Anatomy of a Column
“Well,” Noonan said, “you won’t find an honest man today, Diogenes,” warming up to her topic, “it’s not like in the old days when there were some standards, some honor.” Noonan sipped on her Mai Tai.
“Of course, there have always been scoundrels, uncouth vulgarians who wouldn’t recognize the truth if Ken Starr walked up to him,” Noonan giggled, girlishly.
Diogenes rolled his eyes and shrugged, “Let’s not get into Whitewater again, Peg. So tell me about this Santos guy.”
“I assure you, you wouldn’t know him, Diogenes, ”
What do we learn from the George Santos story?…He sounded like Jon Lovitz’s “Saturday Night Live” character Tommy Flanagan, a member of Pathological Liars Anonymous.
But as the story played out I realized Mr. Santos is Sam Bankman-Fried. He is Elizabeth Holmes. He is a 21st- century state-of-the-art fraudster—a stone cold liar who effectively committed election fraud, a calculating political actor who took advantage of voters’ trust. He wasn’t driven by inadequacy but entitlement. He’s less Tommy Flanagan than Patricia Highsmith’s Talented Mr. Ripley.
Noonan paused to catch her breath, and as long as she was paused, had a thoughtful sip of Mai Tai.
“But what, exactly did George Santos lie about, Peggy? I need to know for the record.”
You can Google “Santos lies,” though you’re likely already familiar with them. He didn’t attend the schools he claimed or work at the prestigious firms he said employed him, didn’t own what he said he owned, do what he said he’d done. He said he was Jewish when he wasn’t. He tweeted in July 2021 that “9/11 claimed my mother’s life” and five months later that she died in December 2016.
“There hasn’t been an honest politicians since Ronald Wilson Reagan, the greatest president of the last half of the last century, maybe the greatest president ever, Diogenes,” as if on its own, Noonan’s hand fluttered up to the ever-present pearl necklace, a gift from the great man himself. “I’m absolutely shocked that your quest didn’t end once you found Ronnie!”
Clearing his throat, Diogenes did a perfect recall of Reagan :
A B-17 coming back across the channel from a raid over Europe, badly shot up by anti-aircraft … The young ball-turret gunner was wounded, and they couldn’t get him out of the turret there while flying. But over the channel, the plane began to lose altitude, and the commander had to order bail out. And as the men started to leave the plane, the last one to leave – the boy, understandably, knowing he was being left behind to go down with the plane, cried out in terror – the last man to leave the plane saw the commander sit down on the floor. He took the boy’s hand and said, ‘Never mind, son, we’ll ride it down together.’ Congressional Medal of honor posthumously awarded.”
–President Reagan addressing the Congressional Medal of Honor Society”
Noonan slightly blanched. “Uh, so what?”
Columnist Lars-Erik Nelson – after checking the citations on all 434 Congressional Medals of Honor awarded during World War II – reveals that not one of them matches the story President Reagan told the other day. “It’s not true,” writes Nelson. “It didn’t happen. It’s a Reagan story … The President of the United States went before an audience of 300 real Congressional Medal of Honor winners and told them about a make-believe Medal of Honor winner.” Responds Larry Speakes, “If you tell the same story five times, it’s true.”
“Now wait a moment, Diogenes…”
The Washington Post reports that the White House is feverishly searching the Medal of Honor files in an effort to verify President Reagan’s story. Says a researcher, “We will find it.” They never do.”
“What exactly…” but Diogenes cut her off.
Lars-Erik Nelson reports that a reader saw a scene very similar to President Reagan’s Medal of Honor story in the 1944 movie Wing and a Prayer. “Adding to the confusion,” writes Nelson, “Dana Andrews at one point reprimands a glory-seeking young pilot with the words: ‘This isn’t Hollywood.’ … You could understand that some in the audience might confuse reality with fiction.”
“I don’t think you understand…”
Columnist Lars-Erik Nelson suggests another source for the Medal of Honor story: an apocryphal item in the April 1944 issue of Reader’s Digest, a magazine known to be a life-long Reagan favorite. “The bomber had been almost ripped apart by German cannon,” it read. “The ball turret gunner was badly wounded and stuck in the blister on the underside of the fuselage. Crewmen worked frantically to extricate the youngster, but there was nothing they could do. They began to jump. The terror-stricken lad screamed in fear as he saw what was happening. The last man to jump heard the remaining crewman, a gunner, say, ‘Take it easy, kid. We’ll take this ride together.’”
Noonan quietly slumped in her chair and rested her head on the pupu platter, and her gentle snoring continued until it was time for elevenses.
[Declarations: Why George Santos’s Lies Matter; The New York representative-elect effectively committed election fraud and took advantage of voters’ trust – by Peggy Noonan W$J 29 Dec. 2022]
(New Readers: The Further Adventures of Peggy Noonan is a sometimes feature of lo! many, many 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 really enjoys a pu-pu platter, 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.)
The Clothes Have No Emperor
Paul Slansky who long ago told me I could use his text with proper citation and a link to the book
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