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The Blind Oracle of Noonan

The wistful, naïve pronouncements of the speechwriter-turned-columnist.
August 3, 2020
The Blind Oracle of Noonan
In this photo provided by Meet The Press, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan speaks during a remote interview on "Meet the Press" March 23, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Meet the Press via Getty Images)

Good news! All of us who are worried about President Trump and the future of the Republican party can pack it up. Peggy Noonan, our cherished Reaganic oracle, has spoken and has the answer to align the Always Trump, Sometimes Trump, and Never Trump factions of the GOP.

In her latest Wall Street Journal column, Noonan enters the “Burn It Down” debate and argues against voting out all the Trump enablers and sycophants because—are you ready for this?—“persuasion will be key” to saving the Republic. Ah! We can all rest easy, pour ourselves a cool beverage, and retire early. Our work is done! Praise be to Peggy!

That’s the kind of wistful, head-in-the-clouds analysis Noonan is known for, though. Like, wouldn’t everything be better if everyone just played along more nicely? Why all this anger toward a president who lets Russia put bounties on the heads of our soldiers, tear-gases peaceful protesters, and lies and obstructs justice as a way of life? Why on earth should Susan Collins, Martha McSally, and Cory Gardner be sacrificed on the altar of Trump just to prove a point about accountability? Because follow-the-leader Republicans like Collins will surely be the ones to save us from another trillion in deficit spending and finally stop funding for Planned Parenthood! Because Collins, of all people, must have “learned lessons” from Trump. We should all be so, so very concerned about the future of the GOP without Republicans like Collins.

Noonan concedes that “Donald Trump is burning himself down.” Yet she thinks we ought to keep voting for the people who handed him a lighter and kerosene.

No thank you. Noonan, however, is free to throw herself on the Trump dumpster pyre. She says Never Trumpers are “bloody-minded” and encouraging “nihilism,” but what she proposes is politically suicidal.

Noonan says Never Trumpers should not engage in “pyromaniac fantasies but constructive modesty, even humility.” More naïve, high-minded divinity from the Temple Noonan. “Constructive modesty” sounds not like a political path to the future but like shapewear for the prudish soul. Maybe she has clothing on the brain. In May, Noonan was busy worrying how the pandemic would influence our outfit choices. (How is that for a priority?) God save me from her sermons because there are no yoga pants comfortable enough to get me to find my “humility” and prostrate myself before our “grab ’em by the pussy” president. Let’s pray for those who do.

Noonan sees fashion as “a leading indicator of a nation’s mood.” Well, if that’s the case, tell me what kind of fashion statement face masks on children make. Because, thanks to our incompetent president, my kids will be wearing one for eight hours a day if they are lucky enough to leave the house and attend school this fall.

Not that going to school will actually happen, or socializing normally will return anytime soon. Trump promised if he was president we’d all be able “to say Merry Christmas again!” Probably not in person to friends and family this year, though. All because too few Republicans could bring themselves to tell Trump last spring that no, coronavirus is nothing like the flu.

Still, Peggy wants me to be more docile and polite while my family shelters in place for the next however many months as President Trump golfs his time away and the GOP lets him do it.

Noonan says that part of Trump’s “momentary genius” in 2016 was that he uniquely spoke to the “anxieties” of Americans about illegal immigration. Is that what the great Reagan speechwriter thinks about Trump’s announcement speech that said Mexico is bringing rapists to America? Genius?

Never Trumpers can’t find the pity in their hearts Noonan has for Trump, who “came up against his own perfect storm” with the pandemic, the lousy economy, and violence in the streets. As if he were a passive observer in his presidency. Oh, what to do!

“When the Trump experience is over, the Republican Party will have to be rebuilt,” Noonan prophesies. (Duh.) “A lot is going to have to be rethought. Simple human persuasion will be key.” And then she tries to persuade her readers that we Never Trumpers are really the problem. “Never Trumpers never seem to judge themselves,” she complains, never once pausing to consider why it’s okay for her write things like Trump is “weak, unserious and avoidant of the big issues” while she remains “weak, unserious and avoidant” of the big issue of how to go about restoring the kind of strong Republican leadership she pines for.

Noonan is too timid to admit that the dismal “Trump experience” will not end unless some Republicans screw up the nerve to forcefully close the curtains on it. Otherwise, Donald Trump Jr. and a QAnon Congress will carry forth the freak flag of conservatism. Is that what she wants? Because Trump is never going to go gently into the night as a good loser president should. The Trump experience doesn’t end unless Never Trumpers “finish him” Mortal Kombat style.

With all evidence against her, Noonan thinks Trumpism will disappear if Never Trumpers just shut up. “Mr. Trump has been very publicly doing himself in, mismanaging his crises—setting himself on fire,” she writes. “As long as that’s clear, his supporters won’t be able to say, if he loses, that he was a champion of the people who was betrayed by the party elites, the Never Trumpers and the deep state: ‘He didn’t lose, he was the victim of treachery.’”

As if Trump depicting himself as a “victim” would be any different than any other day of his presidency. “Nobody likes me,” he whined last week. Who are the Never Trumpers to disagree?

Noonan tries her best to avoid overtly positioning herself as yet another MAGA enabler, but that’s what her column implicitly amounts to.

She squints at Trump through a self-imposed gauzy blindfold instead of looking at him head-on. Noonan imagines another time when Republicans had civil intra-party debates about policy and not the possible psychopathy of the commander-in-chief and those who seek to make his manic authoritarian dreams come true.

She doesn’t want Never Trumpers making noise because their critiques “will be unhelpful for Republicans, and bad for the country, if that’s the background music of the party the next 10 years.”

As if Noonan hasn’t been dancing to her own outdated tune for decades. Yet, she sings on and on about her unrealistic, nostalgic views on politics from deep inside her walk-in closet of memories from the 1980s.

Enough already.

I, for one, am pressing the mute button on her. While I’m at it, someone pass me a match.

Amanda Carpenter

Amanda Carpenter is an author, a former communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz, and a former speechwriter to Sen. Jim DeMint. She was formerly a Bulwark political columnist.