What are Peggy Noonan and Walter Isaacson smoking?—and Fareed Zakaria for that matter. During this 'very serious' debate on CNN's GPS, Peggy Noonan
November 9, 2009

What are Peggy Noonan and Walter Isaacson smoking?—and Fareed Zakaria for that matter. During this 'very serious' debate on CNN's GPS, Peggy Noonan claims that President Obama is 'governing from the left' and that he's 'damaged his brand' by threatening to raise taxes. She also tries to paint the New Jersey governors' race as a twenty point drop in support for the President.

I didn't know he was on the ballot there Peggy. And Walter Isaacson thinks Obama should have had brought in John McCain, Bobby Jindal and Bob Dole to help draft his health care policy. So allowing the Baucus-dogs to run the show in the Finance Committee and the 180 Republican amendments they adopted wasn't quite bad enough for you Walter?

When have any of these Villagers ever suggested that if a Republican President had just brought in the Democratic challenger and allowed them to help craft policy that the public would have been more accepting of it? Did we hear any of this kind of talk after Gore or Kerry lost? I don't think so.

This is not included in the clip above, but here's how Zakaria framed the panel discussion.

ZAKARIA: We have a great show for you today -- a star-studded panel of historians to talk about Obama's first year in office, the political climate in America and around the world.

In the United States it was a good week for the Republican Party that has been on the retreat for almost five years now. It's actually also a sign of a fascinating global pattern, which might not turn out to be bad news for Democrats.

Imagine that you have been told five years ago that a financial crisis, prominently featuring irresponsible banks, would plunge the global economy to its worst level since the 1930s. If you were then asked to predict the results of elections held after this crisis of capitalism, you might have said that the right, the party of free enterprise and of bankers, would do badly, and the left, the party of government, would do well. And you would have been dead wrong.

Last week in the United States, the Republicans did better than anyone expected. Last month in Germany, the center right won a resounding victory. In France, Nicolas Sarkozy's right-wing government reigns with considerable public support. In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi has managed to stay in power, largely because the electorate is dissatisfied by the left. In Britain, the conservatives are poised to win their first national election in 17 years.


Look at the kinds of right-wing parties that are winning. David Cameron of Great Britain calls himself a progressive conservative. Sarkozy of France assails bankers, and calls for much stricter financial regulation. Merkel of West Germany rejects arguments for free market reform and defends Germany's social market economy.

Even in America, the Republicans who did well did so by stressing mainstream positions on restricting government spending. The right has moved to the center, which remains the high ground of politics these days. If Democrats want to stay vibrant, all they have to do is just remember that.


All day long on cable news talk shows we hear about how President Obama is doing. On Fox, some say he's a socialist who's trying to indoctrinate our children, even as he mortgages their future. On MSNBC he is the lonely hero, fighting to give help to the sick, employ the jobless and end racism in our time. And here on CNN, well, I won't say an answer today.

I wanted to see if we could get some of a clear-eyed look at what kind of a president he really is, and what kind of a world he faces. So I've gathered a panel of talented historians and writers -- people who know greatness and the lack thereof when they see it, to help me accomplish this mission.

They all somehow forgot to talk about the Congressional races that the Democrats won, and Fareed Zakaria actually implied with a straight face that the Republican Party is moving to the center and the Democratic Party has not already. Who does he think he's kidding? So no, this is not Fox News Fareed, but it may as be when you’re reciting from the same talking points that they are. Transcript from CNN below the fold.

ZAKARIA: Now, was that a mistake on his part? Because...

PAINTER: No, I don't think so.

ZAKARIA: ... he also -- but he also, you know, I mean, he handed over a lot of control to Nancy Pelosi...

PAINTER: He had to.

ZAKARIA: ... to the Democratic Party.

PAINTER: He had to.

I think we often want the president to have more power than he really does, or to overreach. And all along, I have felt that Obama could not afford to be out in front.

ZAKARIA: The drumbeat of partisanship, or whatever we call it, seems to have done all right for the other party. I mean they, no matter how you spin it, at the end of the day, at least this last set of elections have been good for the Republicans.

Why do you think that is?

NOONAN: There was a Gallup poll out this week that said, essentially -- it was a fairly broad poll. And people said -- it had gone up about 12 percent, the number of people who thought Obama was governing from the left, not from the center. It used to be about 42 percent. Now it was about 53, or so, percent of people.

I think the president, in a number of ways domestically, but lower it to a lot of busyness, a lot of spending. The promise, I think, of tax increases has taken people aback a little bit. And I think he has damaged his brand, as they say in the language of merchandising, which has now become the language of politics.

I think Jersey was the big election. I think Obama had carried Jersey, I think by about 15 points, just one year ago. Now, the Democratic governor, a strong supporter of Obama -- Obama had come and stood with him three times saying, New Jersey, vote for this man -- he just lost by five points. It was about a 20-point drop in support.

That tells you something. Jersey is a Democratic state, but they're worried about specific things. Unemployment, taxes they worry about a lot in Jersey, terrible property taxes, a bad economy. That's where their minds are. That's who votes in Jersey.

PAINTER: Now, wait.

NOONAN: The president...

PAINTER: I voted in New Jersey.

NOONAN: I lived in Jersey, too, but that's what they're worried about.

PAINTER: I live in Jersey.


NOONAN: Well, you don't think that unemployment...

PAINTER: Absolutely.

NOONAN: ... property taxes.

PAINTER: Yes, but Jersey is...

NOONAN: I mean, those are huge concerns.

PAINTER: ... an ungovernable state, because people...

NOONAN: People all -- they all think they're ungovernable states.

PAINTER: ... want so many different things.


PAINTER: There are all these different jurisdictions.

NOONAN: At this point they may all...

PAINTER: Nobody wants to give up their jurisdictions.

NOONAN: Nobody understood...

PAINTER: We have school boards where there aren't even schools.

ZAKARIA: Yes, all right. I've got to ask you...


ISAACSON: I want to get back -- to me, it's a really wonderful point, because there are two great things that happened this year. We didn't have the grand depression, and health care has gotten this far.

But the other big thing is that, as you said, partisanship -- which we thought he might be able to reduce -- the poison of partisanship has grown. It's gotten -- it's helped the Republicans. It's partly, I think you're right, the fault of the administration by not calling everybody in, not calling everybody from Bobby Jindal to Nancy Pelosi and saying, let's figure out how we're going to get health care and what the principles are. Let's do the...

ZAKARIA: If he had just adopted John McCain's signature campaign proposal, which was to end the tax deduction for corporations, this would have made the bill much more affordable.

Secondly, it would have been a great act of bipartisanship...

ISAACSON: He could have had John McCain in...

ZAKARIA: ... to say, I'm going to...

ISAACSON: ... and consulted with John McCain on two or three of the things, on health care...

NOONAN: Of course.

ISAACSON: ... and Bobby Jindal, or appointed what people hate, these commissions, but have a commission led by a Bob Dole and others, and say, what are the principles, and try to do it.

I think also, though, the Republicans felt that injecting more partisanship and being ideological was good politically. So, it's both sides...

NOONAN: I think the Democrats...

ZAKARIA: I've got to -- we've got to pull the plug on...

NOONAN: I think the Democrats didn't notice that, when they were passing a stimulus bill that couldn't get one single Republican vote, it might have been viewed as problematic by the American people.

ZAKARIA: All right. We've got to close this with historical commentary from Robert Caro -- or any kind of comment...



CARO: I think, you know, you never know how history is going to view things, Fareed. But I think that the scope of what he's trying to do, to change a country, does anybody really think we didn't need huge health care reform? Does anyone not think we have other huge problems here?

To have a president who says, "I'm going to try," to me is sort of thrilling. We don't know how it's going to work out. He may be doing things wrong. But it's great, as far as I'm concerned, to have that scope of ambition in a president.

ZAKARIA: And there will be lots to write about. Thank you all. This is a wonderful conversation.

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