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Fortunate in his enemies?



There’s something about Peggy Noonan that irritates me. I don’t know what it is, maybe the rankling snideness and snarkiness that wend through her op-ed pieces in the Wall Street Journal. But it’s more than that: also a certain fungibility of her moral rectitude, the ease with which she criticizes Democrats for things she lets Republicans off the hook for. That is an intellectual dishonesty that is, frankly, sad to see in a political writer.

This happens all the time in political commentary, but better writers try not to make it too egregious. Noonan doesn’t. She lets the hypocrisy dribble out and make a mess of what might otherwise be coherence; she may not be smart enough to realize when she’s doing it (although her editors should!). Yes, I know she just won the Pulitzer Prize, and that she’s a favorite conservative voice on MSNBC. Still, Noonan will defend the Republican every time, even someone as dreadful as Donald J. Trump, and in defending the indefensible, she throws away her credibility.

Her latest—from the weekend Wall Street Journal—is a frivolous piece, “Trump Has Been Lucky in His Enemies,” that attempts to whitewash the massive failures of the first 100 days by her usual nasty attacks on Democrats. Tom Perez is “unhinged.” The Democratic Party is “having a very public nervous breakdown.” Maxine Waters is “perennially sunny”: Noonan means this sarcastically, of course; it is a put-down of Waters as an opinionated black woman. Democrats “have nothing—not a plan, not a program, not a philosophy.” The progressive left has become “a hysteria—a screeching, ignorant wave of…violent intolerance.” Abortion supporters are “anathematizing” (whatever that means), college students (she singles out U.C. Berkeley) are “screeching,” liberals are “blowing up.”

See what I mean about snark? Noonan’s point is that with this (in her mind) clown car of liberal zaniness, Trump is “lucky in his main foes.” We’re supposed to buy into two of her claims: One, that Trump’s bizarre failures and character deficiencies have been balanced out by the antics of the Democratic Party. We’re also supposed to assume that her allegations are true.

Unfortunately for Noonan, neither stands up to scrutiny. Trump’s moral failures are part of the permanent historical record. Moreover, her allegations about the Democratic Party are baseless, like most of the claims of her president. The opposition to Trump is not a partisan Democratic phenomenon, per se; it is The Resistance–a huge, nationwide movement comprised of concerned Americans who see their country’s values compromised by the most unscrupulous, disreputable person ever to occupy the White House. Nor is The Resistance without a “plan, program or philosophy.” It has very clear goals, the first of which is to get rid of Trump as promptly as possible, the second of which is to perform well in the 2018 elections, and the third of which is to elect a Democratic president in 2020.

Nor is The Resistance “blowing up,” it is rolling along, “in full flood, inexorable, irresistible, benignant” (Churchill). It is indeed “a wave,” not of hysteria, but rather of common purpose, of moral indignation, of the will to correct a disastrous mistake. Tom Perez is not “unhinged” although he is angry and passionate; for Noonan to call him “unhinged” is an incredibly dishonest portrayal when you consider the depth of Trump’s psychological derangement.

This is the trouble with any analysis from the right that does not honestly address the fact that the current President of the United States of America is a mental case: narcissistic, paranoid, megalomaniacal, a pathological liar, delusional, thin-skinned, sociopathically angry. Noonan knows this. Paul Ryan knows this. Mitch McConnell knows this. Most Republican Senators and representatives know this, except for the loony bin on the tea party/evangelical extreme, who have traded the ability to discern the truth (if they ever possessed it) in exchange for power, and for pandering to their equally truth-deprived bases. It’s awesomely weird for Noonan to be blathering about “a “screeching, hysterical, malicious” left that is “violently intolerant,” when it is HER tea party that invented “Killary,” “Lock Her Up!,” “Obama is a Muslim Kenyan,” and the rest of the ranting. When historians record this era, who will they say lost their minds and sank into hysteria? Will it be liberals, or the tea party?


  1. Bill Haydon says:

    [[Nor is The Resistance without a “plan, program or philosophy.” It has very clear goals, the first of which is to get rid of Trump as promptly as possible, the second of which is to perform well in the 2018 elections, and the third of which is to elect a Democratic president in 2020.]]

    Steve, I’d argue that those are the ultimate goals and that the plan, program and philosophy to achieve those goals are something different. And on that point, I don’t know if the Democrats have truly sorted themselves out and learned much. Take single payer healthcare. Recent polling shows large majorities for it among Democrats and Independents and even more Republicans supporting it than opposing it, yet there are still over 100 Democratic Congressman refusing to support HR676, which is John Conyers Medicare For All bill. Sanders is going to introduce a similar bill in the Senate, and to date, he doesn’t have a single Democratic Senator signing on to co-sponsor it, not even true liberals like Sherrod Brown or Elizabeth Warren. That’s not a party that I see having learned the lessons of 2016, and that’s the danger of this over focus on Russia. It absolves the party of any true come to Jesus moment for not only losing the Presidency to an incompetent buffoon but also losing the House and Senate, over 1000 seats in state legislatures and a score of Governorships under Obama.

    I’m hoping that the Democrats can come to their senses, take themselves off the corporate teet and formulate a truly progressive program and philosophy that combines social justice issues with a broader based economic justice program (essentially what MLK concluded in the last years of his life was necessary for the former to gain permanence), but I don’t see them there yet. In fact, I think it’s going to need to get a little bloodier in the form of primary challenges to corporatist Democrats, which is why I just sent off $27 to the man challenging Pelosi next year.

  2. Bill Haydon says:

    And like clockwork, we have this.

    [[Sen. Dianne Feinstein told her constituents at a recent San Francisco town hall event that she’s not ready to support a single-payer health care system — an idea that has been gaining steam at the state level in California.

    “If single-payer health care is going to mean complete takeover by the government of all health care,” the California Democrat said, “I am not there.”

    A week later, Feinstein was even further from there, benefitting from a fundraising event at the Washington, D.C., office of Avenue Solutions, a lobbying firm that represents major health insurers, pharmaceutical companies and the primary trade association for doctors. The industries have historically opposed efforts to create a universal, government-run health care system — an idea supported by 58 percent of U.S. adults. Feinstein supporters at the event were expected to kick in $1,000 to $5,000 for her re-election bid.]]

  3. Thanks Bill for your passion and for educating us on single payer.

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