Back in 2001, Peggy Noonan was in love with Ronald Reagan’s feet. (No kidding.) This time around, she seems to have boarded the “Hopey-Dope Train” with Barack Obama. This turnaround smells bigtime to me. Nothing like dashing off a little bull to get on board the Obama bandwagon and make a buck!
A few weeks ago Noonan was on Laura Ingraham’s radio show pushing her new book, Patriotic Grace. (The interview is available on Ingraham’s site as a premium stream.) Peggy’s arrogance and air of superiority seems to have reached full-flower these days; she spoke with her dramatic “sophisticated” phoniness about how the country simply wanted civility and nicey-nice. To her credit (and I don’t usually give Laura Ingraham much credit), Ingraham, who says she and Noonan are friends, nearly retched while on air. She wasn’t buying any of it. And, of course, neither do I, because I know Peggy Noonan from “the early years.”
Patriotic Grace is described on Noonan’s website as:
An urgent, heartfelt call for all Americans to see each other anew, realize what time it is, and come together to support the next President—whoever he is. Because it is not the threats and challenges we face, but how we face them that defines us as a nation.
Today, the national mood is for a change in our politics and it is well past time for politicians to catch up. Americans are tired of the old partisan divisions and the campaign tricks that seek to widen and exploit them. We long for leaders who can summon us to greatness and unity, as they did in the long struggles against fascism and communism.
This timely little book, written in the pamphleteering tradition of Tom Paine’s Common Sense, reminds us that we must face our common challenges together—not by rising above partisanship, but by reaffirming what it means to be American.
That “anew” crap makes me think she wrote this herself!! SO PEGGY! As for being “timely”–GIVE ME A BREAK!
The piece below was originally published on a site called “Media Whores Online.” At the time it was considered to be one of the premiere anti-Bush sites. There was some suspicion that the site was run by Democratic insiders. Sadly, “The Horse,” shut down after a short stint, but its memory lives on, at least with me! The authors’ names have been removed for privacy.
So, let’s get on the time machine and roll back to 2001…The phrase coined in the second part, “political multi-tasking” seems as appropriate now as it did back then.
“Peggy, We Hardly Knew Ye”
~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL and a Fellow Classmate
Peggy Noonan’s recent interview with George W. Bush is the latest among her fawning tributes to the Republicans she loves. With a book on Reagan called When Character Was King due to be published next year, it seems like the perfect time to examine Noonan’s OWN background and try to discover what has shaped her character and writing. Two former classmates of Noonan offer their reflections on what the young Peggy Noonan was like, in high school, after college, and as she rose in the hierarchy of rightwing writers. (InsightAnalytical) who writes the World Media Watch column for http://www.Buzzflash.com, remembers Noonan in high school as always trying to “work her way in” where she wasn’t necessarily invited. (A Fellow Classmate) reflects on how Noonan made it to the top (or whatever) and how no matter where you go or how high you climb, your past is never really far behind.
Peggy Noonan: The High School Years
Looking at Peggy Noonan now, I think back to the night during the early 80’s when I got a phone call from a long lost high school friend who called to tell me in a horrified voice–“Peggy Noonan’s writing speeches for…Reagan!!!” But I already knew and the call only took me back 20 years when Peggy Noonan was just a small town pain instead of a national pain…
Awful as it sounds, I can’t help but wonder if I was part of a small group of people in high school that played a role in the creation of the Peggy Noonan who plagues us today. Could it be that WE were the ones that turned Peggy Noonan into the affected, superior, and snide far-right winger who never seems to go away?
Peggy and I were members of the class of 1968 at (—) (NJ) High School. She had transferred in from somewhere unknown at the start of her sophomore year. My mother was a teacher at RHS and she was in her social studies class. Her recollections of Peggy–long, limp hair, a loner who didn’t say boo, a B student, someone living over a stationery store downtown, definitely not from the tonier side of WASP Rutherford. As I recall her, she was smart, but could be snippy and superior. In fact, in the caption for her yearbook picture she described herself as “Cool and poised”…”Crusader”…”Very argumentative” with a “Satirical wit” and a future in “Journalism.” And, for good measure, she stated that she was a member of “The Resistance.”
There’s only one problem with this last item: Peggy Noonan was NOT a member of “The Resistance.”
Those of us in the VERY small group calling itself The Resistance were, obviously, not among the “in group”–i.e., the football-cheerleader crowd. We were the “nerds” and artists, interested in pushing the envelope in a very conservative time and place: for example, I was editor of the paper, getting hauled into the principal’s office for trying to print an article on the crummy state of the boys’ and girls’ rooms.
Peggy wanted to be in the Resistance, but she was never formally admitted. In fact, none of us trusted her. She was sneaky. She always seemed to have an eye trained on my boyfriend, the most talented artist in the school. You never knew what she really was thinking and she seemed cold and distant even as she spoke to you. I can remember a moment standing at the back of the auditorium, as she earnestly talked to me, seeming overly intense, yet detached.
Since she was not a member, she did not accompany us, the three senior members of the Resistance who cut the baccalaureate service before graduation and burned a sacrificial copy of the literary magazine in protest against the censorship we had had to fight to get the damned thing published. However, in the ultimate proof of her untrustworthiness and blind ambition, she dishonestly named herself as a member of said Resistance in the yearbook!
Was it a desperate attempt to gain acceptance?? Did we drive her to it by not naming her as part of the only Resistance group in the school?? Was this early rejection by her radical high school peers the cause of her going off the deep end and becoming a right-winger of the most obnoxious and toxic sort?
I like to assuage my conscience by remembering that there must have been other formative experiences that we certainly had no control of. After graduation she went to Fairleigh Dickinson University in town and worked for the community rag, the weekly South Bergenite. You never see either fact mentioned in her biography–instead, I think I’ve seen her introduced as coming from Long Island. After the South Bergenite and Madamoiselle, she worked in some capacity for Dan Rather at the Evening News, where she apparently made contacts and wound up as a Reagan speech writer and then the “points of light” girl for Bush I. She married a guy with an eye patch who had something to do with Commerce, had a kid, and later divorced. Somewhere along the way she developed the “snot style” of talk that she uses now. While an intense talker during high school, at that time she didn’t speak as if she were to the manor born–the affectation seems to have arisen out of a desire to become a female William F. Buckley, Jr.
She has a new hairstyle (hair no longer flopping onto her face) and sometimes wears big glasses, apparently to underscore how deep her thoughts are when she is not using her contacts. For some unfathomable reason, she writes nasty columns for the Wall Street Journal about how Al Gore tried to STEAL the election, then fawns over George W. in the White House. This is her hour of triumph.
But each time she comes on TV and just before I switch the channel, for a brief moment I go back to the time when she made eyes at my boyfriend, lived above the store, and WASN’T in The Resistance…I know where you come from, Peggy, even if you’ve forgotten…
Peggy Follows the Path to Success and We Meet Along the Way
By A Fellow Classmate
The most persistent memory of Peggy Noonan while we were in high school is her constant need for attention. She was an indefatigable suck-up with the teachers or any authority figure, a regular female Eddie Haskell.
However, our high school the guidance counselor may have thrown down the gauntlet when he responded unenthusiastically to Peg’s aspirations to become a writer – “Go to secretarial school.” In fact, she did; even worked for an insurance company for a time. But Peggy had a lot of showing up to do.
I didn’t see Peg again until after college graduation. She and my brother attended FDU, and they finished their last semester at Wroxton, FDU’s campus in England. I encountered Peggy again when I went to visit my brother. Guests were not allowed to stay at the abbey, but it was so cavernous I always found a place to unroll my sleeping bag. For a couple nights I stayed in Peg’s room. I recall Peg had the hots for some blond Nordic-type. She sent a friend out to buy contraceptive foam for her. This surprised me because Peg never struck me as the shy retiring type. When Peggy wanted something, she went after it.
The morning before I left to catch the boat-train for Calais, I saw Peggy for what would be the last time in more than 20 years. I was in the abbey’s basement doing some last-minute laundry. Peg was moving rather deliberately and looking very pasty and pained. Apparently she got drunk the night before, yakked in her bed, and now was facing the nasty job of tending to her linens. Ah, youthful indiscretion!
After her return from England, Peg’s first big break came when she entered Mademoiselle’s writing contest and won an internship there. And she was off … Subsequently, she worked for a radio station in Boston and various other jobs in journalism when she hit the big time and joined CBS in New York where she became a news writer for Dan Rather. It was about this time she was dating a very-married veteran newscaster whose name would be instantly recognizable. They had a volatile, alcohol-fueled relationship and when in their cups often fought verbally and physically.
I know this was a factor in her being “dis-invited” to participate in a wedding. Peggy was supposed to be a bride’s maid. But the couple later rescinded the invitation because they feared Peggy and her boyfriend might get into a boozy slugfest at the reception.
It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that I actually saw Peggy again in person. I was working for an upstate New York newspaper. Peggy was going to speak at a fundraiser at The Mount, the one-time summer home of Edith Wharton, in Lenox, Mass. At the time Wharton’s Age of Innocence had just been made into a movie. Peggy donated her time because she was an admirer of Wharton, or so she said. My newspaper covered events in western Massachusetts so when we got a press release announcing that Peggy was going to be the keynote speaker, I thought it would be a hoot to see her again. After all those years I wondered if Peg would blow me off. I remembered from high school how viciously she could cut a person down in front of others. I was nervous but my curiosity got the best of me.
It was a hot summer day. I arrived early to stake out a good vantage point in a large drawing room where a podium and microphone were already set up. With camera, recorder, and note pad, I sat and waited, amusing myself by watching the well-heeled Berkshire crowd fill the room and catching snippets of conversations. A very well dressed elderly woman leaned over to her friend, “It’s really too bad she [Noonan] isn’t in our side!”
Finally Peggy entered the room, smiling and stopping to chat and shake hands on her way to the podium. My immediate impression was the artifice of her smile and gestures. Canned stagecraft. “She sure knows how to work a room!” I heard another say, echoing my own assessment. I joined the line of greeters, purposely queuing up last. She looked remarkably the same, actually better than I anticipated after all those years of hard drinking. Her long dark blonde hair was trimmed to shoulder length. She wore a simple white blouse, jacket and slacks – very understated.
I stepped up and looked right into her eyes. Not a glimmer of recognition. “Hi, Peg. Remember me?” I could see her casting back, wildly flipping through her mental Rolodex. Finally I said in an exaggerated faux “Joisey” accent “It’s me, Peg. (A Fellow Classmate).” Her face broke into a wide smile and she surprised me by giving me a long hug. I had the feeling she was desperately trying to figure out what to do with me. She asked me what I was doing there. We were both trying to read one another. I quickly explained my mission. “You haven’t changed a bit since high school,” she said. I did not take this as a compliment.
I took my seat and listened. Curiously, Peggy remarked how Wharton probably staffed her house with young (read: “exploited”) immigrant girls, possibly even some of Noonan’s own Irish ancestors. I was surprised by her class-conscious remark. For an instant she might have remembered her roots.
Polite applause followed her speech. Then the Q&A. I raised my hand and asked Peg to name other writers who influenced her. First of all, I was surprised when she called on me by name. Later when answering another question from the audience, she said, “When (A Fellow Classmate) and I were in high school, we studied …” I couldn’t understand why she was making such a point to include me. I was baffled by her attention — a whiff of noblesse oblige?
After the program, I met her on the stone terrace overlooking the garden and grounds. I took some photos, asked more questions — all business. Other local reporters took turns getting their stories. Peg was like a turtle with its head stretched out basking in the sun. Obviously she still loved the attention, even at this small-time gathering. After the others left, we spoke personally for a few minutes. She asked about my brother. I mentioned that my mother had recently been treated successfully for breast cancer. She said, “I’ll pray for her.” It was difficult to gauge her sincerity.
It was getting late and I was on deadline. Peggy had drifted off into gaggles of admirers who pressed around her. I sought her out to say good-bye. She said it was good to see me, blah, blah, blah. I smiled and looked her straight in the eye — “Peg, don’t let them take any more pieces out of you.” She looked stunned, as if I’d struck something deeply hidden in her. I turned and walked out. I believe I could feel her eyes on my back.
Peggy is a very self-involved person, but she had to be. She came from a big, roaring, hard-drinking Irish family. It was easy to understand her unassuaged hunger for attention and her drive for success, fame, and material security. Growing up had to be difficult for her among seven siblings. Her parents drank, fought, separated, divorced, remarried. The family moved numerous times, always renting. It must have been like being in a large litter of scrabbling puppies with not enough teats to go around.
It wasn’t beyond Peg to use her physical attractiveness to forge her path. Stories in New York City gossip columns reported her dalliance with Huntington Hartford, scion to the A&P fortune and old enough to be her grandfather. She spent weekends at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis fending off Ted’s attentions. In the 1980s while living in Washington, she married the thrice-divorced lead attorney for the National U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That brief liaison resulted in a son, a divorce, and a long drive back to New York City in a packed-up Jeep Cherokee.
Peg is probably best known for the speeches she wrote for Reagan and Bush I. She wrote the speech for Reagan when the Challenger exploded. She put the words in the Great Communicator’s maw. ["Speeches in our culture are the vacuum that fills a vacuum." John Kenneth Galbraith] Some on Reagan’s staff referred to her derisively as the “girl who wrote the poetry.”
Later she tried to work her magic for the waspy, whiney, imperious Poppy Bush. Her “thousand points of light” and “kinder, gentler” sounded artificial and unnatural coming out of his mouth. He seemed to choke on the words, delivering them with the same disdain he had for that “vision thing.” Anyway, her “thousand points of light,” I still think may be “borrowed” from Auden.
The biggest mystery to me is her simpering veneration of Reagan. The Peggy I knew would never suffer such fools and had no compunction about verbally eviscerating, sometimes very publicly, anyone she felt to be intellectually wanting. What she saw in this bumbling former B-movie actor is a bewildering contradiction to the Peggy I knew. Once I emailed her, “What has happened to your intellectual honesty?”
Peggy is smart – no doubt about it. She also posses an animal cunning for survival. In her first years as presidential speechwriter before the onset of the Rabid Right’s agenda, I wrote to her at the White House and congratulated her on her accomplishments. I even wrote a glowing profile of her for the now defunct Albany Review that focused on her self-made success. But that was before she became the Leni Riefenstahl of the Rabid Right. What she does with words Leni did with celluloid, namely propagandize for an odious regime. Through the years, she has become increasingly strident and shrill, sometimes even sounding unbalanced.
Anyway, just how strong are her political loyalties? Once I was puzzled to read that she had been sniffing around at the annual Renaissance Weekend gathering at Hilton Head, a largely Democratic/liberal event considered a witches’ coven by the Rabid Right. Perhaps Peggy is capable of political multi-tasking …
Another time I read about a controversy surrounding authorship of a politician’s speech. Peggy had praised him for his “brilliant” speech. Later it was revealed that she had actually written it for him. No, she protested, she had only sold him $9000 worth of notes for him to work from. I have a sense that she would write anything for anyone if the price were right.
But most mystifying and infuriating about Peggy is the sanctimonious perch she has erected for herself as self-appointed conservative pundit and arbiter of virtue and character. And where did she get that affected unctuous delivery that sounds like a gene splice between William Buckley Jr. and Thurston Howell III?
A few years ago, Peggy hosted a PBS special series about values. One perspicacious reviewer, however, saw through this poseur and dismissed the production as “sputum!”
In light of her background, Peggy is the last person in the world who should be pontificating about character. Considering her dubious career-advancing liaisons, the way she has used/abused people, and her own problems with booze, it is the height of hubris and amoral arrogance for her to bray about values, probity, and decency, much less publicly excoriate others for their perceived moral failings.
When I read her first book, What I Saw at the Revolution, and came to sections about her childhood and home life I was utterly stunned by her creativity. It read like the Waltons. That was some brilliant piece of reconstruction — all warm and fuzzy right down to eating Entemann’s coffee cake in a sunny suburban kitchen. I could almost smell the coffee. Later I read an article she wrote for some women’s magazine that revealed she had had a “difficult” relationship with her father but they had reconciled shortly before his death. A family member telephoned to notify her that he had died. Quite a different picture from the one she spun in What I Saw at the Revolution. Family values …
In a book, The 776 Stupidest Things Ever Said, Peggy is cited for the following pearl:
“I first saw [President Reagan] as a foot, highly polished brown cordovan wagging merrily on a hassock. I spied it through the door. It was a beautiful foot, sleek. Such casual elegance and clean lines! But not a big foot, not formidable, maybe a little frail. I imagined cradling it in my arms, protecting it from unsmooth roads.”
What the hell???
Her screeds in the Wall Street Journal are unnerving in their wild-eyed vitriol. They are becoming more and more psychotic. However, some media are on to her. Media Whores Online called Peggy an “affected pervert” after she wrote that Chelsea Clinton holding hands with her father was “creepy,” and “All [of Noonan's] columns read like a bad LSD trip.” Sometimes she really does sound like someone off her medication. Other times she just sounds like an obnoxious high school student trying to be a smartass, mistaking glibness for insight.
Now as more and more people are crushed under the wheels of this American Taliban, I wonder how Peggy views herself? How does she watch the growing number of homeless without a twinge of guilt? No doubt her son attends private schools so she has no concern about the decaying public school system, of which she is a product. Since Bush II, the stock market has tanked, layoffs and unemployment are the highest in nine years, millions of people (mostly children) still have no health insurance, and safeguards to the environment and workplace have been gutted. The carnage doesn’t stop at our shores. The world is stunned and alarmed by Smirk’s reckless unilateralism, hubris, and moronic obstinacy.
On the face of all this human misery how does she reconcile her role in it all? Does she have a modicum of humanity? Peggy is a powerfully influential writer. Her words help form public policy and public opinion. They also fuel hatred as evidenced by the Freepers and their ilk. She panders to the very people she holds in such contempt.
No doubt about it, Peggy is truly a self-made “success” — depending on your definition. But I have to ask, at what cost?
Here is something I recently read and would like to share with Peggy: “It doesn’t matter what you’ve accomplished as much as HOW you’ve accomplished it.”
Filed under: Current Politics Tagged: | Al Gore, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, Dan Rather, Eddie Haskell, Edith Wharton, Fairleigh Dickinson University, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Hilton Head, Huntington Hartford, Laura Ingraham, Leni Riefenstahl, Madamoiselle, Media Whores Online, PBS, Peggy Noonan, Renaissance Weekend, Ronald Reagan, Ted Kennedy, The South Bergenite, The Waltons, William F. Buckley Jr.