You think you have troubles? Peggy Noonan, the Betty Boop of right-wing commentary, is really upset:
Now, when I first read this ("We're going to need grace. We are going to need a great outbreak of grace to navigate the next difficult months.") I went a bit insane. I wrote fourteen hundred words mocking and denouncing just the first half of it. But can you blame me? It seemed, at least initially, a classic Noonan performance, a repulsive combination of coy, girlish disingenuousness, bad-faith moralizing, and eye-batting hero-worship of liars, criminals, and mediocrities.
For example--and by way of at least partial self-exculpation--please allow me to share with you this lovely native legend as related, in lilting song and languid gesture, by La Noonan in her role as the incomparable Hula Queen of Waikiki:
Much has been strained. We were all concussed by 9/11--we reeled--and came down where we came down. For the administration, extreme events prompted radical thinking. American exceptionalism was yesterday. They would be universalists, their operating style at once dreamy and aggressive All men want the same thing, and we're giving it to them whether they want it or not. Now the dreamers hope to be saved by men--James Baker, Vernon Jordan--they once dismissed as cynics.
Cheney and Rumsfeld, Dick and Don--the dreamers. Two guys with a cockeyed vision, yeah, a couple of Americans with the crazy notion that maybe, just maybe, Iraq could be re-made, and the Middle East rendered safe for Starbucks and Exxon-Mobil, by an invasion by people who have no plan for occupation, and an occupation by people who have no idea what they're doing. Don't laugh. You may say they're two dreamers. But they're not the only ones.
It is impossible to know whether Noonan actually believes all the patent idiocy--two parts teenage poetess plaint, one part teacher's pet book report--that she is sometimes compelled to write:
When history runs hot, bitterness bubbles. Democrats who should be feeling happy are, from what I've observed in New York and Washington, not. The closest they come to joy is a more energetic smugness. Republicans are fighting among themselves--or, rather, grumbling.
"History" is running "hot" and "bitterness" is bubbling, but "in New York and Washington" all is opera buffa, with smug, insufficiently "happy" Democrats and "grumbling" Republicans stumbling around in their endearing way. Does she contradict herself? Very well, then, she contradicts herself.
The first half of the piece ends thus:
We will need grace to get through this time: through the discussion of the Baker-Hamilton report, through debate on the war, through a harmonious transfer of legislative power in January, through the beginning of the post-Bush era.
At first I took this to mean that all of us were equally culpable in the obscenity that is Bush's war of choice, and that therefore all of us should be on our best behavior as the wise men descend from their Carlyle Group board room and help set things aright. Graceless partisan hot-head that I am, I read this and became somewhat cross. "What you mean 'we,' Keemosabe?" was essentially my response.
Because--and everyone knows this, with the possible exception of the Mad Decider in the White House--"we" are not all equally responsible for this hideousness. The administration and the Republican Party, of which Noonan has been and remains a proud advocate, are. Oh, they were abetted by some fearful, spineless Democrats in Congress, and by a spineless, fearful news media. But by and large this carnival of death, destruction, corruption, mismanagement, and ineptitude is a Republican creation.
Now, of course, the Dems have taken the House and Senate, and whoever prints Congressional subpoenas is running triple shifts. One finds oneself wondering which of the several committee hearings to watch live, and which to record for later enjoyment. Whatever we think we know now about this monstrosity of an administration (and we know a ton), it's nothing compared to what will emerge in the next year.
So when Noonan says "we will need grace," I wondered if she wasn't doing what cornered conservatives always do when the shoe finally makes its way to the other foot, i.e., demanding "civility" while trying to evade responsibility and squirm out of having to endure the consequences that should follow it.
This--civility--is in fact the subject of the loony second half of the piece in question. She muses about the possibility that "many politicians and journalists lack a certain public grace" because--and don't scoff; it is, like evolution, just "a theory"--they went to "boarding school, and tony private schools in general." She points out, with thrilling if bogus hyperbole, that "interviewers now always, as you have noticed, interrupt the person they're interviewing."
Yes, that's what's wrong with our news media: they're too demanding. They bully and hector our poor politicians and corporate spokespeople in an uncivil insistence on prying out the truth. You wonder, and I wonder: Is she kidding? Has she never watched Jim Lehrer twinkle as he lobs his slo-pitch softballs? Has she never heard of Brit Hume?
But never mind. Let us give her the courtesy of ignoring the second, stupid half of the piece, and focus solely on the first, visionary section. Let us grant her enough respect to assume that she is as dedicated as we are to truth, justice, and the victory of the good. After all, here is what Peggy Noonan wrote on a different occasion, with the subject of the initial sentence deleted, by me, for subsequent dramatic effect:
But (X) argued that the pursuit of justice is the business of a great nation. In winning this point, they caught the falling flag, producing a triumph for the rule of law, a reassertion of the belief that no man is above it, and a rebuke for an arrogance that had grown imperial.
Isn't that nice? It's drivel, yes--this is Peggy Noonan, after all--but (this is Peggy Noonan, after all) it's stirring drivel. And to whom could it possibly refer, if not George W. Bush?
Actually, she wrote this two days after the House impeached Bill Clinton. The deleted subject of the first sentence is "the Republicans."
And that gives me hope. If she's this hard on a president simply because he lied about a blow job--applauding his impeachment and presumably advocating his removal from office--imagine how hard she'll be on a president who lied about a war. If she's so strict regarding "the rule of law" when it came to Clinton, imagine how strict she'll be with Bush, with his complicity (and lying) in the outing of Valerie Plame, his "signing statements" promising to ignore the law, his administration's concealment of the true cost of his Medicare plan, his--but you get the idea.
No, I have to conclude that when Peggy Noonan says "we" she means herself, her president, her party, and her fellow propagandists. She means everyone who properly should be held accountable for this military, political, cultural, and financial nightmare. They will indeed, as the summonses go forth and the testimony under oath commences in the New Year, need "grace." They'll also need legal defense funds. Count on Noonan to be there to help with both.