In her June 9 OpinionJournal.com column, Wall Street Journal contributing editor Peggy Noonan attacked Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) for making "extreme, damaging, desperate" statements about Republicans. She then claimed that no "likely Republican candidate for president" would speak in such a manner about Democrats. In fact, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) -- both considered possible presidential candidates in 2008 -- have recently made "extreme" attacks on Democrats regarding judicial filibusters.
After quoting Dean and Clinton attacking Republicans, Noonan wrote:
Imagine Mr. Bush saying those things, and the crowd roaring with lusty delight. Imagine [Sen.] John McCain [R-AZ] saying them for that matter, or any other likely Republican candidate for president, or Ken Mehlman, the head of the Republican National Committee.
Can you imagine them talking this way? Me neither. Because they wouldn't.
Messrs. Bush, McCain, et al., would find talk like that to be extreme, damaging, desperate. They would understand it would tend to add a new level of hysteria to political discourse, and that's not good for the country. I think they would know such talk is unworthy in a leader, or potential leader, of a great democracy. I think they would understand that talk like that is destructive to the ties that bind--and to the speaker's political prospects.
But during the debate over judicial filibusters and the "nuclear option," Santorum -- described in a June 1 article in The Hill as "a possible presidential candidate in 2008" -- compared Democrats to Adolf Hitler. On May 19, Santorum stated on the Senate floor that Democratic filibusters of Bush's judicial nominees were "the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying: I'm in Paris, how dare you invade me, how dare you bomb my city. It's mine." Santorum later called his remarks a "mistake" and claimed they were "meant to dramatize the principle of an argument, not to characterize my Democratic colleagues."
Frist -- who The New York Times noted "has been mentioned as a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2008" -- attacked Democrats for attempting to "assassinate" Bush's judicial nominees. On May 18, Frist claimed Democrats wanted to "kill, to defeat, to assassinate these nominees."
President Bush, McCain, and Mehlman -- who Noonan also claimed "would know such talk is unworthy in a leader" -- all failed to condemn the comments of Santorum and Frist.
Noonan herself has also engaged in the sort of "extreme" rhetoric for which she has criticized Dean and Clinton. In a June 2 column, she joined other conservative commentators in blaming W. Mark Felt -- recently revealed as "Deep Throat," the key informant in uncovering the Watergate scandal that resulted in President Nixon's resignation -- for the fall of South Vietnam and genocide in Cambodia. Noonan wrote:
What Mr. Felt helped produce was a weakened president who was a serious president at a serious time. Nixon's ruin led to a cascade of catastrophic events -- the crude and humiliating abandonment of Vietnam and the Vietnamese, the rise of a monster named Pol Pot, and millions -- millions -- killed in his genocide.
During the Terri Schiavo controversy, Noonan was one of many conservatives who asserted that liberals wanted Schiavo to die; she wrote in a March 24 column that liberals "seem to have fallen half in love with death."