Who knows where Peggy Noonan’s mind is at these days : for her immediate post-debate analysis she dials up on Sarah Palin, calling her a woman “of action,” “not petrified but peppy” — “the star” of the show. Like many of her columns, however, the pin-pricks of doubt are tucked into the folds of swollen embellishments: “a question is at what point shiny, happy populism becomes cheerful manipulation,” she wrote, while referring to Palin’s performance as an “infomercial pitch for charm in politics.”

In 2004, she introduced to the world a George W. Bush of suburbia, all white t-shirts and prostitutes for neighbors. But is it obvious she and others see Palin as tarnishing their own tools of manipulation by being so damned cheap about it. On Meet the Press this morning she let Palin have it on all this “Joe Six Pack” talk:

“She is a natural,” said Noonan, “But I will tell you, I feel increased concern about… what she thinks of as populism, as her populist approach. There are two ways, you know, her stuff about, ‘I’m main street, you are the elite, I’m Joe six-pack.’ She actually says ‘I’m the Joe six-pack candidate.’ This has me thinking, gosh, would Lincoln say ‘I represent the backwoods type?’ Would FDR say, ‘the New York aristocracy deserves another moment in the sun, vote for me?’ There’s something weird about it. But there is also something, for me, concerning. Populism as a tactic is justified often in politics. ‘I need this program, the people want it.’ Populism as a strategy, ‘we’re the good guys, you’re the bad guys,’ is not good. And if that’s the road they are going, that’s not a good road to be on. It is not helpful to the country.”

Too late, too late, too late.