Anatomy of a Column
eggy Noonan picked up the garage remote and tried to shut off the television mounted on the wall in the Aviary II, her chic and spacious upper west side penthouse. FBI Director James Comey’s voice continued to irritate her, what with his plain spoken-ness, and she turned to the life size cardboard cut out of Ronald Wilson Reagan (“the greatest president of the last half of the last century, possibly the greatest president ever”) and addressed him.
James Comey’s written testimony outlining meetings and conversations with President Trump was telling and damning because believable.
Noonan picked up the nearly drained pineapple on the dressing table and took a thoughtful sip of refreshment and continued.
Whatever Mr. Comey’s reputation, and it is mixed—an intelligent, accomplished professional who is plenty slick; state-of-the-art Beltway operator with an image of integrity, yet trailed by suspicions of slight smarm—he is a careful man.
Noonan continued to click the remote as garage doors continued to open and close in her garrison, and Comey continued to drone on. She sighed,
It is not strange for an official to take notes after a meeting or conversation with a president, and it is wholly understandable when the president is unusual, the circumstances heightened, the relationship potentially contentious.
And quickly added, “not that we had a contentious relationship, Dutch.” Her little hand, bird-like fluttered up to the pearl necklace, a gift from the great man himself. Noonan glided to the wet bar and prepared some more refreshment in a new, fresh pineapple that Conseula prepared for her, and said over her shoulder to Reagan,
It begs credulity that Mr. Comey would have tapped out elaborate fictions in a one-man note-taking plot to bring down a president. And he must have known it possible the calls and meetings were taped, in which case the contents would be used to destroy him if he lied.
Noonan saw a concerned look on Reagan’s otherwise sunny, smiling face.
The worst part of the testimony is when the president pressed Mr. Comey for his personal loyalty. Presidents don’t lean on FBI chiefs in this way.
Bill Casey’s rictus grinning face rushed through Noonan’s mind and was quickly vanquished.
It was the move of a naïf who’s a cynic—I know how the big boys play. Actually it’s not how the big boys play, it’s how someone who learns about government by binge-watching “House of Cards” would play.
Reagan looked puzzled and Noonan realized that he’s never seen the cable show. Quickly, she explained to him,
It was bumptious with the special bumptiousness of those who think themselves savvy.
Giving up, Noonan put down the garage door opener, and murmured softly
In the end Mr. Comey appears to have done himself little or no harm, but he harmed the president by documenting, again and persuasively, that Mr. Trump does not understand the norms, rules and traditions of his job.
Noonan took another deep, thoughtful sip.
As I watched, I wondered how many other appointees, officials and White House staffers are writing themselves memos.
And Noonan looked at her shelf full of diaries from the ’80s, the source material for her many writings, and best-selling books on the Reagan Years. She gazed at her Pulitzer Prize as she started to nap, the pineapple now her pillow, and paper parasol tucked behind her right ear where the pencil used to be.
(New Readers: The Further Adventures of Peggy Noonan is a sometimes feature (of the past 10 years!) 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 has a tv mounted on her wall, 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.)