Saturday, September 17, 2011

Faint Praise

After spending the first three-quarters of her weekly column detailing the extent of the trouble that President Obama is in, Peggy Noonan--once quite smitten by the charms and firmly under the swoon of the promise of Obama herself--tries to finish by finding something positive to say about the president:

This is all so dire and critical that I will swerve and end with three things I've admired about the president since he entered the White House.

The first is that he has an intact, multigenerational family, a wife and kids and mother-in-law all living together in that big house. This is no doubt a source of strength for him, but it's also moving and impressive to see in a country ravaged by family breakup and fatherless—and sometimes motherless—children. It is a needed example. As nothing human stays intact without great effort, all credit to him, and them.

The second is that he isn't mean. His staffers do snark and push-back, but they don't do targeted abuse, they don't seem to try to take down foes in a personal way, as administrations before them have. Credit goes to the president because it's always the boss who sets the tone.

The third has been a relative absence of deep political scandal. It's been good not to have a Watergate, a Whitewater. But there are signs this week that could change with the Solyndra loan scandal. The White House apparently tried to rush almost half a billion dollars of taxpayer loans to a solar panel manufacturer that later went belly up and took a thousand jobs with it. The reason for the rush: The awarding of the loan would make good PR. This looks bad, and if it's true, heads should quickly roll. It's one thing to be branded as "out of your depth but not corrupt," quite another when it's "out of your depth and corrupt." That is much worse.

Well, his family seems nice. And he has a decent personality. And he hasn't gotten into a major scandal. Yet. Faint praise indeed.