Peggy's Praise of Power
One of the columns in the Wall Street Journal I read almost every week is Peggy Noonan’s weekend column, “Declarations.” A former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, Ms. Noonan has a way with words. The content can range from the incredibly perceptive to the maudlin to the worship of power. Count her latest in this last category. The giveaway is the title, “Suspend Your Disbelief.”
Flying in [to Washington], we take the route over the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson, the Tidal Basin: the signs and symbols of the great republic. And you’ve seen it all a thousand times but you can’t stop looking, and you can’t help it, your eyes well. After a minute you realize you must have a moony look on your face, and you lean back.
OK, she’s excited about these signs and symbols. That’s understandable. But what does this “great republic” stand for? I think many people would say “freedom.” Even if that’s not true, it’s comforting. But read on and see the enormity that she seems to delight in:
A cabdriver crows that he’ll have an easy time getting around next week: “No traffic allowed into town but cabs and limos!” The USAir agents at Reagan National say they’ll be sleeping over in the airport–in cots, right over there where the shuttle security lines are–on Monday and Tuesday nights. Roads in and out of the city will be closed.
In other words, people will be forcibly prevented from using the roads. Does this sound like a free country or like two days of Maoist China with some 21st-century technology thrown in?
Barack Obama isn’t president yet, but already is he is omnipresent. At the Hay-Adams Hotel, security tents block off the street. Motorcades come and go. He dines at a private home in a neighborhood where you can’t see the numbers of the houses from the street, but it’s clear where the gathering is from the sharpshooters on the roof.
Of course; why didn’t I think of it? That’s how you’d know where to find the president of a free country. Look for the sharpshooters.
Ms. Noonan later writes:
What is required for full enjoyment of an inauguration, from opening prayers to speeches to marching bands is, in the great 19th-century phrase, the willing suspension of disbelief.
Which raises the question: Ms. Noonan, what exactly would you disbelieve if you let yourself disbelieve?
We’re talking about the head of one of the most powerful governments in the world. The main tool government uses is force. It uses this force mainly against innocent people, at home and abroad. That’s not just what I believe. That’s what I know. Thanks, Ms. Noonan, but no thanks. I’m not willing to suspend that knowledge for anyone.