Way Too Much God?

By GotDesign

I was just reading Peggy Noonan's piece -- Way Too Much God -- in today's Opinion Journal. She couldn't be much more off the mark. She spends most of her article critiquing first family fashion, her hotel stay, criticizing the musical selections and the administration's view of history (among other things). The first full third of her piece is overly critical of minutia.

The second third of Noonan's piece starts critiquing the policy implications of the President's speech -- characterizing it as "startling." The preamble was "short and self-conscious," "no one will remember what the president said about domestic policy," and the foreign policy that is not nuanced. I don't think Ms. Noonan was paying attention. President Bush set out a foreign policy vision on par with Lincoln, FDR, JFK and Reagan. But Ms. Noonan seems to think this is not realistic. She draws a divide between moralistic and realistic foreign policy. For some reason, Noonan thinks the inaugural speech should only concern itself with the presidential term which it is prefacing. Ms. Noonan should be looking to the State of the Union speech (in early February) for this type of policy statement. Inaugurals have always been best used to set a vision for the country -- and not just one for the near future, but also to set a path for the future. FDR did not, in his third and fourth inaugural speeches, limit himself to what was happening in the Pacific theater or in Europe alone. FDR spoke of the tide of slavery and tyranny and the destiny of America:

The destiny of America was proclaimed in words of prophecy spoken by our first President in his first inaugural in 1789—words almost directed, it would seem, to this year of 1941: "The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered ... deeply,... finally, staked on the experiment intrusted to the hands of the American people.

This was, by no means, the destiny of America specifically for the years 1941-1945, but for the whole of the American future.

Noonan then, in her final third, begins to critique the President's references to God. "The president's speech seemed rather heavenish." "God was invoked relentlessly." Ms. Noonan, once again, was evidently looking for a State of the Union speech instead of the inaugural speech that was given. I have no doubt that Noonan would have given the same review of JFK's inaugural address, or Reagan's. Noonan did get one thing right: "It seemed a document produced by a White House on a mission." America needs a mission. Without a mission, the country will merely wander around in a reactionary haze. When you are merely reacting, you cannot be looking ahead. When you are watching your feet, you are more likely to run into roadblocks.

President Bush's inaugural address sets a vision for America. When World War II drew to a close America had a mission -- to oppose the spread of Communism. This vision set the paradigm for the next 50 years of foreign policy. Since the collapse of Communism in 1991, America has been without a vision. To a certain extent, the War on Terrorism (and Wahabist terrorism especially) has provided a degree of vision. But the spread of freedom to all peoples in the world is a vision for the decades. President Bush has merely rekindled the "sacred fire of liberty" and shown a light on "the destiny of the republican model of government."


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