Anatomy of a Column
eggy Noonan stepped up to the open mic at The Chelsea Pier to tell her joke, cunning and short and cute. She had just heard it that morning as she was being frisked at her favorite Airport, her favorite because it was named after the greatest president of the last half of the last century, perhaps the greatest president ever, Ronald Wilson Reagan:
“Ten years ago, Steve Jobs was alive, Bob Hope was alive, and Johnny Cash was alive. Now we are out of jobs, out of hope and out of cash.”
Crickets, as they say.
Back at the bar, she asked her favorite barkeep Juan-Carlos what had gone wrong. “The TSA man’s joke was as good a summation of the current moment and the public mood as I’ve heard,” she said thoughtfully as she polished off a refreshing Mai Tai, and proceeded to enjoy the pineapple wedge, so sticky, so sweet. The prize for the best joke tonight is to have your drinks tab on the house. Noonan was determined to win.
“Maybe it was the way he said it?” JC replied. Juan Carlos liked to be called JC. The other, less handsome barkeeps often bitched that “the other JC only thinks he’s the son of God.” Noonan felt uncomfortable addressing him as her Savior, though admittedly she would gladly have communion with him. “Eat for this is my body,” she murmured to herself.
Noonan considered delivery as a possibility as she enjoyed a new Mai Tai.
The television bolted to the ceiling was showing in the ticker that the president’s jobs bill had failed. Noonan smiled slyly. “It’s not that it lost, it’s that nobody noticed,” she said with smug satisfaction taking a long pull on the short straw. “It failed because he was for it.”
Noonan tried that line on JC. “No ma’am, that’s not funny either.” Noonan grimaced.
Noonan remembered that Ronnie had once told her that being President was hard, but comedy was harder. They both laughed over that line. Her hand fluttered up to her ever-present pearls, a present from the great man himself.
“Juan-Carlos, do you know who looks most surprised by the rise of Herman Cain? Herman Cain!”
JC shook his head back at her, and continued to polish empty glasses. Noonan took a thoughtful sip of Mai Tai. “Well, ” she muttered to herself, “Mr. Cain’s strength is not his charm.”
Juan-Carlos was not even pretending to listen any longer. Noonan wondered why she continued to tip him if wasn’t going to listen to her. Then he bent over to pick up something on the floor and she remembered why she tipped him. She dropped another napkin on the floor and sighed.
“Jon Huntsman is not actually a blue-blood, patrician Rockefeller Republican, he just plays one on TV!”
JC brought her a fresh Mai Tai without her even asking. She smiled and gratefully slurped. “Ah, nectar!”
“People say that Chris Christie’s endorsement of Mitt is a huge boon!” JC smiled at her and shook his head “No” again.
“The first joke was the best one, Miss Noonan, give it another try.” He indicated that the open mic line was empty. “Just say it like the man said it to you. It’s in the delivery, I guess.”
Taking a gulp of liquid courage, Noonan waddled to the stage again, and stomped up the rickety steps, her ample calves stretching and contracting on each riser.
“Ten years ago, Steve Jobs be alive, Bob Hope be alive, Johnny Cash be alive. Now we outta jobs, outta hope an’ outta cash.”
This Is No Time for Moderation
America can’t trim and tweak its way back to economic dynamism — by Peggy Noonan