Peggy Noonan Impressed By Ted Cruz, Or Weakened By A Hangover, Hard To Tell


Early Monday morning, Peggy Noonan of the Little Sisters of the Ambien Blackout roused herself from slumber. Her head still gauzy from the weekend’s activities, she stumbled to her parlor, where her house-boy, Manuel, had already set out a carafe of strong coffee and packets of the headache powders he found at some Dominican-run bodega nearby. Those immigrants, always with the ridiculous miracle cures they imported from their native, backward countries! What she wouldn’t have given for some of her great-aunt’s strongly brewed tea right then, with just a splash of Irish to set the world right. Aye, to hear Aunt Mary singing of sailing from the sweet cove of Cork …

Then she noticed the colossus striding across the screen of her television-box, which Manuel had thoughtfully already tuned to C-SPAN. It was Senator Ted Cruz, come to Liberty University to announce his candidacy for the presidency. She sat, rapt, miracle hangover cures forgotten, as this man, this son of an immigrant, technically sort of an immigrant himself, made his case in his sonorous and slightly nasally tone. His feral eyes practically glowed with his own self-regard. Goosebumps! America!

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His announcement Monday at Liberty University was a wow, really brilliant. It’s giving future contenders announcement envy. They’re all going to have to up their game and produce an announcement that’s dynamic, rousing, and shows at least someone is excited about their entry.

It was no Ronald Reagan kicking off the 1980 general election by yammering about states' rights to an all-white crowd near where three civil rights workers had lost their lives for the crime of trying to get Mississippi’s black residents the right to vote, but nothing could measure up to the Great Communicator, who knew how to unite America.

Mr. Cruz prowled the stage like the showman he is, delivering a full speech without notes. He was like a Sunday morning preacher in a midsize megachurch on a local TV station.

She could think of no higher compliment, apparently.

His guiding insight is that only an undiluted conservative can rouse the base to get out the vote that failed to come out in 2008 and ’12. He says he can bring back the Reagan coalition.

Obviously the major reason the Republican candidates lost in those years was that conservatives did not vote in sufficient numbers while the moderate Reagan Democrats fell for the silver tongue of that radical liberal Barack Obama. Only an undiluted conservative with obvious contempt for anyone to the left of Attila the Hun can restore balance. She was momentarily chagrined to learn that the first 2016 candidate already employed a great speechwriter, but she could console herself with the knowledge that Mr. Murdoch kept a line of credit just for her at every liquor store in Manhattan.

Mr. Cruz won’t win moderates, but that underscores his point: A moderate GOP nominee won’t win the general election because parts of the Republican base won’t come out.

This makes sense as a tactic for Mr. Cruz because Reagan Democrats had not in any way been essentially moderates turned off by what they saw as their party’s drift toward liberalism, so surely they would not be turned off by a Republican candidate with such conservative positions that even Barry Goldwater might have told him to tone it down. That was just common sense!

Combine that with the approximately 20 percent of voters who identify as conservative – assuming a significant number of this mostly older cohort will still be alive in November 2016 – and you’ve got a foolproof path to 51 percent of the popular vote. Which is the same thing as winning!

He’s like a first-term senator named Barack Obama, 45 when he announced.

This prompts a major 2016 question: Did Mr. Obama permanently lower the bar? Did his winning and holding the presidency with such limited experience, and his governing in many eyes so unsuccessfully, leave a whole generation of politicians thinking “I can do that!” and “Even I can do better than that!”

The headache, which had receded while she watched TV, began tickling that space behind her eyeballs again. She looked at the powders lined up on her silver serving tray. She doubted their efficacy, yes, but the pain scraping her temples was not yet at ketamine-demanding levels.

Mr. Cruz’s second problem has to do with words like sincerity, earnestness, ingenuousness. His conservatism is serious—fully thought through, studied, internalized. But who is he?

It is not hard to notice that every Cruz conversation, every interview, seems to be the rote performance of a speech. In public, and often in private, he moves his hands and face and modulates his voice like a TV pro. Politicians have to be actors, but the trick is to be an actor without being a phony.

Ted Cruz is a wonderful candidate “not to be discounted,” who had roused her to a state of ecstasy not felt since she had spied that infamous cordovan-clad presidential foot. If only he can be a better tactician and also not come off as such a huge phony when he is speaking anywhere other than from a stage.

What a magnificent start to the 2016 election! What a campaign this would be! So swept up was she in the excitement, she was not even going to follow her usual Monday routine of drinking coffee and going back to bed until Tuesday. What a time to be alive! Or at least conscious.


If you unfortunately find yourself locked out of Peggy's latest maundering by the WSJ paywall, go to Google and search for the column's title, The Too-Smooth Cruz. Then click on the link to her column that appears. Voila! No paywall.


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