Anatomy of a Column
ne Carte, s’il-vous plaît,” Peggy Noonan said as the suave man in the dinner jacket sat down at the Baccarat table opposite her at Shel Addison’s Casino. Noonan tried to keep her cool as the man bore a remarkable resemblance to her beloved Ronald Wilson Reagan, the greatest president of the last half of the last century, perhaps the greatest president ever.
“Sept à la banco,” the croupier said. Noonan smiled her Sphinx-like smile.
“Carte,” Noonan declared. The Croupier dealt her another carte. She turned over her hand, face up. An 8 of Diamonds and a Jack of Clubs, and raked in her winnings.
“Suivi,” Noonan said. “The house will cover you?” Noonan asked the Croupier.
“Oui Madame.” The croupier passed le shoe des cartes to the mysterious and stranger. “Monsieur, chargez-bien!”
The handsome stranger, who dealt une carte to himself–now le Banco–tucked it under the shoe, and une autre carte to Noonan, and then another carte to the shoe.
“Carte,” Noonan declared again. He flipped over his hand: King of Spades and the 9 of Hearts.
“I need another thousand,” Noonan said as she wrote a check to the Casino.
“I admire your courage Miss, uhh” the stranger said to Noonan.
“Noonan. Peggy Noonan,” she replied. “I admire your luck, Mister…uh?
“Romney. Willard Romney. I prefer my juice boxes shaken, not stirred.”
Noonan woke up with a start from her strange dream,
slightly sweaty glowing buckets and bewildered she noticed that yet again she managed to have her Lanz of Salisbury nightgown on backwards. “How did that happen?,” she wondered.
She looked around her penthouse (the Aviary 2, so spacious, so luxurious) and noticed that the old black and white Philco television was showing a test pattern. “Faithful, and reliable technology,” Noonan noted with smug satisfaction.
“Dreaming about Mitt as James Bond could be worse,” Noonan muttered to herself, “at least it was dignified gambling and not horse racing. “Mr. Romney is looking good, as are his crowds,” she said to a potted plant nearby. “When the camera shows people in the stands behind him as he speaks, they no longer look as if they walked in off the street or put a bet on a horse and are straining to see if it breaks from the pack. Now they look like people watching their horse take the lead, with no one coming up the outside.”
Noonan stumbled into the kitchen and saw that her loyal maid Conseula had laid out the essentials for mixing her breakfast, and just moments later she poured herself onto the terrace overlooking Central Park enjoying the sunlight and a refreshing Mai Tai, so sweet. A few pigeons fluttered about cooing and strutting. She thought again about her dream where Mitt screwed up perhaps the most famous line in all of cinema.
“Mr. Romney has a tendency to litter his speeches with applause lines,” Noonan the once-professional speech writer muttered to herself. “They come one after another. It’s old-fashioned, and it’s based on the idea that that’s all TV wants, five seconds of a line and two seconds of applause.” Noonan took a thoughtful sip and continued on musing.
“You know what Republicans on the ground think when they look at Mitt Romney?,” she asked a pigeon that fluttered next to her. “Please don’t blow it,” she giggled as the bird flew away. “They think President Obama can’t win but Mr. Romney can still lose. So they’re feeling burly but anxious, hopeful yet spooked.”
“Applause-line speeches are not right for a time of crisis, because they do not allow for the development of a thought, a point of view, an insight,” she swigged back her now-empty glass, smacked her lips and chewed thoughtfully on the pineapple wedge.
“Campaign professionals like applause lines in part because they think that’s all a campaign speech is, a vehicle for a picture of people clapping,” she muttered to the birds and then realized she had just said five minutes ago that she liked the image of his audience standing behind him smiling. “They don’t care about meaning, they care about impression. But in the end, the impression is bad: distracted candidate barking lines, robotic audience clapping.” The birds looked confusedly at Noonan. “Er, well,” she muttered looking away.
“But people like to listen if you’re saying something interesting,” Noonan declared feeling herself wake up to her topic. The pigeons seemed to be smiling back at her, approving of how she saved herself from self-parody.
“As for the president,” Noonan hated calling this man sitting in Ronnie’s chair the president, but she carried on anyway, “his big campaign speech last week in Cleveland not only was roundly panned but was deeply revealing, ” Noonan grimaced recalling it. Cleveland, of all places! The birds all cooed sympathetically with her outrage.
“I listened once and read it twice: It wasn’t a case for re election, it was a wordage dump,” and not, she thought, like one of her own columns.
Once More, With Meaning
Romney can win, but he needs more than applause lines — by Peggy Noonan
Media Matters read the column, too.