Friday, July 28, 2017

When You've Lost Peggy Noonan

When you’ve lost Peggy Noonan….

OK, Donald Trump never had Peggy Noonan, but he could have had John McCain. Now that Senate Republicans have failed to repeal even a few pieces of Obamacare the world looks in wonder at John McCain, a man who rose from his hospital bed to return to Washington to save Donald Trump and then… to teach him a lesson. If you don’t think that McCain’s vote was payback for Trump’s disparagement of McCain’s military service, you are not thinking.

Peggy Noonan’s analysis of Trump’s leadership style predated Anthony Scaramucci’s profanity laden rant to Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker. We do not know whether the Mooch was speaking on or off the record, but a communications chief ought to know that New Yorker reporters are not his friends. It’s the minimum.

Coming after the Mooch’s decorous press conference last week, his tirade against Reince Priebus and Steven Bannon should have happened out of press earshot. Now that Trump is being forced to eat his tweets and comments about Attorney General Sessions, he and his administration should have learned when to shut up. Failing to do so, they come across as entertainment, not governance.

Somehow the Donald Trump missed the Biblical text which says: A White House divided against itself cannot stand.

Anyway, many people will be talking about Noonan’s critique today, so I will share some parts of it, the better to give you the chance to discuss it.

Noonan attacks Trump where it hurts. She begins by declaring that Trump’s antics undermine his claim to be more masculine:

The president’s primary problem as a leader is not that he is impetuous, brash or naive. It’s not that he is inexperienced, crude, an outsider. It is that he is weak and sniveling. It is that he undermines himself almost daily by ignoring traditional norms and forms of American masculinity.

He’s not strong and self-controlled, not cool and tough, not low-key and determined; he’s whiny, weepy and self-pitying. He throws himself, sobbing, on the body politic. He’s a drama queen. 

Uh oh. She continues to analyze all the president’s tweets—one adds that a majority of the president’s supporters want him to cut down on the tweeting.

Noonan writes:

Half the president’s tweets show utter weakness. They are plaintive, shrill little cries, usually just after dawn. “It’s very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their president.” The brutes. Actually they’ve been laboring to be loyal to him since Inauguration Day. “The Republicans never discuss how good their health care bill is.” True, but neither does Mr. Trump, who seems unsure of its content. In just the past two weeks, of the press, he complained: “Every story/opinion, even if should be positive, is bad!” Journalists produce “highly slanted & even fraudulent reporting.” They are “DISTORTING DEMOCRACY.” They “fabricate the facts.”

It’s all whimpering accusation and finger-pointing: Nobody’s nice to me. Why don’t they appreciate me?

According to Noonan, Trump’s version of manliness is not traditional American. It is the therapy culture version of masculinity. It’s Woody Allen, she says, but without the humor:

The way American men used to like seeing themselves, the template they most admired, was the strong silent type celebrated in classic mid-20th century films—Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Henry Fonda. In time the style shifted, and we wound up with the nervous and chattery. More than a decade ago the producer and writer David Chase had his Tony Soprano mourn the disappearance of the old style: “What they didn’t know is once they got Gary Cooper in touch with his feelings they wouldn’t be able to shut him up!” The new style was more like that of Woody Allen. His characters couldn’t stop talking about their emotions, their resentments and needs. They were self-justifying as they acted out their cowardice and anger.

Of course, you heard much of this here first. Some of you did not like hearing it. But, Trump is in touch with his feelings and he speaks whatever is crossing his mind. One suspects that he never underwent therapy, but his behavior looks exactly like what therapists have been promoting. They will never admit it, but… he is a New Yorker, a proud proponent of New York values. I am sure you are not surprised.

Noonan wants Trump to offer young men a better male role model. Trump believes that he must shake things up and that he cannot get things done if he does not play the role of boisterous, vulgar macho hero:

“It’s so easy to act presidential but that’s not gonna get it done,” Mr. Trump said the other night at a rally in Youngstown, Ohio. That is the opposite of the truth. The truth, six months in, is that he is not presidential and is not getting it done. His mad, blubbery petulance isn’t working for him but against him. If he were presidential he’d be getting it done—building momentum, gaining support. He’d be over 50%, not under 40%. He’d have health care, and more.

Noonan concludes:

Meanwhile the whole world is watching, a world that contains predators. How could they not be seeing this weakness, confusion and chaos and thinking it’s a good time to cause some trouble?


MikeyParks said...

I still think Trump knows exactly what he's doing. Only time will prove me wrong.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Fair enough....

trigger warning said...

SS: "If you don’t think that McCain’s vote was payback for Trump’s disparagement of McCain’s military service, you are not thinking."

If John McCain screwed the country, Trump voters, and his party, to get "even" with Donald Trump, he's even more reptilian than I thought. If you're right, it's time to send him to the flensing deck.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Remember at the beginning of the Bill Clinton administration, an important Senate vote came down to Bob Kerrey, Dem. from Nebraska. When he cast his vote for the bill that Clinton wanted, Kerrey said that he could not in good conscience take Clinton down before his presidency had even started.

trigger warning said...

True. And I was not suggesting your inference was incorrect. I have had little to no respect for Senator McCain for years. Senator McCain, in my opinion, is a reptilian, self-promotional attention whore. Nevertheless, I sincerely thank him for his service, just as I thank other former servicemen like John Kerry, Jack Kennedy, and Colin Powell.

Ares Olympus said...

I don't think Trump's campaign remarks about "getting captured" were on McCain's mind when he voted no last night. But such circumstances shows the downside of Trump's snarky arrogance to say what ever is on his mind, like when he badmouths Mexico over paying for a wall, and then projects his own malice onto a judge of Mexican heritage.

How would you even prove you're unbiased after someone demeans you in public? The only way to prove your motivates are honest would be to take Trump's side, and I suppose that's how such manipulative whines hold power.

And now Scaramucci is in the same boat with his vulgar quotes, needing to work with people in the White House whom he holds nothing but contempt for, so why would anyone work with him at all? Maybe this is "Leaning in", but it looks like burning down the house to catch a mouse.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

I'm with TW. I thought the same thing as soon as I saw the headline today. And I don't think Stuart is wrong -- I'm quite confident that McCain did this to get even. Yes, he likely did it to spite Trump. So much for all the high-minded talk of honor, public service and what's best for the country. It's a great illustration of how Washington really works. The "maverick" strikes again, and the media cheers. What courage.

I don't believe McCain's military service and great suffering after capture absolve him from his horrible decisions in his current profession as U.S. Senator. The Keating Five, a horrible 2008 campaign, his comments about "the crazies" (the GOP variation on HRC's "deplorables"), and now this. While Trump may have disparaged McCain during the campaign, this does not give McCain a pass on the latter: representing his Arizona constituents and his duty to the country. A great many people are suffering under ObamaCare, which we all know is just a hopscotch move toward the Democrat dream single payer. Imagine: your government in charge of your health decisions. The efficiency of the post office, with the compassion of the IRS. Imagine all the "unmasking" of health records against citizens who do not conform to the desires of the D.C. elite. And no Senator or Congressman will ever vote to put him/herself under that that plan. Everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others.

Keep in mind the House is not absolved from all this, either. They sent bills to Obama repealing ObamaCare, which Obama promptly vetoed, as expected. I guess it was all show, since the Congressional Republicans were caught "flat-footed" after Trump's win and had to come up with a plan. Really? So what were they sending up for Obama to veto? Sounds like a load of B.S. My understanding is that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce likes ObamaCare, and that's all you need to know about the seriousness of Paul Ryan and his ilk in writing the legislation Obama vetoed. What a disgrace.

What I continue to like about Trump is his "America First" approach to things, and his refusal to allow the media exclusive ownership over the narrative. His use of Twitter is very disruptive, in a good way. That said, I see a lot of unforced errors in his communications strategy. I hope the Scaramucci pick isn't an indication of doubling-down on that approach. But I do think Trump is deeply loathed in Washington, D.C. because he is the greatest threat we've ever seen to the way things go in D.C., and we cannot expect him to be anything other than despised for it. McCain is of that ilk, so his vote is not surprising to me. McCain owns ObamaCare now, pure and simple. ObamaCare will eventually crash under its own weight. It's a pyrrhic victory for McCain, one that will hurt the vast majority of American people as health insurance costs skyrocket. There are a lot of people in D.C. looking out for a lot of minority interests, but not much for the average American worker. This is more of it.

And let's not forget that Bob Kerrey said "Bill Clinton is an unusually good liar." That's not exactly a character endorsement.

Ares Olympus said...

IAC: Keep in mind the House is not absolved from all this, either. They sent bills to Obama repealing ObamaCare, which Obama promptly vetoed, as expected. I guess it was all show.

Yes, I think you've got it! It's been a show from start to finish.
McCain, who returned to the Senate after a brain cancer diagnosis to cast the dramatic vote McConnell needed to get the bill on the floor, put it as well as anybody could. Just before the Senate took up the critical vote, he told reporters, “Wait for the show.”

McCain joined with Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to give the chamber just enough votes to kill it, 51-49.

It was all a show.

The crazy thing for me is to realize this whole process is apparently the road to a single payer system, which apparently will be a republican plan for the 2024 election, while Democrats, under the pay of health insurance companies will be calling such a plan un-American.

Sam L. said...

I gave up on Peggy some years back.

trigger warning said...

Peggy's a fine writer, for a Progressive. Like Bret Stephens. Far as I'm concerned, both can be safely ignored.

Ares Olympus said...

TW, Progressive Peggy? Soon even Ronald Reagan will be quoted triumphantly by "Progressives".

Here's another juicy section from Noonan's article today, just after Stuart's quote. I admit she seems a bit progressive in her open-ended gender roles.
It was once said, sarcastically, of George H.W. Bush that he reminded everyone of her first husband. Trump must remind people of their first wife. Actually his wife, Melania, is tougher than he is with her stoicism and grace, her self-discipline and desire to show the world respect by presenting herself with dignity.

Perhaps the only thing that can bring Donald down is when Melania leaves him in a final disgust. Has there ever been a divorce during a presidency?

James said...

"I don't believe McCain's military service and great suffering after capture absolve him from his horrible decisions in his current profession as U.S. Senator. The Keating Five, a horrible 2008 campaign, his comments about "the crazies" (the GOP variation on HRC's "deplorables"),: ABSOLUTELY. John McCain took an oath to represent the people of Arizona who elected him as a Republican. He has betrayed them, himself, his oath of office, and the country. I would think that as ex-military he would understand what that oath meant. At one time in his life he seems to have understood, now he does not.

As far as losing Peggy Noonan, I am not even looking for her.

Anonymous said...

Ares Olympus does not change minds.