Peggy Noonan, the doyenne of conservative American columnists, once published a 'story of Ronald Reagan' that bore the title 'When Character Was King'. It has sometimes been objected that Noonan prizes grace and civility in public life to the exclusion of much else, including plenty that is vital. There is some truth in this assertion and it would be a mistake, doubtless, to look upon past American presidencies as times of Socratic wisdom and splendour. The republic has always been an argument, and often an ugly one at that.
And yet, nevertheless, Noonan’s perennial concerns, unfashionable as they may be, have a certain urgency in the present moment. Politics at the highest level is certainly a question of policy and, indeed, policy outcomes.