Peggy Noonan, of all people, thinks the country has become too infatuated with the “personality” and “charisma” of its presidents.
Noonan concluded that we’ve all been too focused on irrelevant characteristics in our presidents — a trend that started, conveniently, after her hero left the White House.
There is an emphasis on the personality, nature, character and charisma of the president. He gets into dramas. He survives them. He is working out his issues. He is avenging childhood feelings of powerlessness. He is working through his ambivalence at certain power dynamics. He will show dad.
It’s pretty rich coming from Noonan, who once wrote this in her 2003 Reagan hagiography, “What I Saw at the Revolution”:
Reagan, whom I adored…. He was to popular politics what Henry James was to American literature: He was the master. … He was probably the sweetest, most innocent man ever to serve in the Oval Office. … He was never dark, never mean…. This sunny man touched so many Americans. … Ego ties us all in knots, but not him. … “No great men are good men,” said Lord Acton, who was right, until Reagan.
Noonan was also a bit conflicted last year when determining how she evaluates presidents. She told the crowd at Brigham Young University that she’d welcome modesty, a sense of humor and an “easy-going” temperament in future leaders, before seemingly contradicting herself.
“When I think of the future president, I don’t so much think of the personality as I tend to think of what their experience might be that might be applicable to our needs at the moment,” she said.