Anatomy of a Column
eggy Noonan was splayed out, face-down, at peace with the floor of her office when the phone rang at the crack of eleven AM, and caused her to open one bleary, bloodshot eye. Wondering where the phone was, she searched about frantically in case it was her employer, Rupert Murdoch.
Noonan ascertained that the phone was hidden under the sombrero of a mariachi player who was snoring peacefully nearby.
“Guuuud m’ing. Meep, be…” Noonan said to the sombrero and then grabbed the phone, cleared her throat and tried again. “Good Morning, this is Peggy.”
“Nooner,” screeched her old nemesis Nancy Reagan, “are you in or out? I have secured a quart of cat piss and some water balloons and I know where Don Regan is having lunch today, if it’s the last thing I do, I’m gonna get that motherf…” Noonan cut Nancy off.
“Nancy, I’m at work now, you know how Rupert likes to listen in on calls, call me at home tonight and let me know how it goes.” Noonan rang off, but not in time.
“G’day, Peggs,” Rupert’s voice boomed over the disconnected intercom. “Quite a boozer you had going on last night. Iced to the eyebrows. You gonna write you column on the 40th Anniversary of Watergate? Due today. Don’t be late. Sounds like the old bat’s gonna have a jolly, what? Let me know how it goes.”
The intercom went dead. “Some day,” Noonan thought to herself, “I must learn how he does that.” She steadied herself, hung up the phone, and returned the sombrero to the snoring mariachi player. “The trumpet player,” she snickered. “Blow, Gabriel, blow.”
“Watergate of course was the mother of all leaks,” Noonan mused to herself as she mixed herself an eye opener from the impromptu bar that was somehow in her office. “A culture of secrecy always finds a leak,” she thought as she took a long, deep quaff of refreshment. She stood up on her tiptoes, stretching her ample calves, and gave Ronnie a little kiss on his card board cheek, one little birdlike hand fluttered up to the pearl necklace, a gift from the great man himself. “Thank God that we had no scandals in our Administration,” she whispered to the cardboard cutout of Ronald Wilson Reagan, the greatest president of the last half of the last century, maybe the greatest president ever.
“Unlike the current occupant of the oval office,” she grimaced. “What is happening with all these breaches of our national security? Why are intelligence professionals talking so much-divulging secret and sensitive information for all the world to see, and for our adversaries to contemplate?”
Noonan took a contemplative swig of Mai Tai, so sweet, so refreshing, and continued outlining her thoughts.
“What are they thinking? That in the age of Wikileaks the White House itself should be one big Wikileak?,” Noonan thought to herself as she mixed another Mai Tai.
The sombrero rang again. She answered it.
“Peggy, hi it’s me, Cokie, and you’ll never guess what just happened at Le Circ!”
Noonan grinned as the denouement of Donald Regan was reported. “Three balloons, Peggy, can you believe it, three balloons right on the kisser, and it smelled just dreadful. Oh, gotta go, George Will’s on the other line. Wait till he hears about this! Remember, don’t tell anyone Nancy finally got him!”
“Where was I?,” Noonan mumbled to herself. “Why is this happening? In part because at our highest level in politics, government and journalism, Americans continue to act as if we are talking only to ourselves. There is something narcissistic in this: Only our dialogue counts, no one else is listening, and what can they do about it if they are? There is something childish in it: Knowing secrets is cool, and telling them is cooler.” Noonan took a thoughtful bite out of the pineapple wedge, and slurped the juice as it tricked down her chin.
The phone rang again, and Noonan picked up the sombrero, put it down and picked up the phone.
“Peggy, as I live and breath, I finally got through to you! You’ll never guess who this is!”
Noonan felt her stomach flip-flop. “Colonel North, I told you to never talk to me again.”