Category Archives: Noonan

Maybe Only One Sane Person in Washington?

WSJ 10/18/2020 by Peggy Noonan

Everyone’s insane now. I mean everyone in Washington. The great challenge of the era is to maintain your intellectual poise under pressure. Washington this week looked like a vast system fail.

Tuesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on CNN, let it be known she won’t countenance pushback. At issue was the stalled stimulus deal. Anchor Wolf Blitzer noted that millions have lost their jobs, can’t pay the rent. Members of the speaker’s own caucus want a deal—why not accept the president’s $1.8 trillion offer?

Mrs. Pelosi went from zero to 60 in a nanosecond: “What I say to you is I don’t know why you’re always an apologist, and many of your colleagues, apologists for the Republican position.” “Do you realize” the GOP bill is inadequate, she demanded. “Do you have any idea . . .?”

What about Democrats who want a deal? “They have no idea of the particulars. They have no idea of what the language is here. . . . You’re the apologist for Obama. Excuse me. God forbid. Thank God for Barack Obama.”

Mr. Blitzer said he wasn’t an apologist. Why not just call the president and make a deal? “What makes me amused, if it weren’t so sad, is how you all think that you know more about the suffering of the American people than those of us who are elected by them to represent them at the table.”

Is this all about keeping the president from claiming credit? No, Mrs. Pelosi said, “he’s not that important.” “You really don’t know what you’re talking about.” “Do a service to the issue and have some level of respect for the people who have worked on these issues.”

Twice Mr. Blitzer insisted, “I have only the greatest respect for you.” But, he said, Americans need the money. Mrs. Pelosi: “And you don’t care how it’s spent.” “You don’t even know how it’s spent.” “May I finish, please?” “Have a little respect for the fact that we know something about these subjects.” She said he doesn’t respect committee chairmen.

I respect all of you, Mr. Blitzer said. Mrs. Pelosi: “You’ve been on a jag defending the administration all this time with no knowledge of the difference between our two bills.”

Mr. Blitzer: “We will leave it on that note.”

Mrs. Pelosi: “No, we will leave it on the note that you are not right on this, Wolf.”

He said it’s not about him but people in food lines. Mrs. Pelosi: “And we represent them. And we represent them. And we represent them. And we represent them. We know them. We represent them and we know them. We know them. We represent them.” “Thank you for your sensitivity to our constituents’ needs.”

“I am sensitive to them because I see them on the street begging for food,” Mr. Blitzer said.

Mrs. Pelosi: “Have you fed them? We feed them.”

It was bonkers. To watch was to witness, uncomfortably, the defensive aggression of an official who goes through life each day not being challenged nearly enough.

“I feel confident about it . . . and I feel confidence in my chairs,” she said. No, she doesn’t.

And Mr. Blitzer was right: It’s wrong to hold hostage people in immediate economic crisis.

The Barrett hearings were almost as strange. They were, as usual, not really about her and her views but the senators and theirs. But it seemed to me that slightly more than usual they treated her like a piece of furniture. There were bizarre questions. From Mazie Hirono of Hawaii: “Since you became a legal adult, have you ever made unwanted requests for sexual favors or committed any verbal or physical harassment or assault of a sexual nature?” No, Judge Barrett said. Ms. Hirono says she asks this of all nominees, but it would have been nice if she’d said it with a hint of doubt.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse delivered a Rachel Maddow-style monologue on “dark money.” His data board linking “phony front groups” was wonderfully John Nash-like. The not-funny part, the sadness of it, actually, is that you could do a mirror-image chart of Democratic activism and money surrounding court nominees, and it would have been a public service if he had.

I don’t know Judge Barrett’s deeper thoughts on the Second Amendment, but by the end of the hearings I was hoping she’d pull out a gun.

As for her Republican supporters, some of them went on about her large family and motherhood in a way that seemed, subtly, to obscure the depth of her intellect and the breadth of her command of the law. I think some of them couldn’t quite grok a mother of seven who’s their intellectual superior, so they reverted to form and patronized her. And competed with her. Sen. John Kennedy seemed especially eager to save the drowning woman, not noticing she wasn’t drowning and appears, as a lawyer, to swim better than he.

They lauded her large family in a way that lacked finesse, by which I mean at times they sounded like Mussolini advancing pro-natalism as a matter of state. If Judge Barrett were single and childless like David Souter, she would still be a deeply impressive nominee. If she were married and the parent of nine like Antonin Scalia, she would be impressive. It is not irrelevant that she is bringing up seven children. “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions,” said Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., and every child is a new experience. But when you focus on the personal at the expense of the public, you wind up with Mr. Kennedy asking, “Who does the laundry in your house?” I remember when a senator asked Scalia that and Scalia laughed in his face. Oh wait, no one ever asked Scalia that.

Guys, did you not notice the immediate recall with which she summoned, and the depth with which she analyzed, the history of American jurisprudence? Say thank you, God, and move on.

She will be confirmed. Having spent a long time reading of her and her decisions, what strikes me is a story she told last spring, at Notre Dame. It is personal but sheds light on her thinking. She and her husband had suddenly received a call saying a baby had come up for adoption. But she had just found out she was pregnant with her fifth child. She threw on a jacket, took a walk, and wound up on a bench in a cemetery. She thought, “If life is really hard, at least it’s short.” They adopted the baby.

There have been many men on the court who seemed deep and were celebrated for their scholarly musings but were essentially, as individuals and in their conception of life, immature. But this is not a child, a sentimentalist, an ideological warrior. This is a thinker who thinks about reality.

She’s not what you expect when you open your handy box of categories. People who understand conservatism in a particular, maybe limited way—they don’t know what they just got.

Modern, a particular kind of Catholic, a woman, with a lived emphasis on people in community—this is not a “standard conservative.” In her independence from partisan politics, in her lived faith in higher persons, spirits and principles, this is rather a dangerous woman.

And she’s sane.

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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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