Category Archives: Noonan

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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Noonan: On Democracy and Trump

Another thoughtful piece by Peggy Noonan.
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By Peggy Noonan. WSJ 5/20/2017

This will be unpleasantly earnest, but having witnessed the atmospherics the past 10 days it’s what I think needs saying: Everyone, get serious.

Democracy is not your plaything.  This is not a game.

The president of the United States has produced a building crisis that is unprecedented in our history. The question, at bottom, is whether Donald Trump has demonstrated, in his first four months, that he is unfit for the presidency—wholly unsuited in terms of judgment, knowledge, mental capacity, personal stability. That epic question is then broken down into discrete and specific questions: Did he improperly attempt to interfere with an FBI criminal investigation, did his presidential campaign collude with a foreign government, etc.

But the epic question underlies all. It couldn’t be more consequential and will take time to resolve. The sheer gravity of the drama will demand the best from all of us. Are we up to it?

Mr. Trump’s longtime foes, especially Democrats and progressives, are in the throes of a kind of obsessive delight. Every new blunder, every suggestion of an illegality, gives them pleasure. “He’ll be gone by autumn.”

But he was duly and legally elected by tens of millions of Americans who had legitimate reasons to support him, who knew they were throwing the long ball, and who, polls suggest, continue to support him. They believe the press is trying to kill him. “He’s new, not a politician, give him a chance.” What would it do to them, what would it say to them, to have him brusquely removed by his enemies after so little time? Would it tell them democracy is a con, the swamp always wins, you nobodies can make your little choices but we’re in control? What will that do to their faith in our institutions, in democracy itself?

These are wrenching questions.

But if Mr. Trump is truly unfit—if he has demonstrated already, so quickly, that he cannot competently perform the role, and that his drama will only get more dangerous and chaotic, how much time should pass to let him prove it? And how dangerous will the proving get?

Again, wrenching questions. So this is no time for blood lust and delight. Because democracy is not your plaything.

The president’s staffers seem to spend most of their time on the phone, leaking and seeking advantage, trying not to be named in the next White House Shake-Up story. A reliable anonymous source who gives good quote will be protected—for a while. The president spends his time tweeting his inane, bizarre messages— he’s the victim of a “witch hunt”—from his bed, with his iPad. And giving speeches, as he did this week at the Coast Guard Academy: “No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.” Actually Lincoln got secession, civil war and a daily pounding from an abolitionist press that thought he didn’t go far enough and moderates who slammed his brutalist pursuit of victory. Then someone shot him in the head. So he had his challenges.

Journalists on fire with the great story of their lives—the most bizarre presidency in U.S. history and the breaking news of its daily missteps— cheer when their scoop that could bring down a president gets more hits then the previous record holder, the scoop that could bring down the candidate.

Stop leaking, tweeting, cheering. Democracy is not your plaything.

There’s a sense nobody’s in charge, that there’s no power center that’s holding, that in Washington they’re all randomly slamming into each other.

Which is not good in a crisis.

For Capitol Hill Democrats the crisis appears to be primarily a chance to showboat. Republicans are evolving, some starting to use the word “unfit” and some, as a congressman told me, “talking like they’re in a shelter for abused women. ‘He didn’t mean to throw me down the stairs.’ ‘He promised not to punch me again.’ ” We’re chasing so many rabbits, we can’t keep track—Comey, FBI, memoranda; Russia, Flynn, the Trump campaign; Lavrov, indiscretions with intelligence. It’s become a blur.

But there’s an emerging sense of tragedy, isn’t there? Crucially needed reforms in taxing, regulation and infrastructure— changes the country needs!—are thwarted, all momentum killed. Markets are nervous.

The world sees the U.S. political system once again as a circus. Once the circus comes to town, it consumes everything, absorbs all energy.

I asked the ambassador to the U.S. from one of our greatest allies: “What does Europe say now when America leaves the room?” You’re still great, he said, but “we think you’re having a nervous breakdown.”

It is absurd to think the president can solve his problems by firing his staff. They are not the problem. He is the problem. They’re not the ATeam, they’re not the counselors you’d want, experienced and wise. They’re the island of misfit toys. But they could function adequately if he could lead adequately. For months he’s told friends he’s about to make big changes, and doesn’t. Why? Maybe because talented people on the outside don’t want to enter a poisonous staff environment just for the joy of committing career suicide. So he’s stuck, surrounded by people who increasingly resent him, who fear his unpredictability and pique and will surely one day begin to speak on the record.

A mystery: Why is the president never careful? He doesn’t act as if he’s picking his way through a minefield every day, which he is. He acts like he’s gamboling through safe terrain. Thus he indulges himself with strange claims, statements, tweets. He comports himself as if he has a buffer of deep support. He doesn’t. Nationally his approval numbers are in the mid to high 30s.

His position is not secure. And yet he gambols on, both paranoid and oblivious.

History is going to judge us by how we comported ourselves in this murky time. It will see who cared first for the country and who didn’t, who kept his head and did not, who remained true and calm and played it straight.

Now there will be a special prosecutor. In the short term this buys the White House time.

Here’s an idea.

It would be good if top Hill Republicans went en masse to the president and said: “Stop it. Clean up your act. Shut your mouth. Do your job. Stop tweeting. Stop seething. Stop wasting time. You lost the thread and don’t even know what you were elected to do anymore. Get a grip. Grow up and look at the terrain, see it for what it is. We have limited time. Every day you undercut yourself, you undercut us. More important, you keep from happening the good policy things we could have done together. If you don’t grow up fast, you’ll wind up abandoned and alone. Act like a president or leave the presidency.”

Could it help? For a minute. But it would be constructive—not just carping, leaking, posing, cheering and tweeting but actually trying to lead.

The president needs to be told: Democracy is not your plaything

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What to Tell Your Children About Trump

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WSJ 11/19/2016 By Peggy Noonan

Eight points and two anecdotes as we continue to digest this astounding election.

You don’t know a tree is hollow until you push hard against it and it falls. The establishments of both parties did not know, a year ago, that they were hollow trees. They thought themselves strong because they always had been, and people think what has been true will continue. Then suddenly the tree is pushed and falls. To me that is the symbol, the image of 2016: the hollowed trees and how easily they fell. Election night 2016 was not like 1980. That year produced an outcome fully within the political norms: a former two-term governor won the presidency. This year’s outcome went beyond all previous norms. Twenty-sixteen was like nothing in our lifetimes. In the future people will say, “Where were you that election night?” the way they do for other epochal moments.

Much of the mainstream, legacy media continues its self-disgrace. Having failed to kill Donald Trump’s candidacy they will now aim at his transition. Soon they will try to kill his presidency. Any journalists who are judicious toward Trump, who treat him fairly or even as a human being, are now accused of “normalizing” him.

This is a manipulation: It is a way of warning your colleagues to approach the president-elect with the proper hostility or be scorned. None of this will do our country any good.

The left is in enraged mourning. A better way forward would be: reflect, absorb, gather your strength as the opposition, constructively oppose. Lose the hissing rancor. Use that energy to rebuild your party.

Right now 60 million people are very happy, and hopeful. They haven’t taken to the streets in elation, so we can’t see them. They haven’t broken car windows in their joy. Respect their happiness.

This is my fear: The question we ask after every national election is, “Can we come together?” The question this year is more, “Do we even want to come together?” Have the two nations within our nation reached a point of permanent estrangement? If the cultural left eases up and the economic right loosens up, maybe things can be soothed.

I think many people intuitively sense this: The Trump era either really will work or really won’t. It’s going to be something good or a disaster, but it won’t be a middling thing.

This big, burly country can take it either way. The proper attitude now? Give him a chance, watch close, wish well. Cheer what’s sound, criticize what isn’t.

And this: trust America.

Five days after the election I met an Ethiopian immigrant on a street in Washington. We got to talking. He spoke of how bad it was in his old country, all the killing. He’d been here 15 years. “I love America,” he said. “It gave everything to me.” But he was deeply concerned by the election. He has two sons, 8 and 6. The younger got up Wednesday morning, saw the TV and burst into tears. Trump won! The boy calls Trump “the mouth man.” How could a bully be president? “He wept,” said the Ethiopian. “How do I explain it to him?”

I thought. Finally I said, “Tell him to trust America.” Tell him that we are the world’s oldest democracy, that we are a good people, that we’ve been through shocks and surprises, and that we have checks and balances. “If it turns out good,” I said, “we’ll be happy. If it turns out really bad, America has a way of making your stay in the White House not too long. But tell him to trust America as you did, and it gave you everything.”

He said he’d tell his son that. We warmly shook hands.

This isn’t the first story of frightened children I’ve heard since the election. It’s the third. When I told it to a friend, also foreign-born, and so America-loving that he chokes up when he quotes past presidents, he told me that his 5-year-old woke up after the election and sobbed at the news.

Trump supporters feel that the left did this, demonizing Mr. Trump and making him monstrous. There’s some truth in that. But even truer is that Mr. Trump himself scared the children of America for a solid year with his loud ways and rough manner— “the mouth man.”

What a great thing it would be if Donald Trump would take a day off from the presidential transition, go to a series of schools, bring the press, and speak to children, telling them that he has nothing in his heart but the desire to do good and help people. “I have children and even grandchildren,” he might say. “I love them. I will do my best, and I love you.”

Mr. Trump’s people seem to me right now proud, exhausted and painfully aware that they emerged victorious despite the daily pummeling from the establishment and elite media. No one gave them a break.

And they’re right. It was that way.

But it’s not sissy-ish to respect peoples’ anxieties. It doesn’t legitimize your foes’ criticisms to show sensitivity. All presidents since Washington, “the father of our country,” have been seen as a national father figure. It grates on conservatives to think like that. It grates on me. But that’s inevitable for kids who see the president on TV all the time in an unparented country. They need to see a little gentleness and good intent. Their parents would appreciate it. And it’s needed before the inauguration. Impressions will have hardened by then.

I end with a related personal note.

I never interviewed Donald Trump throughout this year’s campaign. From the beginning he reminded me of men I grew up with, Trumps with no money—loud, unsmooth, rough opinions. Where you came from and who you were surrounded by has a bearing on your loyalties and can bend your thinking. I judged that I’d see Mr. Trump most clearly from a middle distance. So I didn’t go, talk, interview. Six weeks ago I called a Trump staffer I’d interviewed to check a quote. She returned my call from Trump Force One. We spoke, and then suddenly the phone seemed to drop and I heard, “Who’s that?” Then I heard, “Peggy, this is Donald.”

I won’t quote exactly what was said. No one put it off the record, but it felt off the record, and some of the conversation was personal. But I can describe it. He was dignified, hilarious and modest. He told me that I’d sometimes been unfair to him, sometimes mean, sometimes really, really mean, but that when I was he usually deserved it, always appreciated it, and keep it up. He spoke of other things; he characterized for me my career.

I’d heard of his charm offensive, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say how charming, funny and frank he was— and, as I say, how modest. How actually humble.

It moved me. And it hurt to a degree a few weeks later when I wrote in this space that “Sane Donald Trump” would win in a landslide but that the one we had long seen, the crazed, shallow one, wouldn’t, and didn’t deserve to.

Is it possible there are deeper reserves of humility, modesty and good intent lurking around in there than we know? And maybe a toolbox, too, that can screw those things together and produce something good?

Where there’s life, there’s hope. He’s lively. Let’s hope.

But whatever happens, trust America. She has a way of weathering through

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What Comes After the Uprising

What, indeed…
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WSJ 11/12/2016

Sometimes there comes a crack in Time itself. Sometimes the earth is torn by something blind. . . . Call it the mores, call it God or Fate . . . That force exists and moves. And when it moves It will employ a hard and actual stone To batter into bits an actual wall And change the actual scheme of things. —Stephen Vincent Benét, “John Brown’s Body”

Hand it to him, the hard and actual stone who changed the actual scheme. There were actually many stones, some 60 million, but Donald Trump did it, battering not just the famous blue wall but a wall of elites and establishments and their expectations.

The moment for me that will never be forgotten: I was in a busy network green room late on election night. We were scrolling down, noting margins in various battlegrounds, looking for something definitive. Then someone read aloud from his phone: “AP calls it—Donald Trump elected president of the United States.” There was quiet for just a moment. I wrote in my notes “2:32 a.m., 11/9/16.” Soon we went into the newsroom for a panel, and I said what I thought, again from my notes: “We have witnessed something epochal and grave. It is the beginning of a new era whose shape and form are not clear, whose personnel and exact direction are unknown. But something huge and incalculable has occurred. God bless our beloved country.”

I am not one of those who knew how the evening would end. I saw Hillary Clinton winning for all the usual reasons. Now the usual reasons are pretty much out the window.

But some things should be said: First, our democratic republic is vibrant and alive. It is not resigned. It is still capable of delivering a result so confounding it knocks you into the next room.

Nobody rigged this. Nobody hacked it. There weren’t brawls at polling places, there was kindness and civility. At the 92nd Street Y I got to embrace three neighbors. All this in a highly charged, highly dramatic and divisive election. We did our democratic work and then went home. It all worked.

Second, Donald Trump said he had a movement and he did. This is how you know. His presidential campaign was bad—disorganized, unprofessional, chaotic, ad hoc. There was no state-of-the-art get-out-the-vote effort—his voters got themselves out. There was no high-class, hightech identifying of supporters—they identified themselves. They weren’t swayed by the barrage of brilliantly produced ads—those ads hardly materialized. This was not a triumph of modern campaign modes and ways. The people did this. As individuals within a movement.

It was a natural, self-driven eruption. Which makes it all the more impressive and moving. And it somehow makes it more beautiful that few saw it coming.

On the way home Wednesday morning I thought of my friend who runs the neighborhood shoe-repair shop. He is elderly, Italian-American, an immigrant. I had asked him last winter who would win the Republican nomination and he looked at me as if I were teasing. “Troomp!” he instructed. I realized at that moment: In America now only normal people can see the obvious. Everyone else is lost in a data-filled fog.

That was true right up to the end.

Those who come to this space know why I think what happened, happened. The unprotected people of America, who have to live with Washington’s policies, rebelled against the protected, who make and defend those policies and who care little if at all about the unprotected. That broke bonds of loyalty and allegiance. Tuesday was in effect an uprising of the unprotected. It was part of the push-back against detached elites that is sweeping the West and was seen most recently in the Brexit vote.

But so much depends upon the immediate moment. Mr. Trump must move surely now. When you add up the votes of Mrs. Clinton, Jill Stein, Gary Johnson and others, you get roughly 52%. Between 47% and 48% voted for Mr. Trump. It was an enormous achievement but a close-run thing, and precarious.

The previous 16 months were, for the Trump campaign, the victory project. What has to begin now is the reassurance project. The Democratic Party is in shock but will soon recover. Mainstream media, tired and taken aback, will reorient soon. Having targeted Mr. Trump in the campaign, they won’t be letting up now. Firing will quickly commence.

There is something I have seen very personally the past few days. The impolite way to put it is the left believed its own propaganda. The polite way is that having listened to Mr. Trump on the subjects of women and minorities, etc., they sincerely understand Mr. Trump and Trumpism to be an actual threat to their personal freedom. Trump supporters are overwhelmingly citizens of good will and patriotic intent who never deserved to be deplored as racist, sexist, thuggish. But some were not so benign or healthy.

The past few days I’ve heard from a young man who fears Jews will be targeted and told me of Muslim friends now nervous on the street. There was the beautiful lady with the blue-collar job who, when asked how she felt about the election, told me she is a lesbian bringing up two foreign-born adopted children and fears she will be targeted and her children somehow removed from her.

Many fear they will no longer be respected. They need to know things they rely on are still there.

They don’t understand what has happened, and are afraid. They need—and deserve—reassurance. Trump apparatus: Find a way.

The president-elect should make a handful of appointments quickly, briskly, with an initial emphasis on old hands and known quantities. Ideological foes need not be included but accomplished Washington figures, especially those from previous administrations, should be invited in. It is silly to worry that Mr. Trump’s supporters will start to fear he’s gone establishment. They believe in him, are beside themselves with joy, and will understand he’s shoring up his position and communicating stability.

Third, there are former officials and true experts with esteemed backgrounds who need to be told: Help him.

They wouldn’t advise him during the campaign because of the stigma he carried as a barbarian and likely loser. It might damage their stature. Better to watch him go down to defeat and continue their career as big brains in exile.

But that’s over.

A Trump administration will be populated by three kinds of people: loyalists, opportunists and patriots.

The loyalists earned their way. “To the victor belong the spoils.” Back a long shot for president, and you’ll get a midlevel office in the Executive Office Building. The opportunists have a place in every administration— they spy an opening, have a friend who has a friend, wind up as undersecretary to the assistant secretary. That’s life among the humans, especially the political humans.

It is the patriots who matter, many of whom kept away from Mr. Trump in the past. They are needed now. They have heft, wisdom, experience and insight.

Donald Trump doesn’t know how to be president. He isn’t a reader of the presidency. He’s never held office. There’s little reason to believe he knows how to do this.

The next president needs you. This is our country. Help him.

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