I almost blush to admit that I am not a Peggy Noonan fan. For a conservative (even a neocon), it seems almost unpatriotic not to find her thoughts deep and her prose perfect, but there you have it — I don’t. Today, however, I am a Peggy Noonan fan, because I think she did a wonderful job of seeing Hillary through the prism of the last debate:
The story is not that Mrs. Clinton signaled, in attitude and demeanor, who she believes is her most dangerous foe, the great impediment between her and an easy glide to the nomination. Yes, that would be Tim Russert.
The story is that she talked about policy. Not talking points, but policy. In talking about it she seemed, for the first time, to be revealing what’s inside.
It was startling. It’s 1993 in there. The year before her fall, and rise.
I spent a day going over the transcripts so I could quote at length, but her exchanges are all over, it’s a real Google-fest. Here, boiled down, is what she said.
Giving illegal immigrants drivers licenses makes sense because it makes sense, but she may not be for it, but undocumented workers should come out of the shadows, and it makes sense. Maybe she will increase the payroll tax on Social Security beyond its current $97,500 limit, to $200,000. Maybe not. Everybody knows what the possibilities are. She may or may not back a 4% federal surcharge on singles making $150,000 a year and couples making $200,000. She suggested she backed it, said she didn’t back it, she then called it a good start, or rather “I support and admire” the person proposing such a tax for his “willingness to take this on.”
She has been accused of doubletalk and she has denied it. And she is right. It was triple talk, quadruple talk, Olympic level nonresponsiveness. And it was, even for her, rather heavy and smug. Her husband would have had the sense to look embarrassed as he bobbed and weaved. It was part of his charm. But he was light on his feet. She turns every dance into the polka. And it is that amazing thing, a grim polka.
But the larger point is that her policy approach revealed all the impulses not of the New Centrism but the Old Leftism. Her statements were redolent of the 1990s phrase “command and control.” They reflect a bias toward the old tax-raising on people who aren’t rich, who aren’t protected, the old “my friends and I know best, and we’ll fill you dullards in on the details later.”
The problem for Mrs. Clinton is not that people sense she will raise taxes. It’s that they don’t think she’ll raise them on the real and truly rich. The rich are her friends. They contribute to her, dine with her, have access to her. They have an army of accountants. They’re protected even from her.
But she can stick it to others, and in the way of modern liberalism for roughly half a century now one suspects she’ll define affluence down. That she would hike taxes on people who make $150,000 a year.