I don't know where Peggy Noonan is going with this column, in which she tries to explain why we all like W. so gosh-darn much.
She starts out by doing what you'd expect her to do: She grades Bush on the GOP curve, giving him an A+ not only for the 9/14/01 "I can hear you" moment but also for such forgettable damp squibs as "his Oval Office interview a few days after the attack when he said, 'I am a loving man, but I have a job to do'" and "his spectacular live question-and-answer session with children when Vladimir Putin was meeting with him in Texas, in which both took questions from kids and Mr. Bush's humanity shined through."
She ends with her usual high-toned know-nothingism, misinterpreting liberals' perfectly reasonable disdain for leaders who embrace simplemindedness and preference for leaders who can actually see gray areas in life:
Liberals like their leaders interesting. I always think this may be because some of them have not been able to fully engage the idea of a God, and tend to fill that hole in themselves with politics and its concerns. If the world of government and politics becomes your god, and yields a supergod called a president, you want that god to be interesting.
Conservatives, on the other hand, don't look for god in government, for part of being a conservative is holding the conviction that there is no god in government. They like complicated personalities in their TV shows and from actors and opera singers, but they want steadiness and a vision they can agree with from their presidents. Actually I think conservatives want their presidents the way they want their art: somewhere in the normal range.
But in between, she goes off on a truly bizarre riff about Bush and his family:
Everyone can see he's close to his family, and people like that too...
it's what they all hope they have or could have, though many do not. But a close family is the American ideal, and people unconsciously feel greater respect for those lucky enough, blessed enough, to have it.
Now here's where it gets weird:
Mr. Bush also seems slightly afraid of his children. I don't know why exactly I say that; I've never seen them together in person and can't back it up ...
OK, let's see if I'm taking all this in: He's close to his family, yet you, Peggy Noonan, a Beltway insider of two decades' standing, have never seen him with his family, although presumably you see him in person on a fairly regular basis. I guess it all depends on what the definition of "close" is. (Me, I can't recall even seeing Bush with his kids on TV since the Inaugural. And I used to see Bill and Hillary with Chelsea all the time.) But what gives Noonan the sense that he's "slightly afraid" of the twins? And, more important, why would a family-values conservative like Noonan say it's OK for a family-values conservative like Bush to fear his own kids?
... and yet I sense it's true. One feels the presence of love, perplexity, guilt and hope there, and the slight detachment those heavy emotions can bring. If I'm right this would be in line with Mr. Bush's long years of heavy drinking, and the damage that can occur in families with an alcoholic in charge. I have a hunch the American people sense what I sense, and that it may bond them closer to Mr. Bush, too.
Just what exactly is she alluding to here?
Is she helping the Bushes prepare the ground for the announcement of something a wee bit problematic in the House of Shrub? Something the ideal traditionalist Dad might have been expected to head off before it blossomed into a crisis? Something, in other words, that conservatives are going to have to explain away because it doesn't jibe with the hero-on-a-steed image of Bush they're so desperate to concoct?
...We all have our troubles; we've all messed up; we're all trying...
And that's OK. As long as you're not a Democrat who gets adulterous blowjobs.
...and a lot of us, maybe most of us, have effortful relationships with our kids.
OK, I hear you, Peggy.
I think something is up.
I suspect some Bush family embarrassment may be announced quietly late on the first Friday afternoon after we start bombing Baghdad.