America needs unity in dealing with Iraq. That means the president must lead." August 31
THE difference between Peggy Noonan and, say, Jonah Goldberg is the difference between a semi-sordid "accidental" drowning where police find three empty fifths of White Horse Scotch in the trash, just atop last Wednesday's newspaper and a shoebox full of ripped-up love letters from the mid-60s, and the guy who accidentally kills himself trying to use a plunge router to open a can of pudding. For the former, we recognize a shared humanity that was lost somewhere along the way, too long ago for redemption, while the latter serves no discernible purpose, except perhaps as a reminder to throw out that aluminum cookware and not huff paint thinner.
The only reason anyone would ever discuss what either of these two have to say is that they are given valuable space in the public press to do so. If we chanced upon Peggers or Doughboy reading aloud their latest contribution while seated on a bus-stop bench we'd either walk away briskly or maybe hand them a couple of bucks, depending on our point of view. They and their ilk have been so drastically wrongheaded for so long as to defy the frickin' laws of chance. So we don't actually read either one of them so much as try to get the stain out of the carpet before it sets, after checking that our gloves are free from minute holes, and we don't rebut them so much as try, somehow, to get the smell out of the house before decent company shows up for tea. Here's Peggy, hacking up a four-year-old hairball:
What will be needed this autumn is a new bipartisan forbearance, a kind of patriotic grace. This is a great deal to hope for. The president should ask for it, and show it.
Thank Gore for the internets; even long familiarity with Noonan would not keep one safe were one trying to read this stuff while hurtling through traffic hanging on to a strap.
I mean, it's curious. It's fair to say, without meaning to ascribe any falsity of motive or unseemly hubris to it, that Noonan would describe herself, at minimum, as an aspiring penitent searching for The Light, whereas my own theological needs could be satisfied by accientially stumbling upon the Olsen twins in the middle of a three-day tootsky fest. Yet while I was known to associate with semi-dedicated Quaalude aficionados, I never knew a one who would set fire to your couch with a forgotten cigarette one day, then call you up the next to say he hoped we'd both agree we needed to be more careful with matches.
Well, Quaalude talk always makes me nostalgic, so I took a little trip through the Peggy Noonan archives, back to a place where the Iraq adventure was just beginning. Please do not get ahead of me.
And not only did I learn there was gambling going on in this establishment, I found that at a time when one might expect the utmost national seriousness, when the nation was arguably undertaking a step as serious--and as driven by tub-thumping bloodlust--as our entry into WWI, a time when, at least according to "conservatives" like Peggy, "Conservatives" Like Peggy represented the national consensus, at this moment of extreme peril, as we were preparing to send young men and women to fight in a land which, according to Peggy, "everyone" believed possessed nuclear weapons and the trigger was in the hands of a madman, at this moment I say, well, surprisingly, Pegs wasn't feeling all that bipartisan!
September 22, 2002:
One senses they [the Democrats] are looking at the whole question merely as a matter of popular positioning
February 24, 2003:
Mr. Clinton is by nature a partisan and, deep down, an embittered one. Mr. Carter is a very nice, confused man of considerable vanity. Both of course have full rights of free speech and a right to their views.
But if they cannot offer unity, couldn't they offer discretion? Whatever their views, they should not put them forth in ways that undercut an administration that, right or wrong, is attempting to get a fair hearing from the world in order to take the steps it thinks necessary to make it safer from terror regimes.
Mr. Clinton, on the other hand, has taken to telling the world that "we should let Blix lead us to come together." Mr. Clinton calls Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, "a tough honest guy who is trying to find the truth." Does Mr. Clinton speak of the American president with such approbation? No. He treats President Bush with equal parts derision and faux sympathy.
March 3, 2002 (the bloodshed will begin in just over two weeks, guaranteed now; it is, in case you've forgotten, a war which has been denounced as unjust by Peggy's theological Father, a man she will otherwise limn as the irresistible spiritual force of the 20th Century. This week, Peggy informs her fellow citizens that the Democrats have attempted to thrive on snob appeal. As always, I leave the pronouns to her discretion; if you stare at a fixed spot on the wall the vertigo will be lessened):
In the Democratic Party now, and for some time, I have not perceived that they are trying to get us to a good place. They seem interested only in thwarting the trek of the current president and his party, who are, to the Democrats, "the other." When the president is a Democrat you now support him no matter what. You support him if he doesn't have a map, and isn't interested in markers, and is only interested in his own day-to-day survival.
An example: abortion. The Democrats became the party of what they called abortion rights. Fine. It seemed to them right at the time and a step toward human progress. But now, 30 years later, after all the things we've seen and pondered, after all that science has shown us, the Democratic Party has grown not less radical on abortion, but more. Your party won't even agree to ban third-term abortions--which is the abortion of a baby who looks and seems fully human and capable of life because he is. The Democrats oppose parental consent even in the cases of 14-year-olds who are themselves children. It opposes directing doctors to inform frightened young women before an abortion is performed that there are other options, other possible paths.
This is so radical. So out of touch with the feeling and thought of the vast middle of the country. So at odds with our self-image as a nation. We think we try to protect the vulnerable. We think we're kind.
We think we're about to bomb Iraq into a democracy.
We can, of course, go on (and on and...). How by way of contrast the Republicans would never continue to support a President who'd abandoned his principles, or turned destructive, or behaved in a grossly offensive manner (which, of course, means doing something with his penis other than stuffing it and a pair of tube socks into a flight suit. How astonishing it is to realize that in four short years George W. Bush could fuck up so badly that discovering the Clenis™ obsession was still alive on the brink of--for all Peggy knew--nuclear annihilation seems surprising and almost quaint!). We'd find that ten days before we plunge into war her personal humidity is such that she pens a bodice-ripping fantasy about bin-Laden's capture. That on the 24th, which will become the bloodiest day of the war to that point, Peggers will gush about the Good Thing which is about to occur, as the Civilized World, roused from slumber and Democratic do-nothingism, teaches the bad guys a lesson they'll never forget. It's a day after the day at Nasiriyah PFC Jessica Lynch will never forget, at least what she remembers of it. It's just under four years before the Vice-President will confuse her with Jessica Simpson at a ball game. In that same column, Peggy will tell her readers that George W. Bush is no stereotypical Cowboy, but a steely-eyed Rocketman bound for the stars.
Then she'll sort of trail off, even disappear for a couple months. Mel Gibson's Jesus slasher flick will occupy her Holidays, especially after John Paul II pronounces it Oscar™ worthy. As with a lot of warfloggers, the following March will roll around without her seeming to notice the war supposedly ended nine months earlier. The days of rose-colored target screens will fade in the memory like Bill Clinton's erection, and the argument will somehow shift to irrelevancies like soccer balls and school paint jobs, of spider holes and how many dead-enders still await our swift justice. There would be no recognition, let alone admission, that things weren't going swimmingly, despite the fact that they were not. Undeniably not. In one more month the Abu Ghraib photos will come out, all except the ones that don't, and Peggy will bemoan the the publicity boon for our enemies, while celebrating our near-compulsive need to get the truth out. No, really. She'll also ponder how far we've fallen due to the Feminists' insistence that female soldiers be allowed to make fun of prisoners' ding-dongs just like the guys do. No. Really.
And at some point, like a lot of print warfloggers who could manage it, Peggy will just sorta begin pretending that she's cast a jaundiced eye on the whole operation, and her admiration of the Presidential Package will sorta shrink back up to where it's not quite noticeable, and she'll allow as how the thing didn't quite work out like every Civilized Westerner would have expected, but it's time to forget all that and back the President, and if we do maybe she'll use some of her pull to get him to admit the rest of us were right a little. Even if it was for all the anti-American reasons.