Anatomy of a Column
eggy Noonon opened one bleary blue eye and surveyed the scene about her: the remains of the party tent flapped in the breeze, a jumble of white folding chairs like so many elegant cranes standing awkwardly in a river, a tattered banner falling off of the back wall of the tent read Bacardi Salutes Peggy Noonan! It looked like the aftermath of a dirty bomb, when everyone had fled in a panic.
Noonan lifted her head from the table and felt her cheek where the little criss-crosses from the table’s surface had pressed into her flesh and left a pattern there, and at first felt a flush of shame that dissolved into a smirk. “America is always going over the top. We have gone over the top on security. Stop already. Life is risk. Be prudent, take precautions, but live.” Noonan fished in her Dooney & Burke bag (so supple, so chic) to look for her notes, and pulled out a stash of cocktail napkins scrawled in various inks and pencils. The handwriting sometimes looked like hers, and other times looked like someone mimicking her, swooping and slanting, and generally a slatternly display that would cause the nuns of her storied youth to grimmace in disapproval.
“Two days in, I had no faith in this convention. The hurricane tore apart plans and affected everyone’s mood. Normal chaos became heightened anxiety,” she mumbled to no one as she reached for the welcoming silver-labelled vessel that was cradled between her knees, “like K-Lo’s tear-stained copy of The Lives of the Saints,” she laughed.
Smiling shyly, Noonan’s little bird-like hand fluttered up to her ever-present pearl necklace, a gift from the great man himself, Ronald Wilson Reagan, the greatest president of the last half of the last century, maybe the greatest president ever. Noonan recalled the 1976 GOP convention, the Republican Party torn in two over Ford and Reagan. Before the speaking began, the California delegation was feeling frisky. Hundreds of delegates started to chant: “RAY-GUNNN!” And the New Mexico delegation would pause a beat and then answer: “Olé!” They kept it up—“Reagan!” “Olé!” Across the floor the New York delegation steamed. They were for Ford. So the next time the Californians bellowed “Reagan,” the New Yorkers, hundreds of them, bellowed back, “Oy vey!”
Noonan returned to her stack of disreputable cocktail napkins. “It started with Mike Huckabee. “He is a performer, he knows how to do this, and he made the audience listen,” she read. “Blah, blah, blah. Huckabee hits a …homer.” Noonan paused for a moment. “I hope that says homer,” she whispered, “and not…” her voice trailing off.
“I suppose I can fill in the blanks later,” she muttered, “I must have been running out of ink, Noonan declared. “No doubt Rupert has already secured the official videos of the convention,” she thought with some confidence, “if not most of the video from thousands of cell phones there.” She made a mental note to ask him sometime how he does that.
Noonan returned to her notes, pastiches, really, she finally decided. “Take THAT Sister Mary-Margaret,” she hissed to herself with some grim satisfaction that the $10 vocabulary word finally paid off.
“Ann Romney was stunning, sweet, full of enthusiasm, a little shy, a little game for the battle,” Noonan read, thoughtfully taking a sip from a fresh bottle she found nearby under a snoring Maureen O’Dowd. Noonan continued, “…it was scattered, full of declarations — “Tonight I want to talk to you about love” — that weren’t built upon but abandoned.”
Noonan adjusted a strap that was digging into her substantial décolletage courtesy of Bergdorff’s sadistic fitting shop. “She failed to make it new and so she failed to make it real.” Noonan recalled a vision in scarlet, giggling, with a lot of teeth–rows upon rows of them, startling white–and Noonan hurried onto her next epistle on a napkin.
Chris Christie’s entry just said big, and it was followed by “To the moon, Alice!” Noonan, looked around to ensure no one was awake or watching as she crumpled up the napkin, and took a long-pull from MoDo’s bottle, and then scratched herself, indelicately.
“Condi Rice was a star,” Noonan read, and then noticed a circle slash with the words Bush and OBL inside, and wondered what that meant. In much more shaky hand, she noticed that McCain was followed by Bombs Away! Noonan vowed to take better notes next time because these messages from the past few days were cryptic at best.
“Paul Ryan,” Noonan read with keen enthusiasm, “poster on ceiling, central planners.” She starred at the napkin, puzzled, but soldiered on McCain style… “teleprompter forced him to shift his eyes from screen to screen and deliver the good line.” Noonan rubbed her head, which stopped throbbing for a brief moment–teleprompters!–and Paul Ryan’s visage appeared before her, his icy blue eyes piercing her soul like one of Saint Sebastian’s storied arrows. “Young, too young,” she sighed shaking her head.
The next napkin baffled her as well. “Jeb. Milk.” Crumpled and tossed, it joined the others on the floor.
The next napkin was even more cryptic, “Sad Mormons on Parade, legal pad.” She crumpled that one up, too, and tossed it over her shoulder.
“The vibe of this convention has been weird. There has been a constant sense of something impending, some doom about to be delivered,” she declared to herself.
Noonan was very puzzled by the next one. “Look-up lyrics for I am, I said–Neil Diamond. Clint.” Then she recoiled with horror as she remembered the full import of this one. “Make my day, she muttered to herself. “Well that,” Noonan noted dryly, “is going to take some rewriting.”
Noonan patted down her hair and watched the handsome Hispanic men cleaning up the big tent, and took another thoughtful swig, and felt a warmth and calmness flow over her. Noonan knew that Marco Rubio would be next in the agenda and looked at her notes fondly. No notes on Rubio. Did he even perform? Noonan was concerned because as a rising star her readers would demand to know her thoughts on the handsome young man, so charismatic, so well-spoken.
Last napkin. “Romney,” Noonan read, “had to achieve adequacy. He did.”
Noonan stood up on wobbly but ample calves, and nudged MoDo with her foot, the snoring stopped. “Maureen, wake up. One requires the assistance of the young. Did Rubio perform last night?”
O’Dowed, rolled over revealing a shirtless Rubio, cherubic-faced and sucking his thumb. “Yes, Peggy,” she replied with a smile, and a sly flick of her tongue across her lips. “Twice.”
Also/Too: Peggy Noonan’s WSJ Blog
Please also consult the definitive guide to Fear and Loathing in Tampa by Axel Grease