Category Archives: Noonan

The Class Struggle

I think Ms. Noonan has been “off” on her thinking as of late, but here she is right on the money. None of the experts are paying anywhere close to the price or feeling close to the amount of pain being felt by the average person. mrossol

WSJ. 5/15/2020 by Peggy Noonan

I think there’s a growing sense that we have to find a way to live with this thing, manage it the best we can, and muddle through. Covid-19 is not going away anytime soon. Summer may give us a break, late fall probably not. Vaccines are likely far off, new therapies and treatments might help a lot, but keeping things closed up tight until there are enough tests isn’t a viable plan. There will never be enough tests, it was botched from the beginning, if we ever catch up it will probably be at the point tests are no longer urgently needed.

Meantime, we must ease up and manage. We should go forward with a new national commitment to masks, social distancing, hand washing. These simple things have proved the most valuable tools in the tool chest. We have to enter each day armored up. At the same time we can’t allow alertness to become exhaustion. We can’t let an appropriate sense of caution turn into an anxiety formation. We can’t become a nation of agoraphobics [inordinate fear of entering open or crowded spaces]. We’ll just have to live, carefully.

Here’s something we should stop. There’s a class element in the public debate. It’s been there the whole time but it’s getting worse, and few in public life are acting as if they’re sensitive to it. Our news professionals the past three months have made plenty of room for medical and professionals warning of the illness. Good, we needed it, it was news. They are not now paying an equal degree of sympathetic attention to those living the economic story, such as the Dallas woman who pushed back, opened her hair salon, and was thrown in jail by a preening judge. He wanted an apology. She said she couldn’t apologize for trying to feed her family.

There is a class divide between those who are hard-line on lockdowns and those who are pushing back. We see the professionals on one side—those James Burnham called the managerial elite, and Michael Lind, in “The New Class War,” calls “the overclass”—and regular people on the other. The overclass are highly educated and exert outsize influence as managers and leaders of important institutions—hospitals, companies, statehouses. The normal people aren’t connected through professional or social lines to power structures, and they have regular jobs—service worker, small-business owner.

Since the pandemic began, the overclass has been in charge—scientists, doctors, political figures, consultants—calling the shots for the average people. But personally they have less skin in the game. The National Institutes of Health scientist won’t lose his livelihood over what’s happened. Neither will the midday anchor.

I’ve called this divide the protected versus the unprotected. There is an aspect of it that is not much discussed but bears on current arguments. How you have experienced life has a lot to do with how you experience the pandemic and its strictures. I think it’s fair to say citizens of red states have been pushing back harder than those of blue states.

It’s not that those in red states don’t think there’s a pandemic. They’ve heard all about it! They realize it will continue, they know they may get sick themselves. But they also figure this way: Hundreds of thousands could die and the American economy taken down, which would mean millions of other casualties, economic ones. Or, hundreds of thousands could die and the American economy is damaged but still stands, in which case there will be fewer economic casualties—fewer bankruptcies and foreclosures, fewer unemployed and ruined.

They’ll take the latter. It’s a loss either way but one loss is worse than the other. They know the politicians and scientists can’t really weigh all this on a scale with any precision because life is a messy thing that doesn’t want to be quantified.

Here’s a generalization based on a lifetime of experience and observation. The working-class people who are pushing back have had harder lives than those now determining their fate. They haven’t had familial or economic ease. No one sent them to Yale. They often come from considerable family dysfunction. This has left them tougher or harder, you choose the word.

They’re more fatalistic about life because life has taught them to be fatalistic. And they look at these scientists and reporters making their warnings about how tough it’s going to be if we lift shutdowns and they don’t think, “Oh what informed, caring observers.” They think, “You have no idea what tough is. You don’t know what painful is.” And if you don’t know, why should you have so much say?

The overclass says, “Wait three months before we’re safe.” They reply, “There’s no such thing as safe.”

Something else is true about those pushing back. They live life closer to the ground and pick up other damage. Everyone knows the societal costs in the abstract—“domestic violence,” “child abuse.” Here’s something concrete. In Dallas this week police received a tip and found a 6-year-old boy tied up by his grandmother and living in a shed. The child told police he’d been sleeping there since school ended “for this corona thing.” According to the arrest affidavit, he was found “standing alone in a pitch-black shed in a blue storage bin with his hands tied behind his back.” The grandmother and her lover were arrested on felony child-endangerment charges. The Texas Department of Family Protective Service said calls to its abuse hotline have gone down since the lockdowns because teachers and other professionals aren’t regularly seeing children.

A lot of bad things happen behind America’s closed doors. The pandemic has made those doors thicker.

Meanwhile some governors are playing into every stereotype of “the overclass.” On Tuesday Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf said in a press briefing that those pushing against the shutdown are cowards. Local officials who “cave in to this coronavirus” will pay a price in state funding. “These folks are choosing to desert in the face of the enemy. In the middle of a war.” He said he’ll pull state certificates such as liquor licenses for any businesses that open. He must have thought he sounded uncompromising, like Gen. George Patton. He seemed more like Patton slapping the soldier. No sympathy, no respect, only judgment.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called anti-lockdown demonstrations “racist and misogynistic.” She called the entire movement “political.” It was, in part—there have been plenty of Trump signs, and she’s a possible Democratic vice presidential nominee. But the clamor in her state is real, and serious. People are in economic distress and worry that the foundations of their lives are being swept away. How does name-calling help? She might as well have called them “deplorables.” She said the protests may only make the lockdowns last longer, which sounded less like irony than a threat.

When you are reasonable with people and show them respect, they will want to respond in kind. But when they feel those calling the shots are being disrespectful, they will push back hard and rebel even in ways that hurt them.

This is no time to make our divisions worse. The pandemic is a story not only about our health but our humanity.

Source: Scenes From the Class Struggle in Lockdown – WSJ

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Iran-Contra Was a Better Class of Scandal

As good a summary of Iran-Contra as I have heard in a long time.

WSJ  12/7/2019

During presidential scandals, members of the media often speak of the Iran-Contra affair. I’m not sure they really understand it.

In retrospect that scandal was distinguished by two central, shaping characteristics. First, it was different from other scandals in that its genesis wasn’t low or brutish. It wasn’t about money, or partisan advantage, or sex; it was about trying to free American hostages in the Mideast, and attempting to pursue a possible, if unlikely, foreign-policy advance. It had to do with serious things. Second, when the story blew it eventually yielded a model of how to handle a scandal, though it didn’t look that way at the time. In July 1985 President Reagan was in Bethesda Naval Hospital recovering from colon-cancer surgery when his national security adviser, Bud McFarlane, told him of a potential opening in efforts to free the seven American hostages the Iranian-dominated terrorist group Hezbollah had taken in Beirut. Among them were the Associated Press reporter Terry Anderson; Father Lawrence Jenco, the head of Catholic Relief Services in Lebanon; and William Buckley, the Central Intelligence Agency’s Beirut station chief. Buckley, who’d seen action in the U.S. Army in Korea and Vietnam and been much decorated, had been held since March 1984 and endured more than a year of torture. Reagan knew this, and he’d met with the families of other hostages.

Mr. McFarlane said Israeli contacts had told him that a group of moderate, politically connected Iranians wanted to establish a channel to the U.S. With the Iran-Iraq war raging and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in his 80s, Iran’s political leadership might soon be in play. The moderates would show their sincerity by persuading Hezbollah to give up the hostages. Mr. McFarlane wanted to talk. Reagan approved.

Thus commenced an initiative that its participants thought farsighted, its critics called almost criminally naive, and Secretary of State George Shultz later called “crazy.”

The moderates wanted the U.S. to permit Israel to sell them some TOW antitank missiles. They would pay, and the U.S. would replenish the Israeli stock. This would enhance their position in Iran by proving they had connections to high officials in Washington.

Reagan should have shut everything down at the mention of weapons. He didn’t. He later wrote, “The truth is, once we had information from Israel that we could trust the people in Iran, I didn’t have to think thirty seconds about saying yes.” It was only a one-shipment deal, he reasoned, and the moderates had agreed to his insistence that they get the hostages out. A shipment was made, and hostage Benjamin Weir was released.

In October 1985 the terrorist group Islamic Jihad announced it had killed William Buckley. (The White House National Security Council concluded he’d probably already died of a heart attack.) Reagan stayed hopeful, although when word got around of what was happening, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Mr. Shultz opposed it. Mr. Shultz told Reagan that while it might not technically be an arms-for hostages deal, it would certainly look like one—and it would blow sky-high as soon as it leaked, as it would leak.

By winter it was clear some of the Iranian go-betweens were dubious. No more hostages were being released. Mr. McFarlane resigned. His successor, John Poindexter, pressed for another shipment of missiles, to be followed by talks with Iranian moderates. CIA Director William Casey agreed it was worth the risk if there’s a chance they could deliver. Mr. Shultz and Weinberger pushed back. Reagan later said, “I just put my foot down.” In the spring, Mr. McFarlane returned for a secret trip to Iran, which he’d been told would free the last of the hostages. He went home without them.

That July, Jenco was released. Casey and the NSC asked for another missile shipment. Reagan approved.

Then a new terrorist group took three more American hostages in Lebanon.

A channel had been opened to a group that included a nephew of the speaker of the Iranian Parliament, who requested various gifts including a Bible inscribed by the president. Amazingly, he got them. Later, it was reported the Americans even brought

 

It arose out of serious aims, not tawdry ones, and holds lessons in resilience and perseverance a cake shaped like a key.

In November 1986, a Lebanese news outlet broke a story saying America was trading arms for hostages.

It was explosive. Reagan looked like a hypocrite—his administration had long pressed others not to sell arms to the Iranians. His people looked like fools gulled by gangsters.

Mr. Shultz later summed it all up this way: “The U.S. government had violated its own policies on antiterrorism and against arms sales to Iran, was buying our own citizens’ freedom in a manner that could only encourage the taking of others, was working through disreputable international go-betweens . . . and was misleading the American people—all in the guise of furthering some purported regional political transformation, or to obtain in actuality a hostage release.” Mr. McFarlane, Mr. Poindexter and Casey “had sold it to a president all too ready to accept it, given his humanitarian urge to free American hostages.”

Reagan was embarrassed, but once he saw the dimensions of the problem—he believed his motivations were right and the American people would understand once he explained—he took a series of constructive decisions. He kept Mr. Schultz, who’d been public in his criticism, in the administration.

When Reagan’s friend and confidante, Attorney General Ed Meese, announced he’d found evidence that Lt. Col Oliver North of the NSC had diverted part of the money the Iranians paid for the weapons to the anti-Communist Contras in Nicaragua, Reagan was originally sympathetic, less so when he was told Col. North was shredding documents. In the end he fired him. Mr. Poindexter resigned.

Reagan appointed a commission to investigate everything that had been done. The three members were sensitively balanced: chairman John Tower, a Republican senator; Edmund Muskie, a Democratic former senator and vice-presidential nominee; and Brent Scowcroft, the cool-headed former and future White House national security adviser. There were 50 witnesses, including the president. A joint congressional committee held public hearings. Reagan waived executive privilege. He accepted an independent counsel.

The Tower Commission’s 200page report was delivered in February 1987, three months after the story broke. It was sharply critical of the president but found he did not know of the Contra angle.

Democrats in Congress and the media had exploited the mess for all it was worth, but on another level some Democrats quietly pitched in. A former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Robert Strauss, met with the Reagans and helped steady the ship.

Throughout the drama the president fell into a funk. The public turned on him; his poll numbers plummeted.

But he wasn’t over. There were great triumphs ahead—the Intermediate- Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed in 1987 and ratified in 1988; “Tear down this wall” in 1987, and its fall in 1989, less than 10 months after Reagan left the presidency.

Our allies were offended by the scandal but impressed by its aftermath. Mikhail Gorbachev noticed too: The old lion didn’t die.

Iran-Contra was a big mistake, a real mess. But its deeper lessons have to do with how to admit and repair mistakes, how to work with the other side, and how to forge through and survive to the betterment of the country.

DECLARATIONS

By Peggy Noonan

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What Trump Might be doing Right – Letters

Some very good responses to Peggy Noonan’s editorial of 12/29/2018, where she tried to encourage “Trump insiders” to “speak up – on the record”.

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Peggy Noonan asks “Trump insiders” to speak candidly about how the administration conducts the people’s business (“Trump Insiders, Come Out of the Shadows,” Declarations, Dec. 29). Two years are indeed enough time to evaluate the conduct of our government—including the duplicity in Congress and the vigilante style of the Justice Department and the IRS. Yet Ms. Noonan focuses her ire on President Trump while overlooking these and other malefactors.

When the press stretches facts about events on Capitol Hill and in the bureaucracy, when the Justice Department decides to obfuscate facts and ignore subpoenas, when we learn that Congress has a secret slush fund to silence sexual-harassment accusers, these scandals often are made public by Trump insiders willing to speak honestly about what Americans have long suspected.

When Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned his post, we heard his message. The former general is in the fight to win, as is expected of a fine career officer. Yet others in the administration argue candidly that it is futile to fight a war for 18 years without rules of engagement sufficient to defeat our enemy. Experience tells us that peace does not come through empty promises and plane loads of cash.

There are indeed many books about the chaos in the Trump administration. But there also are many others authored by supporters of the president, willing to put their reputations on the line in defense of the president’s accomplishments and his right to govern.

Ms. Noonan suggests that honest Trump insiders are cowed by the president’s operatives, becoming “figures of “obloquy.” I am not a Trump insider but I am not afraid to speak up on the president’s behalf. I voted for him to expose the inner sanctum we call our government and shed light on the corruption we all know exists. He has persevered to the point of friction and beyond, and that is where true leaders go.

CONNIE LOVELL
Pinehurst, N.C.

Ms. Noonan wants to learn more about the inner dealings of the Trump presidency. Specifically, she wants to see those working with President Trump to share their experiences, and to “put their name on it.”

Might I ask Ms. Noonan what she expects this to accomplish? All positive accounts from individuals “in the know” at the White House will be ridiculed and dismissed by the mainstream media—that’s a certainty. Any unflattering portraits of the president will be embraced by the same media outlets and featured in lead news stories, followed by endless panel discussion about a possible Trump impeachment.

Rather than waste time on such an exercise, why not challenge the mainstream media to do something radical: Report on the president’s policy failures and accomplishments. That is what matters most.

PHIL RULAND
Newport Beach, Calif.

Ms. Noonan worries about the rumors swirling around President Trump’s behavior and how he spends his time. She ponders, among other things, whether the president actually spends hours watching television each day. Her concern reminds me of Abraham Lincoln’s response when advised that Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was a drunkard and should be fired. Reportedly, Lincoln wistfully replied, “I wish I knew what brand of whiskey he drank so I could send a barrel to my other generals.”

To paraphrase President Lincoln regarding the concerns about President Trump’s TV viewing habits, I wish I had a list of the TV shows he watches so I could send it to Republican members of Congress. Ms. Noonan mistakenly considers it a problem that President Trump is keeping his campaign promises, albeit in a heavy-handed, erratic and graceless manner. The real problem is a refined and oh-so-polite Republican establishment too timid and clueless to convey its message effectively or keep its political promises.

LARRY JENKINS
Madison, Wis.

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Calling Alabama Women

She always makes me think.
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WSJ 11/18/2017
Peggy Noonan

Alabama has its back up, or at least its Republicans and conservatives do, and it’s understandable. They don’t like when Northerners and liberals and people in Washington tell them who their senator should be. They don’t like when reporters from outside come down and ask questions and turn over rocks looking for what’s crawling on the underside. There’s always an underside. Man is made from crooked timber. People from the Deep South feel culturally patronized. This is because they are. Reporters from outside don’t admire or relate to them; when a Washington Post journalist presented as fact, in a 1993 news report, that evangelical Christians are “largely poor, uneducated and easy to command,” you know he was thinking of Southern evangelicals. Hollywood has long cast Southerners as witless and brutish in films from “Inherit the Wind” to “Deliverance” and “Mississippi Burning.”

Politically, Southern conservatives have long decried a double standard. Ted Kennedy spent much of his life as a somewhat inebriated roué whose actions caused the death of a young woman, but now we’re instructed to call him the Lion of the Senate. Bill Clinton was worse than Roy Moore. Mr. Clinton was accused of rape, harassment and exposing himself, but his party backed him and he kept the presidency. Democratic Sen. Al Franken was credibly accused Thursday, by an anchor at KABC radio in Los Angeles, of groping and harassing her on a USO tour in 2006. When she resisted him, Leeann Tweeden wrote, “Franken repaid me with petty insults,” and took an obscene photo of her on the way home, as she slept. Will the liberal media dig into Mr. Franken as they have dug into Mr. Moore? Or is he too good a source and friend?

Alabama Republicans are accused of mere tribalism in sticking with Mr. Moore, who has been accused of repeated sexual predation on teenage girls. But serious policy issues are at play in the December election, including ones that have to do with our character as a nation. Here is one. Alabama is one of the most pro-life states in the nation. Alabamans take abortion seriously and are profoundly opposed to partial-birth abortion, the aborting of a child so late in gestation that it could survive outside the womb, with or without medical assistance.

Most of Europe outlaws late-term abortion. They see the very idea of it as barbaric. As it is.

Roy Moore is against partial-birth abortion. His Democratic challenger, Doug Jones, was asked his position by Chuck Todd, in an interview in September on MSNBC. Mr. Todd: “What are the limitations that you believe should be in the law when it comes to abortion?”

Mr. Jones replied: “I am a firm believer that a woman should have the freedom to choose what happens to her own body.”

Mr. Todd: “You wouldn’t be in favor of legislation that said ban abortion after 20 weeks or something like that?”

Mr. Jones: “I’m not in favor of anything that is going to infringe on a woman’s right and her freedom to choose.”

If you care about late-term abortion, that is enough reason to oppose Mr. Jones. It is not surprising that Mr. Moore’s supporters would stick with him when seen through that light.

But still: It won’t do. All the above having been said, Alabamans who continue to back Mr. Moore are making a terrible mistake.

Just because something is understandable doesn’t mean it’s right. The charges against Mr. Moore are not only serious; they are completely credible.

If you read the original Washington Post story, you know it was rigorously reported, with great care and professionalism. Four women who did not seek out the press, who did not know each other, and who surely guessed going public would bring them nothing but grief, came forward and provided first-person details that established a pattern. Thirty people corroborated details. This is not attack journalism. It is great journalism.

If Roy Moore had a long and demonstrated history of randomly attacking children with a baseball bat, or if the FBI announced it had found in his possession a stash of child porn, Moore supporters would

never back him. But that, in a way, figuratively, is what he stands accused of doing. His “porn,” his addiction, was cruising malls for young women, often teenagers. His “attacking children” was moving sexually on those young women and leaving them damaged.

Women around the world are moving against predators, harassers, bullies, rapists. It is inspiring. The legalities of the Alabama race may be at an impasse, but it would be good to see Republican women in the state lead a charge and insist on someone else. Find another conservative. There are plenty in Alabama.

I put it on the women because Republican men there right now are lost. They are busy playing to every stereotype every bigot ever held about them. They are busy comparing Roy Moore and his victims to St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary. They are busy leaving phone messages falsely claiming to be Washington Post reporter “Bernie Bernstein,” offering big cash for dirt on Mr. Moore. They are busy saying they’d vote for any Republican over a Democrat. Gotta be loyal to your own.

They have been busy making themselves look like fools.

There is another reason Republican and conservative women should rise up. It has to do with the victims Moore chose.

Who were the girls he targeted? Interestingly, this tribune of the common folk and their earnest, believing ways allegedly preyed mostly on the unprotected. He chose young women he could push around. Some came to him at his law office, bringing with them all the problems of broken America—child-custody fights, violent divorces, bounced checks. They worked at Red Lobster, at a mill, on the night shift at Sears.

A thing about predators, from the men of the Catholic Church sex scandals to the man cruising the mall, is that they never prey on the protected. They don’t prey on the daughter of the biggest family in town, the child of the man who owns the factory or the local newspaper. They tend to prey on kids with no father in the home.

Tina Johnson “was 28 years old, in a difficult marriage headed toward divorce, and unemployed,” AL.com reported of the latest accuser, Wednesday. “She was at the office to sign over custody of her 12-year-old son to her mother.”

As they left the office, she said, Mr. Moore molested her. She told no one, not even her mother.

That is a tell, that she didn’t tell her mother. They almost never tell the mother. She’s got enough going on. Maybe she can’t handle more. Maybe she’s not interested in handling more.

Often the victims had had brushes with the law. Predators can smell that: It means no one will believe them if they talk.

Roy Moore targeted the deplorables. They were people with no sway, no pull. Some of them, in the presidential election, voted for Donald Trump.

There are better conservatives in Alabama than Roy Moore. Republican women, rise up and raise hell. That would be real loyalty, and to those who are really your own.

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