The Further Adventures of Peggy Noonan

Anatomy of a Column


eggy Noonan was drinking French 75s and humming vague tuneless Edith Piaf chansons at The Chelsea Pier, wondering what to say about the Paris attacks, now a week old.
Her favorite barkeep JC (his real name, Peggy knew, was Juan Carlos, but she thought of him as Jesus Christ, especially when he bent over to pick up one of her always falling cocktail napkins with her crabbed handwriting on them), refreshed her refreshment without even being asked. “You looked troubled, Ms. Noonan. Do you want to talk to me about it?”

After great pain, a formal feeling comes—

The nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs—

In the days after Paris Emily Dickinson’s poem kept ringing through my mind as I tried to figure out what I felt—and, surprisingly, didn’t feel.

JC nodded sagely and continued his bar prep. It was, after all, before the lunchtime crowd. “That song you’ve been humming, I remember it from a black and white movie? It’s french, right?”

Noonan gave him an enigmatic smile.

The sentimental tweeting of that great moment in “Casablanca” when they stand to sing “La Marseillaise” left me unmoved. I didn’t feel anger, really. I felt grave, as if something huge and terrible had shifted and come closer.

Noonan looked around the near empty bar and then declared to JC,

After the pain of previous terror incidents, from 9/11 straight through to Madrid 2004 (train bombings, 191 dead), London 2005 (suicide bombers, 52 dead) and Paris 10 months ago (shootings, 17 dead), the focus was always on the question: What will the leaders—the political and policy elite—think?

“Well, it could have been worse, Mommy. It could have been Beirut under my watch. 299 dead.”

Noonan was not startled that Ronald Wilson Reagan—the greatest president of the last half of the last century, maybe the greatest president ever—materialized next to her. He’d been showing up more and more often to console her lately. She signaled JC to give Reagan whatever he wanted. JC just shook his head and walked away.

What did surprise Noonan was the way no one else saw Reagan in all the sunny glory he radiated in the otherwise dark bar.

Peggy beamed at her drinking buddy.

Continued travels through the country show me that people continue to miss [your] strength and certitude. In interviews and question-and-answer sessions, people often refer to [your] “optimism.” That was his power, they say—[you were] optimistic.

Reagan smiled his 1,000 kilowatt best, and Noonan blushed.

“Now Peggy, remember the last time you told everyone that they wanted Mitt Romney elected? You know when you saw yard signs in Florida?”

Noonan’s hand fluttered, bird-like, up to her ever-present pearl necklace, a present from the great man himself.

No, I say, that wasn’t [your] power and isn’t what [they] miss. [Your] power was that [you were] confident. [You were] confident that whatever the problem—the economy, the Soviets, the million others—[you] could meet it, the American people could meet it, and our system could meet it. The people saw [your] confidence, and it allowed them to feel optimistic. And get the job done.

“Thanks, Peg. Your speeches always made me sound like I knew what I was doing.”

JC filled Noonan’s glass with water and closed out her tab, and then ordered a cab for her.

Uncertain Leadership in Perilous Times, by Peggy Noonan

(New Readers: The Further Adventures of Peggy Noonan is a sometimes feature where we parody the much-quoted Reagan hagiographer Peggy Noonan to try to understand the genesis of her Declarations column in the WSJ. We do not know if Noonan’s quaff of choice is the Mai Tai or as in today the French 75, but to paraphrase the Great Writer herself, “Is it irresponsible to speculate? It would be irresponsible not to.” – Bacardi Lifetime Achievement Winner, Peggy Noonan, Wall St. Journal, April 2000.)

The Further Adventures of Peggy Noonan

Anatomy of a Column


eggy Noonan was deep in a conversation with the life-sized cardboard cut out of Ronald Wilson Reagan, the greatest president of the last century, maybe the greatest president ever, which she kept behind the wet bar at the Aviary 2, her lofty new penthouse high above Manhattan, so chic, so expansive.

Noonan replenished her breakfast, carefully pouring the Mai Tai into the pineapple shell, regaling Ronnie with her recap of the Benghazi Committee Hearings. She felt assured he had not actually watched them.

She took her seat in the hearing room handsomely coiffed, beautifully made up, wearing a sober, dark high-end pantsuit. Young journalists tell me I’m not allowed to describe how she’s dressed or whether she looks tired (no, well-rested) or stressed (no, cool as a cucumber). I tell them if they’re going to be journalists they can’t start out as word cops. Nor should they in their work put politically correct limits on their ability to describe a scene. If you mean to be a craftsman, you cannot start your career as a censor.

Noonan paused to quench her thirst.

“Well, Peggy,” the cardboard Ronnie began, “if I were to say something like that…”

Noonan cut him off, boldly, to prove that she was no sexist.

Chairman Trey Gowdy (nondescript suit, hair under control) wasted no time: “We are going to pursue the truth in a manner worthy of the memory of the four men who lost their lives.” He set a tone not of theatrics but factuality. He defended his committee’s investigation by asserting previous congressional probes had not been “serious” or “thorough” because they lacked sufficient access to relevant documents.

“Mommie, er, Peggy, haven’t we already had eight separate investigations? This sounds like a witch hunt to me.” Noonan give him the gimlet eye, and took a thoughtful sip from her pineapple.

This undercut Mrs. Clinton’s ability to make points by repeating, as she has recently, that this is the eighth investigation. Mr. Gowdy cleverly brought up Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s witless comment suggesting the purpose of the investigation had been to damage her popularity. He blunted every charge and complaint he knew she was about to make.

Reagan sighed, “I recall Beirut in 1983, and we had no investigation…” Noonan inhaled the remainder of her Mai Tai and poured a fresh sip or two into her vessel. She gave Ronnie the gimlet eye and continued.

She then perhaps cheekily pivoted to what we can learn from the tragedy. This was meant to establish her deep experience and command and was occasionally off-point: “Retreat from the world is not an option.” She evoked the Reagan-era deaths of 258 Americans in the Beirut Marine barracks and, more cleverly, security failures in the administrations of her husband and of George W. Bush. That was meant to make Benghazi—only four dead—look comparatively insignificant.

“Yeah, and that’s when we invaded Grenada to give the press something else to talk about,” Ronnie winked at Noonan who smiled shyly back, her hand fluttering to the pearl necklace the great man himself had given her. “It worked swell too, didn’t it, Dutch!”

Peggy Noonan: Two Departures and a Grilling

(New Readers: The Further Adventures of Peggy Noonan is a sometimes feature where we parody the much-quoted Reagan hagiographer Peggy Noonan to try to understand the genesis of her Declarations column in the WSJ. We do not know if Noonan’s quaff of choice is the Mai Tai, but to paraphrase the Great Writer herself, “Is it irresponsible to speculate? It would be irresponsible not to.” – Bacardi Lifetime Achievement Winner, Peggy Noonan, Wall St. Journal, April 2000.)

The Further Adventures of Peggy Noonan

Anatomy of a Column


eggy Noonan smiled gently, wanly, swanly (“is that a word,” she murmured to herself) as the shirtless Juan Carlos, the barkeep at The Chelsea Pier (her favorite watering hole) played a Boston shaker like a drum, filling the bar with the merry sound of ice against metal, and soon set a fresh Mai Tai before her. Cat like, she smiled, gave him a Benjamin, and turned to survey the scene about her.

The television, mounted to the wall was showing the vulgar New York billionaire Donald Trump. Again. She reached for the remote, JC smiled and nodded (“he likes to be called JC because he thinks he’s Christ,” Noonan mused), and she flipped through the channels.

“Why is Trump on every station Miss Noonan,” JC asked.

“There are many reasons we’re at this moment, but the essential political one is this: Mr. Obama lowered the bar.”

JC nodded and tucked the Benny into the elastic strap of his garment to join the other, smaller bills he earned while dancing on the bar.

“He was a literal unknown, an obscure former state legislator who hadn’t completed his single term as U.S. senator, but he was charismatic, canny, compelling. He came from nowhere and won it all twice,” Noonan took a thoughtful swig of her refreshment, and continued her theme.

“All previously prevailing standards, all usual expectations, were thrown out the window,” Noonan replied.

“Thanks a lot, Obama.” Noonan batter her eyes at JC, who quickly resumed wiping the bar and polishing the glassware. Her little bird-like hands fluttered up to the ever-present pearl necklace, a gift from the greatest president of the previous century, maybe the greatest president ever, Ronald Wilson Reagan. She sighed.

Noonan’s nemesis, the Nancy Reagan female impersonator (complete with 5 o’clock shadow, “just like the real one”), occupied the bar stool next to her. “That was some debate the other night, huh, Margaret?”

Noonan’s back arched.

“Something big happened at the Democratic debate. It didn’t have to do with Hillary Clinton besting Bernie Sanders or Jim Webb,” Noonan started.

“Jim Webb? You mean the creepy guy at the end with the weird shaped head? Why did she have to best him?”

Ignoring the rude remark, Noonan continued. “In demonstrating that she is up to the race she deprived Vice President Joe Biden of his rationale for getting into it.”

“Peggy,” the false Nancy Reagan said, “Joe Biden isn’t running.”

“I don’t see how he gets in now,” Noonan agreed, while taking a sip of the newest Mai Tai that quenched her growing thirst. Noonan took a thoughtful sip. She turned to see Nancy had moved on and so continued talking to the selection of fresh citrus waiting to be squeezed, and started writing notes on cocktail napkins. “Asked which enemy she was proudest to have made, Mrs. Clinton mentioned the NRA, the Iranians, some others and “probably the Republicans.”

JC noticed his best tipper was talking to herself again, looked at the Benjamin, and started a fresh Mai Tai.

“She was smiling, but if any GOP hopeful declared “the Democrats” to be on his enemies list he would be roundly condemned as polarizing, and people like me would be saying: “You don’t demonize the other team, you win them over!” It is interesting that in Mrs. Clinton’s case that isn’t happening,” Noonan declared.

“Miss Noonan, ever since Bill Clinton was in office the Republicans have been calling Democrats ‘traitors,’ ‘baby killers,’ ‘commies,’ and saying that they hated America and were actively trying to destroy it.”

Noonan batted her eyelashes again, and quaffed deeply.

[New Readers: this is a sometimes-feature, where we try to understand how Noonan came to write her baffling, non-sequitur columns in the WSJ. This is a parody: we don’t know for sure if Noonan’s preferred quaff is a Mai Tai, but to paraphrase Noonan, it would be irresponsible to not speculate. Regards, Tengrain]

Bacardi Salutes Lifetime Achievement Winner Peggy Noonan On Her Birthday!


On this date in the year of our Lord 1950 in the quaint hamlet of Brooklynshire, Lord and Lady Noonington were interrupted from their elevenses by the arrival of young Margaret Ellen ‘Peggy’ Noonington, and a thousand poins of light.

It’s been a party ever since:


(You can review past posts in The Further Adventures of Peggy Noonan here, in honor of her birthday.)

Pop Quiz!

Noonan-in-her-cupsThe morning email thingie had something in it that sets the blood coursing and pulsing like iced gin through the veins of all good Scissorheads:

FIRST LOOK — Peggy Noonan book cover, “The Time of Our Lives,” out Nov. 3, from Twelve: “Her forthcoming book … is the best of Noonan’s writing collected in one indispensable volume for the first time. With a special, original introduction, Noonan chronicles her career in journalism, the Reagan White House, and the political arena.”

–From the intro: “To me writing is a full-body exercise: What you write comes from your brain, heart, spirit, soul and psyche, you hold nothing back, all parts are engaged. You are asking people for five minutes of their time to read you. They’re busy. You have to show them from the top that you’re engaged, that you mean it, that there’s something you think is important that should be said. …

“People ask the difference between column writing, book writing and speechwriting. In one sense they’re not different: You’re writing. You’re laying pipe only the pipes are thoughts, as John Gregory Dunne once said. But the best definition of writing I ever heard came from the great historian David McCullough, who said, in conversation, ‘To write is to think, and to write well is to think well.’ You think about what you want to say, you clarify it, question it, then say it.” See the cover.

We must help Peggington Noonington title her book, certainly something better than “The Time of our Lives,” though that does have the requisite Days of Wine and Roses vibe.

For a full half-point towards your final grade, help Nooner pick a title that sums up her writing, if not indeed her life goals and work. Photoshops earn an extra credit.

If you need further research, you can see the collected Further Adventures of Peggy Noonan here.
Continue reading

The Further Adventures of Peggy Noonan

Anatomy of a Column


eggy Noonan, Bacardi Lifetime Achievement Winner, closed the curtains in the Aviary 2 (the clever name she gave her new spacious penthouse hight above Manhattan) as the winter storm blasted The City. “It’s colder than Nancy Reagan’s kisses,” she thought to herself as she mixed another warming libation.

Ronald Wilson Reagan, the greatest president of the last half of the last century, maybe the greatest president ever, had made her the Nembutal once, long ago on a cold night in D.C. Consisting of warm rum, hot chocolate, and a shot of peppermint schnapps as a chaser, it had that kind of sticky sweet feeling she always associated with her old boss. At any rate, when the barometer started dropping she laid in a supply of ingredients and prepared for her long winter’s nap.

Noonan picked up The Atlantic and scanned the stories, and settled on What ISIS Really Wants, by Graeme Wood. Two Nembies later (light on the hot chocolate, Noonan was rationing after all), she put down the magazine, missing the cocktail table and declared to the cheery fire,

A U.S. invasion and occupation, Mr. Wood argues, would be a propaganda victory for them, because they’ve long said the U.S. has always intended to embark on a modern-day crusade against Islam. And if a U.S. ground invasion launched and failed, it would be a disaster.

She turned to face the cardboard cutout of Ronnie, and continued her theme to her two-dimensional love.

The best of bad options, Mr. Wood believes, is to “slowly bleed” ISIS through air strikes and proxy warfare. The Kurds and the Shiites cannot vanquish them, but they can “keep the Islamic State from fulfilling its duty to expand.” That would make it look less like “the conquering state of the Prophet Muhammed.” As time passed ISIS could “stagnate” and begin to sink. Word of its cruelties would spread; it could become another failed state.

“Well, Mommy, er, Peg,” voice of Reagan replied from the life-size cutout replied, “that sounds a lot like President Obama’s strategy.”

(An Administration Adrift on Denial, by Peggy Noonan)

The Further Adventures of Peggy Noonan

Anatomy of a Column


eggy Noonan’s old black and white Philco always had good reception if the bottle of gin was placed in the exact same spot, near the rabbit ears. She adjusted both the ears and the bottle (by taking a swig), and the fuzzy picture crisped up nicely.

Noonan looked approvingly as The West Wing came into focus, and not just because she had been hired at some point in her fabled past to be an advisor on it, but because she liked it. Noonan’s jaw dropped in disbelief at a scene in which the press secretary confronts the president and tells him off about some issue. Then she turned her back and walked out.

Noonan grabbed her yellow lined note pad and wrote a note to Aaron Sorkin, saying, “Aaron, press secretaries don’t upbraid presidents in this way, and they don’t punctuate their point by turning their backs and storming out.”

Noonan then folded up the note and tried to stick it in the floppy drive of her Windows ME machine. “I hope Aaron gets that note before the next scene,” she murmured to herself as she headed into the kitchen to prepare her late night repast.

Noonan glided into the kitchen, swan-like and glanced at the NYTimes article by Jason Horowitz. She addressed the hollow pineapple shell thusly:

“Assuming the article is factually correct, and it certainly appears to be well reported, the president of the United States phoned the majority leader of the U.S. Senate during a legislative crisis to complain that one of the senator’s staffers is a leaker. Unbeknown to the president, the staffer was listening in on the call and broke in to rebut the president’s accusation.”

A certain amount of bile began to billow, so to speak! This was unthinkable! Unheard of! Ronald Wilson Reagan, the greatest president of the last half of the last century, maybe the greatest president of all, would never do such a thing! Addressing Captain Morgan, Noonan declared, “Presidents don’t call senators to complain that someone in their office got them mad. That is below a president.”

Noonan glanced at the life-sized cut-out of Ronnie, her beloved Ronnie that was standing near the bar, and saluted him. “You wouldn’t do that, would you, Dutch?” Her eyelids may have fluttered.

“I’ve had it up to my keister with these leaks!” Remember when the NYTimes reported that I said that in 1983, and then had to explain what a keister is? Good times, Nooner!” the cardboard president replied. “I still believe that David Gergen was a prime leaker, though. That man couldn’t hold his tongue still.”

Noonan blinked. “If persistent leaks get under a president’s skin, he has one of the tough guys around him make that call.”

“Oh,” replied Ronnie, “you mean like that time Mommy leaked the stuff about Don Regan? That traitorous rat-bastard, why it worked and he resigned, you know.”

Noonan took a refreshing sip of her Mai Tai and returned to the Philco.

(Standards, Fallen, by Peggy Noonan, on her blog)

The Further Adventures of Peggy Noonan

Anatomy of a Column


eggy Noonan woke up on election day clutching a tear-stained voting stub from 1980 and an hollow pineapple shell. Looking around, she recognized that she was still in The Aviary (the clever nickname she gave her Penthouse), thank God!

Stumbling out of bed with her Lanz of Salisbury nightgown on backwards (“one wonders how and why this keeps happening?”) she made her way into the spacious kitchen where the faithful Conseula had put out the morning repast, complete with a fresh lime. Quaffing deeply, Noonan mused over what she saw as the coming debacle.

“You can get quite a conversation going in any room in Manhattan now by comparing Barack Obama to Jimmy Carter, with everyone defending Carter,” Noonan mumbled to herself. Noonan saluted the ever-present Ronal Wilson Reagan portrait over the wet bar. He was after all, the greatest president of the last half of the last century, maybe the greatest president ever.

“If the president’s party loses big on Tuesday, as appears likely,” Noonan added another splash of rum into her glass, “much of the loss will be due to 3 C’s—competence, coherence and credibility. It’s a terrible thing when a president loses his credibility.” She glanced up at Ronnie, blushed, and looked away.

Noonan recalled how Bill Clinton handled his midterm drubbing. In a news conference the next day he accepted responsibility and suggested the political meaning of the election was that the public was more conservative than he was. “That took some guts and humility,” she said to Ronnie, as she mixed some more refreshment. “Cleverness, too,” she continued. “By convincing those on his left that they had to face reality, he opened the door for his historic compromises with the Contract Congress.”

Noonan grimaced as she thought about Dubya’s press conference following his famous shellacking in which the Republicans lost 30 House seats, six Senate seats, and control of both chambers.

Noonan couldn’t recall the name of the reporter who asked President Bush—callow youth!—the question: “With all due respect, Nancy Pelosi has called you incompetent, a liar, the emperor with no clothes and, as recently as yesterday, dangerous. How will you work with someone who has such little respect for your leadership and who is third in line to the presidency?”

Ronnie looked down on Noonan from high above the Bacardi, “CNN reporter, Suzanne Malvaeux, Peggy. Pretty much ended her career.”

Noonan turned on the garbage disposal to drown out the noise and started washing the hurricane glasses.

(How to Lose, and Win, Graciously, by Peggy Noonan)

UPDATE: Welcome Hullabaloo readers. Nice to meet you!

Peggy Noonan Goes to Wyoming and Rides a Horse


Good lord, she’s parodying herself now.

Tenderfoot doesn’t really like to be in a place where there aren’t a lot of . . . witnesses. She’s from the city and knows the canyons of downtown, the watering holes of the theater district. She knows her Brooklyn, her Long Island, her Jersey, is a walker in the city and a lost rube in the country. She is here because she loves her friends and will go far to see them. She does have a relationship with the American West and does in fact love it, but it is the West as mediated by John Ford, Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry. She doesn’t really know the real one.

She refers to herself in the third person as Tenderfoot throughout. You’ll need a drink to read the entire article.

(Hat tip: Scissorhead and MPS unindicted co-conspirator AxelGrease for the illustration)

Tengrain Presents…

Dear Diary 1

Dear Diary 2

Dear Diary 3

Dear Diary 4

Dear Diary 5

Dear Diary 6

(Peggy Noonan’s Blog)

(UPDATE: I’m putting this on the front page because it was mentioned on The Professional Left Podcast and people are looking for it. Fresher posts below. Thank you to Bluegal and Driftglass for the hat tip.)