year in office, an old hand who’d worked with many presidents, came away worried and confounded. Mr. Obama, he said, was the only one who didn’t seem awed by his surroundings, or by the presidency itself.
Mr. Bush could be prickly and irritable and near the end showed arrogance, but he wasn’t vain or conceited, and he still isn’t. When people said recently that they were surprised he could paint, he laughed: “Some people are surprised I can even read.”
I’ll admit, the outcome of the election had caused me to worry just a little about what we could expect in the future from such vaunted phraseologists and thinkerers like Peggy Noonan. Would she lose her special derpapallooz charm and touch?
Well, I think I can safely report my fears of such developments were misplaced. For Ms. Noonan has carefully examined the signatures of our current president and compared them to the Greatest President Who Ever Lived. What she discovered may surprise you:
In general I think the bigger the ego the more indecipherable the signature. Modest people write their names, others give you swirls and squiggles you’re supposed to make out. The signer is so big he doesn’t have to be named, even by himself.
In my mind this connects to something about the signatures of those now in politics. I have on the wall of my office something that means a lot to me, a framed presidential commission from 1984 that named me a special assistant to President Reagan. It’s about 20 inches top to bottom, 24 inches wide, with black script on ivory colored paper. The commission bears the embossed seal of the president, and is signed by him and his secretary of state. Everyone who’s ever been an officer of a White House has one, and some old Washington hands have three, four or five of them, from different administrations, given pride of place on the office wall.
Underneath my Reagan commission is another, same size, almost identical, signed in 2011 by President Obama. That was the centennial year of Ronald Reagan’s birth, and the Obama White House graciously and generously appointed some old Reagan hands to be part of planning its celebration in the Capitol, and elsewhere.
The two commissioning documents, which haven’t changed in style over the years and are almost identical in script and format, are different in one big way. On the Reagan document, the president’s signature is small, clear, modest—rising about half an inch at its highest point. The signature of the secretary of state, George Shultz, is clear, and about the same size.
The Obama commission is startling in that the president’s signature is so big, more than an inch and a half high at the B, which is an inch and a half wide. Reagan’s first and last names could fit in the B alone. Obama’s signature is dramatic, even theatrical: The O is cut almost exactly in two by the elongated b of Obama. Even in his signature he starkly divides. The signature of the secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is clear, unslanted, and also big, an inch high and five inches long.
Almost always when people come into my office and look at the commissions they notice the signatures and note the change in size from one era to another.
To me it’s a metaphor for the growth in the power and size of the federal government the past quarter century and, frankly, the more flamboyant egos—or, a nicer way to say it would be the bigger personalities—that populate it today.
H/T to Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog for the find.
On a frigid January evening in 2009, a week before his Inauguration, Barack Obama had dinner at the home of George Will, the Washington Post columnist, who had assembled a number of right-leaning journalists to meet the President-elect. Accepting such an invitation was a gesture on Obama’s part that signalled his desire to project an image of himself as a post-ideological politician, a Chicago Democrat eager to forge alliances with conservative Republicans on Capitol Hill. That week, Obama was still working on an Inaugural Address that would call for “an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.”
Obama sprang coatless from his limousine and headed up the steps of Will’s yellow clapboard house. He was greeted by Will, Michael Barone, David Brooks, Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol, Lawrence Kudlow, Rich Lowry, and Peggy Noonan. They were Reaganites all, yet some had paid tribute to Obama during the campaign. Lowry, who is the editor of the National Review, called Obama “the only presidential candidate from either party about whom there is a palpable excitement.” Krauthammer, an intellectual and ornery voice on Fox News and in the pages of the Washington Post, had written that Obama would be “a president with the political intelligence of a Bill Clinton harnessed to the steely self-discipline of a Vladimir Putin,” who would “bestride the political stage as largely as did Reagan.” And Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard and a former aide to Dan Quayle, wrote, “I look forward to Obama’s inauguration with a surprising degree of hope and good cheer.”
Over dinner, Obama searched for points of common ground. He noted that he and Kudlow agreed on a business-investment tax cut. “He loves to deal with both sides of the issue,” Kudlow later wrote. “He revels in the back and forth. And he wants to keep the dialogue going with conservatives.” Obama’s view, shared with many people at the time, was that professional pundits were wrong about American politics. It was a myth, he said, that the two political parties were impossibly divided on the big issues confronting America. The gap was surmountable. Compared with some other Western countries, where Communists and far-right parties sit in the same parliament, the gulf between Democrats and Republicans was narrow.
Obama’s homily about conciliation reflected an essential component of his temperament and his view of politics. In his mid-twenties, he won the presidency of the Harvard Law Review because he was the only candidate who was trusted by both the conservative and the liberal blocs on the editorial staff. As a state senator in Springfield, when Obama represented Hyde Park-Kenwood, one of the most liberal districts in Illinois, he kept his distance from the most left-wing senators from Chicago and socialized over games of poker and golf with moderate downstate Democrats and Republicans. In 1998, after helping to pass a campaign-finance bill in the Illinois Senate, he boasted in his community paper, the Hyde Park Herald, that “the process was truly bipartisan from the start.”
A few years later, Obama ran for the U.S. Senate and criticized “the pundits and the prognosticators” who like to divide the country into red states and blue states. He made a speech against the invasion of Iraq but alarmed some in the distinctly left-wing audience by pointing out that he was not a pacifist, and that he opposed only “dumb wars.” At the 2004 Democratic Convention, in Boston, Obama delivered a retooled version of the stump speech about ideological comity—“There is not a liberal America and a conservative America; there is the United States of America!”—and became a national political star.