A former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan and weekly columnist for the Wall Street Journal assembles pieces from her long career as a conservative political voice.
Noonan (Patriotic Grace: What It Is and Why We Need It Now, 2008, etc.) never allows her political preferences to slip far beneath the flowing surface of her skillful prose. Although some of the pieces are from the early 1980s, most are fairly recent—or have some recent resonance. There will be some surprises for those who have not read her often. She loves The Sopranos, admires Jackie Kennedy and Tennessee Williams, praises President Barack Obama for a sensitive comment, and even zaps George W. Bush occasionally. She also chides the GOP for seeming to fall apart in the lead-up to the 2008 presidential election. But she continually celebrates an American past whose virtues she highlights while ignoring the social failures of segregation, the denial of equal rights for women, and the vile biases experienced by people who were not fortunate to live their lives in Ozzie and Harriet’s neighborhood. In one piece, Noonan discusses the GOP’s taking the South from Democrats without mentioning much about the civil rights issues that triggered that transformation. The author writes in praise of men like John Wayne (we need more men like him, in all walks of life), calls Reagan a great president (and slams Edmund Morris’ unconventional Reagan biography, Dutch, 1999), and blasts the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church for failures in the recent sex scandals. There are sharp words for Bill and Hillary Clinton and Obama, whose health care initiatives she calls a “blunder” and a “miscalculation.” Her eloquence soars in her pieces about 9/11, and she disdains frequent polling and bemoans the loss of privacy.
Noonan is quick to generalize, to soak sentences in nostalgia, and to ignore contradictory or uncomfortable evidence, but she does provide moments that pierce and sentences that linger.