Peggy Noonan on the President

Peggy Noonan, summarizing Bob Woodward’s evaluation of the President, criticizes the President … a strong political commentary from the right. [And, please don’t read this post and infer my own politics. I like to find incisive commentary and let it create a conversation. Anyone’s comment that questions whether this post belongs on this blog will be deleted.]

Has anyone read Woodward’s book? Is it being ignored? 

Which gets us to Bob Woodward’s “The Price of Politics,” published last month. The portrait it contains of Mr. Obama—of a president who is at once over his head, out of his depth and wholly unaware of the fact—hasn’t received the attention it deserves. Throughout the book, which is a journalistic history of the president’s key economic negotiations with Capitol Hill, Mr. Obama is portrayed as having the appearance and presentation of an academic or intellectual while being strangely clueless in his reading of political situations and dynamics. He is bad at negotiating—in fact doesn’t know how. His confidence is consistently greater than his acumen, his arrogance greater than his grasp.

[In commenting on the Denver debate, in which the President was anything but impressive, she concludes with this…]

People saw for the first time an Obama they may have heard about on radio or in a newspaper but had never seen.

They didn’t see some odd version of the president. They saw the president.

And they didn’t like what they saw, and that would linger.

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  • Ken B

    I haven’t read the book, but plan to. The other week, I found all of Woodward’s books on the Bush W years in good condition at a thrift store, so I bought them to have one of my kids give them to me for Christmas. His work is very readable, so I look forward to this title.

  • Bob G

    Not surprising to read this. I believe it was Dinesh D’Souza’s contention that “The Amateur” is Bill Clinton’s nickname for President Obama. This administration alternates between using our economy as a lab rat, and our political system for indulgences. It’s an odd blend of Illinois politics and ivory tower academia.

  • Denny Beach

    The TV interviews with Woodward about the book show that he wants to support Obama, but finds it difficult to do so after writing this book. I wonder if President Obama dislikes the work of being President and is frustrated? I speculate that Obama was flat in his first debate because he overruled his advisors, thinking he knew it all.

  • Kyle J

    Can any neutral observer really conclude that any Democratic president could have more effectively negotiated with a GOP congress as recalcitrant at this one?

    E.J. Dionne puts it well:

    Obama, to a fault, devoted enormous energy during his first 2 1⁄2 years in office trying to move his opponents to compromise. Thus was almost a third of his stimulus plan devoted to tax cuts. Thus did he model his health care plan after Romney’s in Massachusetts. Thus did he seek a deal with House Speaker John Boehner during the debt-ceiling confrontation that, if enacted, would have disappointed many of the President’s progressive supporters. Only those who confuse compromise with capitulation can claim that Obama did not try mightily to keep his promise to end partisanship in Washington.

    If anything, the criticism is that the president should walked away from negotiations on these issues earlier on and made his case directly to the American people.

  • I am not sure that Woodward’s reputation, post-WaterGate, has weathered well enough to take his White House observations as gospel. If the Bush administration taught me nothing else it showed me that performance trumps style. Obama was indeed pwned by the Republicans on a number of issues but passing ACA and not screwing up the hunt for Osama bin Laden were no mean accomplishments.

    FWIW, I supported Obama in 2008 but have made it a policy NOT to listen to any of his speeches – for the reason noted above.

  • Marshall

    One can’t help but wonder how Hillary would have done. I imagine Obama would have been better off with eight more years of seasoning, but it is tragic when an honest desire to acknowledge the opposition becomes a fatal flaw. Worse things have been said about other men.

  • metanoia

    I was disappointed you took the previous Noonan post off. I’m all in favor of good, aggressive and even at times contentious debate. Woodward has been a steady voice in politics for decades. Love him or hate him, he is usually well researched and his reasoning is solid. I think Noonan’s conclusion reflects why this race tightened up in October. The October surprise sneaked in subtly in the form of a detached, unprepared debater and one who came in extremely well prepared. In the eyes of a number of my friends, they wondered if the President has been unprepared in a number of the decisions he has made on the economic, and political front.

  • Sundown

    Hopefully Noonan is reassessing the negative criticism she has delivered, in light of the recent natural disaster and the President’s exemplary role in assisting the people.

  • Tim

    I am disappointed but not surprised with the one-sided tone here. Peggy Noonan is a gifted writer, but also a hired gun flack for Republican presidents and wannabes — hardly a non-partisan by any reckoning. (God bless her of course anyhow.)

    Today’s David Brooks piece in the NYTimes is much more balanced.

    I disagree with Brooks about Obama’s original cabinet being a team of rivals — my take is they were all too familiar a batch of centrist conventional wisdom retreads.

    Obama has done plenty of things wrong, like the drones dropping on civilians in Afghanistan…

    But Brooks gets the basics right. Washington insiders and virtually all Republicans were determined from the start to do all they could to make him fail. They made cooperation virtually impossible.

    Ok so Obama had a bad outing at the first debate. He clearly got the best of the next two. And Noonan’s take on a bad outing is vastly out of proportion.

    Bad as he has been, President Obama is still far more qualified than his opponent, Mr Romney, who has, as Mayor Bloomberg notices, distanced himself from all his previous better ideas (health care, moderate views on immigration, etc. etc. etc…)

    For balance I would suggest posting Brooks. (While I agree with Bloomberg on global warming as pivotal and enough reason in and of itself to back Obama, I don’t agree with him on much else, and doubt his take means much if anything to your evangelical base of readers…)

  • Kyle J


    The Brooks piece certainly contains some real truth in it (about Obama, at least; he skims very quickly over the GOP’s failings). But his retroactive advice for the president leaves me baffled. In one paragraph, he says the president shouldn’t have “become more political” and instead “moved to the center.” In the next, he says he should have “isolated the House Republicans.” Which is it? You don’t isolate someone by moving toward them.

    Brooks hates the process, as we all do, but can’t bring himself to put the bulk of the blame where it really belongs because he’d have to give up the pretense of being a conservative in the current political environment.

    Here’s the column, for others’ reference:

  • Bobby B.

    Good topic for discussion. I had my experience of disenchantment much earlier. In the summer I was giving serious consideration to voting for Mr. Obama. I decided to read DREAMS FROM MY FATHER and AUDACITY OF HOPE. After reading them, I concluded that Mr. Obama was not ready, and might never be ready, to perform the duties of the Presidency. Events over the last 4 years have supported my conclusion.

  • Tom F.

    I don’t see why I have to choose: Obama probably has some serious flaws AND the Republican congress is also hell-bent on destroying him and obstructing everything he does.

    The question before me as a voter is: do I think Romney would be better. I would have to say a strong and resounding no, based on his own arrogance, his comments about the 47%, his nearly automatic position-changing, his awful capitulation to the worst elements of the GOP. As the Economist put it in their endorsement of Obama: “We’ll take the devil we know over the devil we don’t.”

    Others can and will disagree, and I don’t begrudge them their different perspective on why Romney would be better. But a vote for Romney is not just for him as a candidate, but also his platform and party, which have become overtaken by fringe, radical elements. To see this, one only has to compare Romney/Ryan to Bush II. They are to the right of Bush on just about everything.

  • Rick Middleton

    Conservatives think he’s clueless and in over his head, and they are also certain he’s brilliant enough to plot the destruction of America and all its institutions.

    Noonan criticized Obama’s first debate performance as evidence he’s too dopey to know what he’s doing. Yet O is self-aware enough to realize it didn’t go well, he even joked about it later, and his last two performances were excellent, which proves the clueless dude that all of you can’t stand is, um, actually a pretty smart guy.

    Can’t wait to vote for him Tuesday, so that the nonsense of Romney can fade into history.

  • rvs

    Thanks for this. Noonan is wonderful.