The Hysteric As Pundit
Peggy Noonan: A Weird Wiggy Woman
She Saw visions of Satan and the Cross at Ground Zero
There have been many memorable incidents during the Presidential election, but none occasioned more anger and laughter, amusement and contempt, boredom and enlightenment than reading and listening to the professional pundits. By now I know what to expect from them so I am seldom surprised by their opinions. But there are some notable exceptions. Just when I had become convinced that Peggy Noonan couldn’t say anything dumber than the hysterical blood thirsty diatribe she wrote in the aftermath of 9/11 – an event that drove many otherwise sane and reasonable people over the edge – in which she castigated evil doers who didn’t recognize that America was the light of the world and genuflect upon the mere mention of the US, she then goes and publishes her commentary on Barack Obama’s impending acceptance speech at the Democratic Party convention. Upon first hearing of it I just passed it off as “fox and the grapes stuff,” more Republican lying and signifying, but then I found out what she had actually written. I was aghast!
At first reading one can see that gross exaggerations, false analogies, indifference to facts, and historical ignorance injure her argument beyond repair and render it almost laughable. Peg is spared a clown’s fate only because of the tragic fact that this woman is taken seriously by serious, albeit abysmally ignorant on the critical questions at issue, players in government and Industry. After all, Ms. Noonan is a columnist with the Wall Street Journal, the official voice of the American ruling class.
Witnessing the Republican response to the Obama phenomena in general – and the swelling Obamamania that is gripping millions of Americans of all races, classes and ethnicities, which threatened to engulf the country when he took the stage in Denver – I find a source of unending amusement. For a yellow dog democrat and long time warrior in the human rights struggle like me, listening to the incessant whining and unconvincing attempts to dismiss what is clearly the greatest moment in American political history is a sport.
Old Peggy Noonan seems to have lost her mind completely when she perused the plans for staging Senator Obama’s speech. She didn’t simply disagree with the DNC’s plan to present Barack’s historic speech at Invesco Field; she went into great detail about their myriad failures of organization, management and imagination. Then she dismissed the event as folly. “People working the technical end of the event are talking about poor coordination, unclear planning, and a Democratic National Committee that just doesn’t seem capable of decisive and sophisticated thinking” she concluded. However Leon Saunders, of Saunders and Associates in Atlanta, who recently produced a mega-concert in Dauphin stadium in Miami, disagrees. “The way the Obama people successfully moved that many people from the auditorium to the Stadium without incident is one of the most impressive feats I have ever seen!” he assured me. Since Leon promotes spectacles for a living I’m going with “Honest Lee” as he is known in the world of show business.
The fact is, like most right wing ideologues, Peg doesn’t have to actually know what she is talking about because nobody among the lunatic right who are her cronies either knows or cares if what she is saying is factually correct: after all it is not truth but propaganda that is their stock in trade. Finally old ditzy Peg flipped out and labeled the speech “one of the biggest and possibly craziest gambles of this or any other presidential campaign of the modern era. Everyone can define what can go wrong, and no one can quite define what a ‘great move’ would look like. It has every possibility of looking like a Nuremberg rally”
A Nuremberg rally? That’s a strange statement coming from a Reagan era Republican who also happens to be a Catholic; for there are no bigger public spectacles than an appearance by the Pope, decked out in his Klan like costume. And Ronald Regan, for whom Peg was a proud speechwriter, introduced the spectacular show biz pageant into the inaugural ceremonies of the presidency. I know, because I wrote a mocking commentary about it titled “Hollywood Goes To Washington.” In this commentary I listed all the Hollywood talent that participated in planning and staging the spectacle – from fashion designers to set designers. But then I, and every political pro, noticed that it worked! They had managed to convince the world that Ronald Reagan was something other than a handsome b-movie actor who knew how to deliver a good line at the appropriate time. All of his handlers and key cabinet ministers such as Chief of Staff Michel Deaver, Treasury Secretary Donald Regan, and Budget Director David Stockman have painted a portrait of him as a charming dullard. So if spectacle can get a smooth talking numbskull like Ronald Reagan elected to the Oval Office, Obama’s handlers would have been fools not to employ these show biz techniques. After all, they’ve got the real deal. A blindly partisan Republican, Peg is just pissed because they did it so well!
On the other hand the Pope regularly fills stadiums everywhere he goes to great pomp and circumstance – including elaborate props and expensive costumes that would make Elvis Pressley look prissy and many Broadway shows look like mere dress rehearsals. Furthermore this Pope is a guy whose knows from a NAZI rally, having attended a few during his stint in the Nazi youth movement! Furthermore, the holy Roman Catholic Church, to which Ms. Noonan is passionately committed, made its peace with the Italian Fascist by signing the shameful Concordant between the Vatican and Mussolini’s fascist government. There are even pictures of the Pope blessing the ammunition Italian fascist forces would use against an unoffending Ethiopia; the Pope was quite willing to use Italian Fascist troops to impose Catholicism as the dominant church in Ethiopia, the land of Coptic Christianity. Anyone who doubts this need only read the Excellent scholarly study of the matter “the Vatican in the Age of the Dictators, by the eminent British historian Anthony Rhodes – which I’m fairly certain clueless Peggy has not, and being a catholic fanatic she probably would tune out and go into her denial mode…Just like she did when Pope John Paul was criticized by the victims of pedophile priest for not speaking out on the rape of children by the Catholic clergy.
Pope Pius XII
The problem for the Ethiopians was that they were viewed as heretics by the Vatican because this ancient African nation insisted that they have the original “Arc of the Covenant,” which King Solomon bequeathed to his son Menelek I, whom he sired with the beautiful black queen Makeda, the Queen of Sheba. (Just for the record I think the Ethiopians are right! I even named my daughter after her.) By the way, since Ms. Noonan is so preachy about freedom, I’d like to know what she thinks of her church’s Taliban like history of imposing its religious doctrine on conquered peoples with the sword. Does she ever shed a tear in remembrance of the Catholic genocides against the indigenous peoples of the Americas? Nuremburg rallies indeed. I’m sure Ms. Noonan would understand little of what I am getting at here because from all appearances she understands little about the world in general.
In the days after the tragedy of 9/11 – which was the result of the incompetence of the Bushmen, not their complicity in the act, as some paranoids insist upon believing – there were many hysterical voices. But none was more absurdly hysterical than Ms. Noonan’s diatribe which I critiqued in my essay None but the Righteous. Ms. Noonan does not simply miss the point about the progression of events that had actually led to 9/11; for her it was “a matter of good versus evil.” Then she went on to rhapsodize about seeing the face of the Devil at ground zero…which she called “the evil one.” She also saw the old rugged cross on which Jesus Christ was lynched in the twisted steel beams rising up from the rubble. And while she confessed that her kids thought she was nuts – hooray for them!) Ms. Noonan turned to Catholic construction workers at ground zero for confirmation of her divine vision.
Since I have been a construction worker in New York off and on for twenty years –painting in the World Trade Center and tunneling under the rock and soil of Queens – I know that most construction workers are knuckleheads who are subject to go for any kind of okey doke. But Peggy is a respected columnist on one of the great journals of opinion in the English language – not that they have any special affection for the Queen’s English – and the fact that a pundit of Pegs exalted status should arrive at the same conclusion as the untutored and superstitious mob is frightening! Everywhere you look you see this old pompous pie face bloviator running off at the mouth; her incessant monologue rambling willy nilly from sophistry to the absurd; still her dance card is always full. It is further evidence that Republicans value ideology over intellectual integrity. Yet from persistent smirk on her face as she inundates her listeners with hysterical nonsense masquerading as wisdom, I’ll bet ol Peg thinks she’s da bomb! The Lady is just that clueless.
An Unrepentant Knucklehead
“Convince a fool against her will/she remains a fool still!” my mother used to say. I have found that every time I forget this bit of wisdom I suffer for it. When I saw Peggy on television the morning after Barack Obama gave one of the greatest speeches in American history, I knew she was losing it again. Even while her fellow right wing crank, the ubiquitous pundit and former Presidential speechwriter Pat Buchanan was having verbal orgasms over the brilliance of Senator Obama’s rap, Peg was continuing to dis Barack’s speech while exposing herself as a tone deaf sophist – which she, of course, was far too full of herself to see.
As I listened carefully to the foolishness she was spouting I reflected on an article I had read online arguing that Peg’s greatest line – “They slipped the surly bonds of earth and touched the face of God,” which Reagan read when eulogizing the Astronauts who died when their space ship exploded on takeoff, was swiped from the oeuvre of an obscure 19th century Irish poet/soldier. And this, of course, is the flimsy foundation on which her reputation as a clever thinker rests. In spite of old prickly Peg’s caustic commentary, Barack Obama’s speech contained elegance, eloquence and gravitas in abundance. And it was delivered by the finest in the presidential race. But since she thought that Ronald Reagan was a great orator – in spite of his bland verbosity, it is no wonder that Peg has trouble recognizing great oratory when she hears it.
Although white folks, dazzled by his verbal virtuosity, are inclined to overstate the case and make Barack the greatest orator in America; black folks know that there are great clerical bards preaching the word from thousands of pulpits every Sunday morning. The transcendent power of their poetry can make your soul take flight and your spirit dance. And when they preach a social gospel or enter the political arena – ala Rev. Doctor Martin Luther King, Rev. Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Rev. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Wyatt T. Walker, Rev. Al Sharpton, and many more – their voices dominate any discourse they enter into. Barack Obama has absorbed this oratorical tradition by cultural osmosis.
“The Great Communicator
Peggy Fawning over Her Hero
Quite unlike the stiff Latin conjurations of the Catholic liturgy, black preachers, as writer Zora Neal Hurston observed, “must be poets to survive in a Negro pulpit.” Barack Obama is heir to that tradition; that’s what he was really doing when he spent all those hours listening to the great preachers that held forth at Trinity Church, beginning with the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright – an electrifying preacher from the prophetic wing of the black clergy. Nevertheless, in spite of my mother’s sterling advice, I would love to debate Ms. Noonan about the quality of Senator Obama’s speech. It would afford me a rare opportunity to expose the arguments of Ms. Noonan – and her rightwing acolytes – for what they are: lightweight, middlebrow prattle that is sorely lacking in insight or profundity!
As I watched Peg try and convince her colleagues that Obama’s speech was a failure – while all of them raved over his splendid oratorical gifts – I thought of my Aunt Rosa, who was both my first Shakespeare teacher and also the director of the school’s oratorical team. As such she, more than anyone, is responsible for my being a writer and orator who is equally skilled at both, as my hapless opponents have discovered. I know what a good oration is because I recited some of the greatest orations in the western tradition – including Shakespeare’s monologues and epic poems like William Cullen Bryant’s Thanatopsis. So for me it is not just theory: I know how it’s done!
On Wednesday morning, the day after the Republicans kicked her crony Rudi Guiliani to the curb in favor of that old school right-wing ideologue Fred Thompson, a belligerent blow hard and flim flam man, it seemed that Peg is beguiled by another mediocre actor. In a bombastic screed devoid of truth or elegance Thompson excited the untutored die hard Republican mob assembled in St. Paul like the showman that he is. I don’t believe a lot of the lines he was spouting anymore than he believes the lines he recites so convincingly on screen. That’s what actors do: Say things they know are fantasies and make you believe it’s real! It is instructive that old prickly Peg, who was so caustic in her criticism of Senator Obama’s speech – which was as elegant as Thompson’s was crude – had nothing to say in terms of criticism of Freddy T. And it further exposes her as just another media shill for the Republican Party in spite of her transparent attempts to fool the public and present herself as an objective observer!
However Peg’s most ludicrous argument – and there were so many to choose from that I confess my choice may be somewhat arbitrary – was her attempt to justify John McCain’s curious selection of Sarah Palin as his Vice President. She was the very model of what Plato describes as “the Sophist” in his Dialogues. In a dialogue between Theaeteus and The Stranger the former observes “He must be the Sophist…no other name can possibly be right. To wit The Stranger replies “No other; and so this trader in virtue again turns out to be our friend the Sophist, whose art may now be traced from the art of acquisition through exchange, trade, merchandise, to a merchandise of the soul which is concerned with speech and the knowledge of virtue.” In other words old prickly Peg has sold her soul to the Republican propaganda machine and obediently does their bidding while posing as an independent objective observer! And she does this even when it is apparent to every thinking person who is not blinded by ideology or seduced by political opportunism that she is spouting nonsense!
Speaking in the school mom persona that she assumes when she thinks that she is being especially insightful, Peg told the nation on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that Sarah Palin “is just terrific!” However future historians will show that McCain’s cynical and vulgar opportunistic choice of Sarah Palin did much to help sink his candidacy, because it exposed his terrible judgment and lack of integrity. Palin is ignorant, abrasive, and overly ambitious. She likes to refer to herself as “a maverick,” but the surviving members of the Maverick family has publicly protested her appropriation of their family name, considering her and John McCain to be embarrassments. Strangely, there is no talk about “Nurnberg rallies” in regard to the McCain/Palin rallies. Yet given the way in which they amp up the crowd with inflammatory rhetoric that Stevie Wonder can see is racist, it is no wonder that audience members are shouting out “Kill him!”
Although McCain appears to be surprised by the response of the mob after he and the ignorant Alaskan shrew has done all they could to incite the mob. Instead he fains outrage at Congressman John Lewis for pointing out a historical truth: The Republican Party built their electoral majority based on the “southern strategy” concocted during the Nixon campaign and has been followed by every successful Republican Presidential campaign since. This has been well documented by professional historians – Kenneth O’Reily and Dan T. Carter in their seminal texts Nixon’s Piano and The Politics of Rage. Since Peggy Noonan is a celebrated intellectual she should know this. And if she has read these texts – which I seriously doubt, because pundits in general don’t appear to believe that they should actually have evidence for the things that they say – now is the time for her to speak up if she is really interested in the future of this nation.
I say this because it is obvious to everybody who has sense enough to come in out of the rain that the rancorous rhetoric shamelessly employed by the McCain campaign, in concert with those racist lunatics on WABC – Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Michel Savage etc, – who exhort the ignorant pobel with a constant stream of invective aimed at Barack Obama, trying their level best to paint him as a collaborator with terrorist, has creating the atmosphere for him to be assassinated! This is a constant fear among black Americans – this writer included – and should it happen it will tear this nation apart. If Peggy Noonan was a thoughtful commentator seriously interested in advancing the political culture of this nation, instead of a hysterical charlatan posing as a thoughtful pundit, this is what she would be outraged about, not the sets for the hopeful and unifying message of Barack Obama. Shame on you Peg!
And yo, Aunt Rosa would have had an appropriate literary aphorism for you, one of her favorite jewels from Mark Twain: “Tis far better to be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt!”