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 again gave Ronnie the gimlet eye, this time a double, 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.)