Noonan: Palin is a nincompoop (and so is Dan Maes)

Ronald Reagan speech writer and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan lit up the blogosphere Friday with an election postmortem in which she called Facebook-based Tea Party political gadfly Sarah Palin a “nincompoop.” It may not sound like it, but Noonan’s piece is one of the most sober, mature columns to come out of the conservative-punditry all year. For Coloradans, what she says about failed Tea Party gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes, without ever actually mentioning him by name, is most relevant.

Below an excerpt from Noonan’s Wall Street Journal Friday column. Can Colorado readers find Dan Maes hiding between any of these sentences?

What the tea party, by which I mean members and sympathizers, has to learn from 2010 is this: Not only the message is important but the messenger.

Even in a perfect political environment, those candidates who were conservative but seemed strange, or unprofessional, or not fully qualified, or like empty bags skittering along the street, did not fare well…. [I]n the future the tea party is going to have to ask itself: Is this candidate electable? Will he pass muster with those who may not themselves be deeply political but who hold certain expectations as to the dignity and stature required of those who hold office?


Electable doesn’t mean not-conservative. Electable means mature, accomplished, stable—and able to persuade.

Conservatives talked a lot about Ronald Reagan this year, but they have to take him more to heart, because his example here is a guide.


The point is not “He was a great man and you [Palin] are a nincompoop,” though that is true. The point is that Reagan’s career is a guide… He brought his fully mature, fully seasoned self into politics with him. He wasn’t in search of a life when he ran for office, and he wasn’t in search of fame; he’d already lived a life, he was already well known, he’d accomplished things in the world.

Here is an old tradition badly in need of return: You have to earn your way into politics. You should go have a life, build a string of accomplishments, then enter public service. And you need actual talent: You have to be able to bring people in and along. You can’t just bully them, you can’t just assert and taunt, you have to be able to persuade.

Americans don’t want, as their representatives, people who seem empty or crazy. They’ll vote no on that.

It’s not just the message, it’s the messenger.

Maes received the GOP nomination for governor in August and landed 11 percent of the vote statewide in this week’s general election.

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About the Author

John Tomasic

Writer, editor, teacher, web wrangler. He has worked for art, business, culture, politics publications, five universities and a UN war crimes commission. @johntomasic | 720-432-2128 |

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