Laura Ingraham brought up Diane Sawyer’s umbrage at Mike Huckabee yesterday for his ad stressing he was a "Christian leader" as somehow crossing a line of decency (see Scott Whitlock's blog here), and how Sawyer pressed Newt Gingrich with Peggy Noonan’s quote that we’re looking for a leader, not a Bible study teacher. After noting that Sawyer doesn't usually find anyone crossing a line on the Angry Left, Ingraham wondered: how often does Sawyer cite Noonan? Is it usually just to prod and poke Republicans?
A quick review of the Nexis database shows that ABC’s Good Morning America has interviewed Noonan quite a bit on her expert subjects, first on her old job of presidential speechwriting, and more recently, on her biography of Pope John Paul II. But in the Bush era, on the few occasions when Noonan’s writing is quoted by ABC anchors or reporters, it’s almost always to prod the GOP.
The last Noonan column citation was in February 2006, in the aftermath of the Dick Cheney hunting accident. On the February 17 World News, anchor Charles Gibson suggested
Peggy Noonan, who is a very conservative columnist, I think as everyone knows, wrote in The Wall Street Journal yesterday, "this is gonna stick to him," as you mentioned, "the way stumbling stuck to Jerry Ford, the way being attacked by a rabbit stuck to Jimmy Carter"...the killer rabbit that Jimmy Carter talked about, and, and it sticks to him because he is such a lightning rod for this administration. In other words, it's not gonna go away.
George Stephanopoulos added: "Well, not for him. I think that's right. And she calls him 'a hate magnet" as well. Now, she goes on to say in that, that column that maybe they should start to think about resignation for, for Vice President Cheney. I think that is just simply silliness."
Two days later, Stephanopoulos brought up Noonan’s "silliness" again on the This Week roundtable: "So Peggy Noonan speculates that this could lead to the vice president, the president looking to replace the vice president." ABC’s Cokie Roberts quickly replied: "Baloney."
On Inauguration Day 2005, ABC reporter John Cochran cited Noonan on World News against Bush’s idealistic speech about spreading democracy:
Some historians and pundits called that the most ambitious foreign agenda since Woodrow Wilson, even more ambitious than Ronald Reagan. Too ambitious, said a former Reagan speechwriter, Peggy Noonan, who called the speech "over the top," and urged the White House to "ease up, calm down."
(On January 22, 2004, ABC noted Noonan's column on the Vatican wheeling back on the idea that Pope John Paul had endorsed Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ.)
On January 28, 2003, on the verge of the State of the Union during the "rush to war" with Iraq, World News anchor Charles Gibson was pressing Karen Hughes on whether Bush would provide more evidence of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction (so much for being Bush puppets), and cited Noonan’s call for the President to push facts:
But Karen, the President has been saying that for some period of time and the polls indicate that the support for the war internally in this country, forget our allies overseas, is slipping rather markedly. As Peggy Noonan who has written a speech or two for Republicans said, this is a time for new facts, hard data, fact upon fact, brick upon, brick upon brick. New facts, and yet...
Peggy Noonan was written columns both praising and critiquing the Bush team, but it is fascinating how ABC has deployed her columns in the ways that they find politically useful.