In a just world, Peggy Noonan would have repented publicly for turning her coat and endorsing Barack Obama in 2008 and then retired to a nunnery to spend her remaining years making grape jelly. But, no, alas! she is still holding forth regularly as a “conservative” commentator at the Wall Street Journal editorial page.
Just last week, Peggy horrified some of us afresh with a gushing puff-piece praising Joe Biden’s running-mate to the stars.
She is an excellent performer of politics. Like Bill Clinton she enjoys and has a talent for the necessary artifice. She takes obvious pleasure in campaigningâ€”making speeches, waving, laughing, pressing the flesh. In committee hearings she cocks her brow in the closeup to show skepticism. Her glamour, and her consciousness of it, were vivid enough to be spoofed by Maya Rudolph on â€œSaturday Night Live.â€
Reading her 2019 autobiography, â€œThe Truths We Hold: An American Journey,â€ it occurs to you that what sheâ€™s really bringing Joe Biden is the things she doesnâ€™t say and the stories she doesnâ€™t tell on the trail.
She was born and raised in a climate of liberal activism in Oakland and Berkeley, Calif., in the 1960s and â€™70s. Her father, Donald Harris, born in Jamaica in 1938, was a student there and went on to be an economics professor at Stanford. Her mother, Shyamala, was born in southern India, graduated from the University of Delhi at 19, and earned a doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley. Shyamala, who died in 2009, was expected to return home for an arranged marriage; instead she met Donald. They married, had two children and divorced.
When Kamala Harris was a toddler, her parents brought her to civil-rights marches. â€œI have young memories of a sea of legs moving about,â€ she writes. Her mother liked to tell a story. Once Kamala was fussing in her stroller, and Mrs. Harris leaned down and asked, â€œWhat do you want?â€ â€œ â€˜Fweedom!â€™ I yelled back.â€
The general atmosphere was â€™60s Berkeleyâ€”diverse, full of passion, consumed by identity politics and debates about liberation.
They took periodic trips to India. â€œMy mother, grandparents, aunts, and uncle instilled us with pride in our South Asian roots. . . . We were raised with a strong awareness of and appreciation for Indian culture.â€ (India looks to be an increasingly important ally as Americaâ€™s relationship with China deteriorates. If Biden-Harris wins and her background is helpful, good.)
She went to ballet class, sang in the choir in the 23rd Avenue Church of God, went to a black cultural center called Rainbow Sign on Thursdays. She saw Rep. Shirley Chisholm speak and was electrified.
By the time Ms. Harris graduated high school she wanted to become a lawyer like her heroes Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley. Also like her Uncle Sherman and a family friend named Henry. â€œAny time someone had a problem . . . the first thing youâ€™d hear was, â€˜Call Henry, call Sherman. Theyâ€™ll know what to do.â€™ . . . I wanted to be the one people called.â€ …
[W]e get a sense of gusto. She admires toughness. She is a natural pol. She was bred to achieve in an aspirational immigrant environment. She loves to compete.
She is warm, humorous. Like most of the men around her in politics, she enjoys being important. She isnâ€™t embarrassed by attention.
Peggy omits mentioning the unpleasant reality of exactly how a graduate of a third-rate law school, who flunked the bar exam, rose so rapidly to the upper levels of California democrat party machine politics.
This week, Peggy delivered a tepid critique of the democrat convention: boring, artificial, and way too full of grievance-mongering. But, she also endorsed, and enthusiastically echoes, all the scurrilous crap they flung at Donald Trump.
All summer Iâ€™ve been running into two kinds of people. One kind says, â€œThat man is a living shame on our country and must be removed.â€ The other kind says very little. They donâ€™t defend him. They say, â€œI canâ€™t believe I may vote for him, but . . .â€ And always they explain it this way: â€œWhat the other guys are gonna do on taxes,â€ â€œWhat the other guys will do to my industry,â€ â€œWhat the Democrats will do to the economy.â€
Iâ€™m getting the impression that for a lot of people, the ballot this fall wonâ€™t read â€œTrump vs. Bidenâ€ but â€œTrump vs. What the Other Guys Will Do.â€ …
Barack Obamaâ€™s speech will stick in history; it wonâ€™t just slide away. No former president has ever publicly leveled anything like this criticism at a sitting successor: â€œI did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously, that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care. But he never did. For close to four years now, he has shown no interest in putting in the work.â€
This is a former president calling the current one shallow and lazy. He also suggested heâ€™s greedy and intellectually incapable. Unprecedented? Yes. Unjustified? No, alas. And Iâ€™m not seeing Trump supporters rise up in indignant defense. They know itâ€™s true, too.
Reading this, my blood boiled and I marveled at the extent to which long residence in the elite community of fashion bubble has distorted and impaired her perception of reality.
OK, it is true that Donald Trump talks differently from the typical representative of the national upper middle class elite. He boasts and brags. He constantly indulges in exaggeration and he interrupts his own sentences, inserting annoying little modifiers like “the most beautiful.” Trump also dresses and grooms himself peculiarly. His suits are always identical and blue and look like they came from Robert Hall. He wears (almost always) monochrome neckties, usually red, and always tied too long. And he dyes his hair and wears it peculiarly long and combed over elaborately in a very strange fashion obviously contrived to cover at any cost his baldness.
Trump offends the delicate sensibilities of people like Peggy Noonan, too, by his conspicuous lack of inhibition and propriety. Trump gets online and tweets what he thinks and feels, insulting and attacking his opponents in government and the media with no consideration to his own dignity or that of his position. Trump obviously is not lazy. His problem is hyperactivity.
I think “shallow” is also not the mot juste. Trump is not so much shallow as undomesticated and unrefined. Donald Trump offends the dickens out of our national elite, because he is clearly “not one of us.” Trump is an outsider, a parvenu from the Outer Boroughs, who dresses, walks, talks, and behaves like –oh, dear! oh, dear!– one of the common people.
Donald Trump is not glib and smooth-talking. He cannot produce the same kind of ever-so-nice sounding gaseous rhetoric as Obama. He does not understand how he’s supposed to behave. He breaks all the rules and knocks over the tea set every time.
Why all this rankles, why this stings so sharply, lies precisely in the fact that the people’s elevation of Donald Trump constitutes a distinct rejection, an undeniable slap in the face to the entire America establishment elite. The people rejected the democrat elite’s left-wing insanity, and they also rejected the Republican elite for having failed for so long to defeat Leftism absolutely and decisively. And, there is an especially sharp, added level of pain for establishmentarians looking on: Trump is winning, Trump is faithfully, unprecedentedly fulfilling campaign promises. The horrible, uncouth and unworthy Trump shrugs off easily the worst the democrat opposition can do, and marches on, trampling taboos underfoot, from victory to victory.
I didn’t support Trump in 2016. I had all the same stylistic reservations as Peggy and George Will and all the other Never Trumpers. However, I gradually observed that Trump really is patriotic and sincere. I liked many of his appointments and I really like the majority of his policies. Sure, I recognize that Trump is eccentric and flawed, but I also recognize how much he has accomplished and how willing he is to fight. You can’t come to me and tell me that Donald Trump is too dumb and too shallow to be president, we have to have Joe Biden instead! If Donald Trump owned a dog, it would be smarter than Joe Biden. And that dog would be more principled.
Peggy Noonan ought to be ashamed.