Friday, December 28, 2007

Peggy Noonan - Reasonable? Doubt.

I try not to comment on things that my betters (Jane Hamsher, Glenn Greenwald) have already cleaned up on, but the discussions on today's Peggy Noonan WSJ opinion column led me to one of the points I talk about in The Price of Right - the demonization of intelligence, which may be one of the most dangerous conservative myths out there; certainly one that has wreaked havoc upon the running of our government. Usually, too, I tend to stay away from people like Miss Peggy because it just riles me up unnecessarily. Why invite the aggravation? Two sentences in and I'm spluttering.

Noonan insists she (and the thousands, millions that she speaks for) wants someone 'reasonable' in the White House in 2008. She (that is, 'we') "would like a candidate who does not appear to be obviously insane." (She says this, ostensibly, with a straight face.) She proceeds to enlighten us in her seventh-grade 'slam book' way as to who she thinks is 'reasonable' and who she does not think is reasonable. She's generous to Biden and Dodd, positively swoony over McCain ("He makes me proud. He makes everyone proud." Yes, Peggers, you speak for all of us, dear.) Romney? He's a keeper, too, in spite of his flip-flopping. When Al Gore was accused of changing a position, she called him a liar - even when he was misquoted. ("His lying looks at this point not like a foible but a compulsion, a tendency that is ungovernable, like a tic. He doesn’t have to do it. He can always make his point without telling stories that aren’t true. Seeing Mr. Gore lie in speeches is like seeing a rich kleptomaniac stealing things he doesn’t need...") But when Mittens does it, it's OK. "I personally am not made anxious by his flip-flopping on big issues because everyone in politics gets to change his mind once. That is, you can be pro-life and then pro-choice but you can't go back to pro-life again, because if you do you'll look like a flake." Everyone in politics, that is, who's not a Democrat. Huckabee doesn't make the cut in spite of being God's Best Friend because he has the temerity to challenge the trickle-down corporatist mentality that Peggy equates with Republican Saintliness. Obama she likes cuz he's cute and smart (in that really-cute-guy-way kind of smart - not all arrogant), but her analysis of him is hard for me to parse - she thinks he's too young because men in their forties are on fire and like drama - but in the same sentence she says he's not on fire enough. You go figure - I can't. Edwards she summarily dismisses because of his hair. (Now, we're talking Reasonable with a capital 'R'!) And do I need to even mention Hillary? I don't believe I do.

Nevertheless, in reading a number of her articles, I was struck by a common theme that runs through her wet, sloppy junior-high kisses to Dubya and Saint Ronnie - and that is that the dumber they are, the harder she falls! If you have a brain in your head, P-Noonie has no use for you. Here's how she describes Bush's strengths (emphasis mine):
Mr. Bush is the triumph of the seemingly average American man. He's normal. He thinks in a sort of common-sense way. He speaks the language of business and sports and politics. You know him. He's not exotic. But if there's a fire on the block, he'll run out and help. He'll help direct the rig to the right house and count the kids coming out and say, "Where's Sally?" He's responsible. He's not an intellectual. Intellectuals start all the trouble in the world. And then when the fire comes they say, "I warned Joe about that furnace." And, "Does Joe have children?" And "I saw a fire once. It spreads like syrup. No, it spreads like explosive syrup. No, it's formidable and yet fleeting." When the fire comes they talk. Bush ain't that guy. Republicans love the guy who ain't that guy. Americans love the guy who ain't that guy.
There you have it. There's the crux of the matter. The more marbles Reagan lost (not that he was chock-full to begin with), the better President she thought he was. And as for Dubya - well, she can't praise his stupidity enough. She's written paeans, odes, hymns, to the glory that is Bush's stubborn refusal to know anything about anything. He 'speaks the language of business and sports and politics'? Sure he does - if by 'speaks the language' you mean 'miserably fails at until rescued by his daddy's powerful connections'. And she uses a completely fallacious analogy to try to equate 'intellectual' with 'inaction'. Really, when I read that, I had to go back to make sure I read that correctly - that someone paid her to write that. Yes, Peggo, that's just what us pointy-headed liberal eggheads do - stand around discussing the distinguishing characteristics of fire while little Sally's burning to death. Good thing you've pointed that out, or maybe someone might actually get the notion that some pinko chemistry egghead invented a fire extinguisher that could save little Sally's life. But I digress. The point is that she conflates stupidity with goodness, and intelligence with badness.

In an article she wrote about the 2000 race titled "Dumb-Good vs. Evil-Smart", she talked about a Dem friend of hers:

Both in New York and in the presidential race, she announced, we have been given a choice between a candidate who’s nice and not smart, and a candidate who’s bright but not nice.

I said yes, you get the impression it’s a battle between Dumb-Good and Evil-Smart. That’s exactly it, she said.

Honestly, she didn't even need to bother to write the article - the title pretty much sums it up. According to Peggy and to many, many other conservatives, these are your choices. You want bright, you get evil. You want good, you take dumb. As in so much of the Manichean thinking of the conservative mindset, it's either one or the other. No smart, good people; no stupid, bad people. Intellectuals start all the trouble in the world. The deep distrust and disgust that many conservatives feel for intellect and intellectuals is, sadly, reflected in the screamingly, staggeringly inept and unqualified people who have been put into positions of influence in this government. And, speaking of running out and helping when there's a fire on the block, what happened there on September 11? When informed of what was arguably the biggest fire on the biggest block in America, did President Duncecap immediately rush into action? We both know the answer to that one. His stupidity did not translate into instant response, that's for sure. And what about Katrina? His stupidity did not budge his butt off his vacation one second earlier than he had planned.

Noonan wants to come off all seriousness ("We are grown-ups" - well, Peggy, you're a grown-up; I'm an adult. People use the word 'grown-up' when speaking to children) but 'reasonable' is not the operative word in your particular paradigm. Faith is better than reason; human beings 'reason' but God is The Truth. In fact, the more preposterous the claim, the more 'faith' you have for being able to swallow it. To use reason to make decisions is hubristic; it's a slap in the face to the Almighty. Just ask Galileo. Humans are fallible; God is not. And the more money you have, the more God approves of you. So, come off of this 'reasonable' stuff. We know you don't like the smarty-pants know-it-alls.

Embrace the stupid, Peggy! You know you want to.

Update - I cross-posted this at The Smirking Chimp (one of my daily must-reads) and it got front-paged! Check it out!

1 comment:

Mauigirl said...

Great post. It is one of my pet peeves the way people love to lionize people like Bush because they're just regular guys like themselves. Personally I'd like my president to be smarter than "regular guys." And I like the idea of an intellectual person who actually can see two sides to a story and deal with complexity. What is wrong with this country???