Archive for Peggy Noonan

Is President Obama Moving To The Center?

Posted in On Right Wing Pundits and Bloviators, Playthell on politics with tags , , , on December 12, 2009 by playthell


 A Centrist by Nature?

In a twelve hundred word column in her Saturday December 12, Wall street Journal titled “Obama Moves Toward Center Stage,” Peggy Noonan announces that our President has moved from the left to the center of the American political spectrum.  “The political headline this week is that President Obama appears to be attempting to move toward the center,” she tells us with more than a hint of sarcasm, “or what he believes is the center.”  Ms. Noonan bases what she evidently believes to be insightful political commentary on a few statements the President made during recent speeches: “We saw the big pivot in two major speeches, one on the economy and the other, in Oslo, on peace.”  Actually the President’s Nobel Lecture was on war and peace.

The speeches in question are his address on the economy at the Brookings Institution – which Ms. Noonan, true to her hard right soul, labels as “left leaning” – and his magnificent Nobel Lecture.  Predictably she finds the greatest revelations in his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize.  What impressed her most was the President’s defense of the concept of “just War,” his assertion of his right and responsibility to defend America national security and vital interests by force of arms, and his celebration of America’s role as peacemaker since World War II.

However Ms. Noonan tells us much about her own vision of the world by the way she interprets the President’s message.  Rather than celebrate the amazing philosophical dexterity and dazzling eloquence of Mr. Obama’s oration at Oslo – in which he argued in defense of war while accepting the world’s most prestigious prize for peace and received a standing ovation – she reduces his message to crude jingoistic propaganda in defense of the bogus idea of American Exceptionalism.  “At his Nobel laureate speech in Oslo,” she tells us “the president used an audience of European leftists to place himself smack-dab in the American center. He said, essentially: ‘War is bad but sometimes justified, America is good, and I am an American.’” 

Like most die hard right wing ideologues Ms. Noonan has learned nothing from recent disasters resulting from this self-righteous ideology. It is this Barnum and Bailey view of the world that prompted the Republican’s to launch a war of choice of against an unoffending nation – a war that has lasted almost twice as long as World War II and Professor Joseph Stiegletz, a Nobel Laureate in Economics, calculates will cost three trillion dollars when the final bill comes due, while killing hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens, who are 90% of the casualties.  It is especially instructive to recall that Ms. Noonan was a cheerleader for that criminal invasion, which has greatly expanded the ranks of the Islamic Jihadists by converting the preachments of Osama bin Laden into self-fulfilling prophecies, while giving new life to the Jihadists by torturing prisoners and diverting American forces from the global war on terror which was then centered in Afghanistan. 

And to argue – as all of the false press prophets who predicted that Sadam Huessein had “weapons of mass destruction” and was in league with Al Qaeda are now doing – that “everybody believed this at the time” holds no water with me.  I didn’t believe any of it, and if Ms. Noonan or her supporters doubt my claim they have but to read “The Prophetic Commentary On Iraq” – a 3000 word commentary which was published and aired on WBAI FM in New York  on the eve of the invasion – on this site.  Hence I fear that Ms. Noonan’s prominence – as well as the rest of the lily white punditariat who are provided platforms to pontificate on foreign affairs – has less to do with her competence than her race, class and gender.  This situation has led to much of the muddled thinking that characterizes American public opinion regarding the rest of the world.

Predictably, Ms. Noonan offered soaring praises for Mr. Obama’s references to the American role in defeating the NAZIS and rebuilding post war western Europe under the Marshall Plan, and she gave a ringing endorsement of the President’s assertion that this constitutes “”’a legacy for which my own country is rightfully proud. . . . Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.’”   Alas, while Ms. Noonan’s receives this claim as sacred gospel, I regard it as American boosterism, half truths that obscure the deeper realities of America’s role in the world over the past sixty years and a measure of the extent to which Mr. Obama is held captive to the master narrative composed by the official mythmakers who control the apparatus of public opinion. 

Mr. Obama is more burdened with defending this mythological view of America as “the shining city on the hill,” the “light of the civilized world and “the last best hope for mankind” precisely because the Republican slime machine has been working overtime from day one to make him appear unpatriotic at best and treasonous at worse.  In fact, his skillful attempts at restoring America’s moral standing in the world through artful diplomacy has been recently labeled as “giving aid and comfort to the enemy” by Dirty Dick Cheney, the elder statesman of Ms. Noonan’s party who is both a war criminal  and the architect of the disastrous invasion of Iraq.  The language of Dirty Dick’s charge is identical to the language defining treason in the US Constitution. That Ms. Noonan has remained silent in the face of these outrageous charges divests her of any authority, moral or intellectual, to comment on the serious issues of our time. 

Hence her twisted conclusion as to the significance of Mr. Obama’s speech should come as no surprise to those who have been paying attention to Ms. Noonan’s views. “All of this,” she writes,  “as William Safire used to say, was good stuff. There were wiggy moments—his references to John Paul II in Poland and Richard Nixon in China were historically unknowing to the point of being utterly inapt—but they did no particular harm.”  Not only is Pugnacious Peggy wrong about the President’s references – which were entirely appropriate – but it is a classic case of the pot maligning the kettle for being black.  To better understand the point I am making here one should go to “The Hysteric as Pundit: Notes on a Weird, Wiggy, White Woman” and read my piece about Peg’s views on President Obama.

In her attempt to make the case that the President is “moving to center stage” Peg sites certain passages from his Brookings Institute speech on the economy.  “The president put unusual emphasis on—and showed unusual sympathy for—Americans in business…”  She Emphasized  the President’s  proposal to cut taxes on small business in order to stimulate growth in that sector and concluded: “ It was as if he were waving his arms and saying, ‘Hey taxpayer, I’m not your enemy!’ The only reason a president would find it necessary to deliver such a message is if he just found out taxpayers do think he’s the enemy.”

Well, if this is true it is because of the massive disinformation campaign Peg’s party has been waging to confuse a largely clueless public.  Finally she sums up the president’s proposals with this self-serving piffle: “This is how Republicans, moderates and centrists think, and talk.”  This statement is both  misleading and irrelevant, because everybody who knows anything about economics is recommending the policy the president is proposing, and Mr. Obama has always been a centrist.  He made that clear early on in his bid for the presidency when he declared that he saw no red or blue, black or white, left or right America; rather he saw only one America.  That’s dead in the center.  The only reason he seems to be a leftist is because Peg is so far to the right!  And it distorts her vision. 

Not content to be mistaken and irrelevant, Ms. Noonan makes herself ridiculous.  “There continues to be a particular challenge for the president,” she assures us.  “and it is an affection gap. It is not hard to respect this president, not hard to want to listen to his views and weigh his arguments. It is a challenge, however, to feel warmly toward him. This matters politically because Americans like to feel affection for their presidents, and are more likely to forgive them for policy differences when they do.”  Clearly most people who loved the President when they voted for him love him now.  I know I do.  And considering the horrendous problems he inherited from the corrupt and incompetent Bushmen – those murderous clowns who wrecked the economy, slept at the wheel while the Muslim Jihadists successfully carried out the most spectacular foreign attack on the US since the war of 1812, and plunged the nation into two wars and won neither – it is a miracle that his approval ratings are as high as they are.  And they compare very well to her idol Ronald Reagan at this juncture in his tenure in the Oval Office.” Furthermore her snide and silly comment that if President Obama was “going to bow to anything he should bow to reality” stretches  beyond ridiculous to the absurd for a woman who claims to have seen the face of the devil at ground zero!

Finally, on top of being wrong, irrelevant, ridiculous and absurd Old peg also reveals herself as petty.  “The White House lately seems very fancy. When you think of them now, it’s all tuxedoes, gowns and Hollywood. There’s a certain a metallic glamour. But metal is cold.”   Reading this comment I am reminded of a bit of advice  offered by my former colleague Mike Thelwell – essayist, novelist and distinguished Professor Literature, and political activist –  “If you do nothing but write…you will  eventually begin to tell lies.  Hence Ms. Noonan should recall that it was her hero, Ronald Reagan, that brought Hollywood chic to Washington – as I noted at the time in a commentary on his first inauguration titled: “Hollywood Goes to Washington: Notes on the Coronation Of Ronnie Reagan! “

Hollywood Fashion and Set Designers Ruled! 




Playthell Benjamin

Harlem New York

December 12, 2009 








The Hysteric As Pundit

Posted in On Right Wing Pundits and Bloviators, Playthell on politics with tags , , , on September 19, 2009 by playthell

  Peggy Noonan: A Weird Wiggy Woman

 She Saw visions of Satan and the Cross at Ground Zero

  There have been many memorable incidents during the Presidential election, but none occasioned more anger and laughter, amusement and contempt, boredom and enlightenment than reading and listening to the professional pundits.  By now I know what to expect from them so I am seldom surprised by their opinions.  But there are some notable exceptions.

Just when I had become convinced that Peggy Noonan couldn’t say anything dumber than the hysterical blood thirsty diatribe she wrote in the aftermath of 9/11 – an event that drove many otherwise sane and reasonable people over the edge – in which she castigated evil doers who didn’t recognize that America was the light of the world and genuflect upon the mere mention of the US, she then goes and publishes her commentary on Barack Obama’s impending acceptance speech at the Democratic Party convention.  Upon first hearing of it I just passed it off as “fox and the grapes stuff,” more Republican lying and signifying, but then I found out what she had actually written.  I was aghast!

At first reading one can see that gross exaggerations, false analogies, indifference to facts, and historical ignorance injure her argument beyond repair and render it almost laughable.   Peg is spared a clown’s fate only because of the tragic fact that this woman is taken seriously by serious, albeit abysmally ignorant on the critical questions at issue, players in government and Industry.   After all, Ms. Noonan is a columnist with the Wall Street Journal, the official voice of the American ruling class.

 Witnessing the Republican response to the Obama phenomena in general – and the swelling Obamamania that is gripping millions of Americans of all races, classes and ethnicities, which threatened to engulf the country when he took the stage in Denver – I find a source of unending amusement.   For a yellow dog democrat and long time warrior in the human rights struggle like me, listening to the incessant whining and unconvincing attempts to dismiss what is clearly the greatest moment in American political history is a sport.

Old Peggy Noonan seems to have lost her mind completely when she perused the plans for staging Senator Obama’s speech.  She didn’t simply disagree with the DNC’s plan to present Barack’s historic speech at Invesco Field; she went into great detail about their myriad failures of organization, management and imagination.  Then she dismissed the event as folly.  “People working the technical end of the event are talking about poor coordination, unclear planning, and a Democratic National Committee that just doesn’t seem capable of decisive and sophisticated thinking” she concluded.

President Elect Obama’s Acceptance Speech

And a Live Audience of 84, 000 Americans Listened!

It was a Glorious Moment in American History

However Leon Saunders, of Saunders and Associates in Atlanta, who recently produced a mega-concert in Dauphin stadium in Miami, disagrees. “The way the Obama people successfully moved that many people from the auditorium to the Stadium without incident is one of the most impressive feats I have ever seen!” he assured me.  Since Leon promotes spectacles for a living I’m going with “Honest Lee” as he is known in the world of show business.

The fact is, like most right wing ideologues, Peg doesn’t have to actually know what she is talking about because nobody among the lunatic right who are her cronies either knows or cares if what she is saying is factually correct:  after all it is not truth but propaganda that is their stock in trade.  Finally old ditzy Peg flipped out and labeled the speech “one of the biggest and possibly craziest gambles of this or any other presidential campaign of the modern era. Everyone can define what can go wrong, and no one can quite define what a ‘great move’ would look like. It has every possibility of looking like a Nuremberg rally

A Nuremberg rally?  That’s a strange statement coming from a Reagan era Republican who also happens to be a Catholic; for there are no bigger public spectacles than an appearance by the Pope, decked out in his Klan like costume.  And Ronald Regan, for whom Peg was a proud speechwriter, introduced the spectacular show biz pageant into the inaugural ceremonies of the presidency.  I know, because I wrote a mocking commentary about it titled “Hollywood Goes To Washington.”

In this commentary I listed all the Hollywood talent that participated in planning and staging the spectacle – from fashion designers to set designers.  But then I, and every political pro, noticed that it worked!  They had managed to convince the world that Ronald Reagan was something other than a handsome b-movie actor who knew how to deliver a good line at the appropriate time.  All of his handlers and key cabinet ministers such as Chief of Staff Michel Deaver, Treasury Secretary Donald Regan, and Budget Director David Stockman have painted a portrait of him as a charming dullard.

Ronald Wilson Reagan

The B-Movie Actor who Became President

So if spectacle can get a smooth talking numskull like Ronald Reagan elected to the Oval Office, Obama’s handlers would have been fools not to employ these show biz techniques. After all, they’ve got the real deal.  A blindly partisan Republican, Peg is just pissed because the Democrats did it so well!

On the other hand the Pope regularly fills stadiums everywhere he goes to great pomp and circumstance – including elaborate props and expensive costumes that would make Elvis Presley look prissy and many Broadway shows look like mere dress rehearsals.  Furthermore this Pope is a guy whose knows from a NAZI rally, having attended a few during his stint in the Nazi youth movement!

Furthermore, the holy Roman Catholic Church, to which Ms. Noonan is passionately committed, made its peace with the Italian Fascist by signing the shameful Concordant between the Vatican and Mussolini’s fascist government.  There are even pictures of the Pope blessing the bullets and bombs Italian fascist forces would use against an unoffending Ethiopia.

Alas, the Pope was quite willing to use Italian Fascist troops to impose Catholicism as the dominant church in Ethiopia, the land of Coptic Christianity.   Anyone who doubts this need only read the Excellent scholarly study of the matter “the Vatican in the Age of the Dictators, by the eminent British historian Anthony Rhodes – which I’m fairly certain clueless Peggy has not, and being a catholic fanatic she probably would tune out and go into her denial mode…Just like she did when Pope John Paul was criticized by the victims of pedophile priest for not speaking out on the rape of children by the Catholic clergy.

Pius XII

Pope Pius XII

 The problem for the Ethiopians was that they were viewed as heretics by the Vatican because this ancient African nation insisted that they have the original “Arc of the Covenant,” which King Solomon bequeathed to his son Menelek I, whom he sired with the beautiful black queen Makeda, the Queen of Sheba.  (Just for the record I think the Ethiopians are right!  I even named my daughter after her.)

By the way, since Ms. Noonan is so preachy about freedom, I’d like to know what she thinks of her church’s Taliban like history of imposing its religious doctrine on conquered peoples with the sword.  Does she ever shed a tear in remembrance of the Catholic genocides against the indigenous peoples of the Americas?  Nuremburg rallies indeed.  I’m sure Ms. Noonan would understand little of what I am getting at here, because from all appearances she understands but little about the world in general.

In the days after the tragedy of 9/11 – which was the result of the incompetence of the Bushmen, not their complicity in the act, as some paranoids insist upon believing – there were many hysterical voices.  But none was more absurdly hysterical than Ms. Noonan’s diatribe which I critiqued in my essay None but the Righteous, read live over WBAI fm, located just a few blocks from “Ground Zero” in New York City.

Ms. Noonan does not simply miss the point about the progression of events that had actually led to 9/11; for her it was “a matter of good versus evil.”  Then she went on to rhapsodize about seeing the face of the Devil at Ground Zero…which she called “the evil one.”   She also saw the old rugged cross on which Jesus Christ was lynched in the twisted steel beams rising up from the rubble.   And while she confessed that her kids thought she was nuts – hooray for them! – Ms. Noonan turned to Catholic construction workers at Ground Zero for confirmation of her divine vision.

Since I have been a construction worker in New York off and on for twenty years –painting in the World Trade Center and tunneling under the rock and soil of Queens – I know that most construction workers are knuckleheads who are subject to go for any kind of okey doke.  But Peggy is a respected columnist on one of the great journals of opinion in the English language – not that they have any special affection for the Queen’s English – and the fact that a pundit of Pegs exalted status should arrive at the same conclusion as the untutored and superstitious mob that labor on construction sites is frightening!

Everywhere you look you see this old pompous pie face bloviator running off at the mouth; her incessant monologue rambling willy nilly from sophistry to the absurd; still her dance card is always full. It is further evidence that Republicans value ideology over intellectual integrity.  Yet from the persistent smirk on her face as she inundates her listeners with hysterical nonsense masquerading as wisdom, I’ll bet ol Peg thinks she’s da bomb!  The Lady is just that clueless.

     An Unrepentant Knucklehead

 “Convince a fool against her will/she remains a fool still!” my mother used to say.  I have found that every time I forget this bit of wisdom I suffer for it.   When I saw Peggy on television the morning after Barack Obama gave one of the greatest speeches in American history, behaving like a bipolar personality off her meds,I knew she was losing it again.

Even while her fellow right wing crank, the ubiquitous pundit and former Presidential speechwriter Pat Buchanan was having verbal orgasms over the brilliance of Senator Obama’s rap, Peg was continuing to dis Barack’s speech while exposing herself as a tone deaf sophist – which she, of course, was far too full of herself to see.

          As I listened carefully to the foolishness she was spouting I reflected on an article I had read online arguing that Peg’s greatest line – “They slipped the surly bonds of earth and touched the face of God,” which President Reagan read when eulogizing the Astronauts who died when their space ship exploded on takeoff, was swiped from the notebook found on the dead body of an obscure 19th century Irish poet/soldier.

And this, alas, is the flimsy foundation on which her reputation as a clever thinker rests. Yet in spite of old prickly Peg’s caustic commentary, Barack Obama’s speech contained elegance, eloquence and gravitas in abundance.  And it was delivered by the finest orator in the presidential race.  But since she thought that Ronald Reagan was a great orator – despite his bland verbosity, it is no wonder that Peg has trouble recognizing great oratory when she hears it.

Although white folks, dazzled by his verbal virtuosity, are inclined to overstate the case and make Barack the greatest orator in America; black folks know that there are great clerical bards preaching the word from thousands of pulpits every Sunday morning. And the artistry of their sermons is unmatched. The transcendent power of the Afro-American preacher’s poetry can make your soul take flight and your spirit dance.

And when they preach a social gospel or enter the political arena – ala Rev. Doctor Martin Luther King, Rev. Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Rev. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Wyatt T. Walker, Rev. Al Sharpton, and many more – their voices dominate any discourse they enter into.  Barack Obama has absorbed this oratorical tradition by cultural osmosis.

“The Great Communicator”

Peggy Fawning over Her Hero

 Quite unlike the stiff Latin conjurations of the Catholic liturgy, black preachers, as writer Zora Neal Hurston observed, “must be poets to survive in a Negro pulpit.” Barack Obama is heir to that tradition; that’s what he was really doing when he spent all those hours listening to the great preachers that held forth at Trinity Church, beginning with the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright – an electrifying preacher from the prophetic wing of the black clergy.

Nevertheless, in spite of my mother’s sterling advice, I would love to debate Ms. Noonan about the quality of Senator Obama’s speech. It would afford me a rare opportunity to expose the arguments of Ms. Noonan – and her right wing acolytes – for what they are: lightweight, middlebrow prattle that is sorely lacking in insight or profundity!

       As I watched Peg try and convince her colleagues that Obama’s speech was a failure – while all of them raved over his splendid oratorical gifts – I thought of my Aunt Rosa, who was both my first Shakespeare teacher and also the director of the school’s oratorical team.  As such she, more than anyone, is responsible for my being a writer and orator who is equally skilled at both, as my hapless opponents have discovered.  I know what a good oration is because I recited some of the greatest orations in the western tradition – including Shakespeare’s monologues and epic poems like William Cullen Bryant’s Thanatopsis.  So for me it is not just theory: I know how it’s done!

On Wednesday morning, the day after the Republicans kicked her crony Rudi Guiliani to the curb in favor of that old school right-wing ideologue Fred Thompson, a belligerent blow hard and flim flam man, it seemed that Peg is beguiled by another mediocre actor.  In a bombastic screed devoid of truth or elegance Thompson excited the untutored die hard Republican mob assembled in St. Paul like the showman that he is.  I don’t believe a lot of the lines he was spouting anymore than he believes the lines he recites so convincingly on screen.  That’s what actors do: Say things they know are fantasies and make you believe it’s real!  It is instructive that old prickly Peg, who was so caustic in her criticism of Senator Obama’s speech – which was as elegant as Thompson’s was crude – had nothing to say in terms of criticism of Freddy T. And it further exposes her as just another media shill for the Republican Party in spite of her transparent attempts to fool the public and present herself as an objective observer!

          However Peg’s most ludicrous argument – and there were so many to choose from that I confess  my choice may be somewhat arbitrary – was her attempt to justify John McCain’s curious selection of Sarah Palin as his Vice President.  She was the very model of what Plato describes as “the Sophist” in his Dialogues.   In a dialogue between Theaeteus and The Stranger the former observes “He must be the Sophist…no other name can possibly be right.  To wit The Stranger replies “No other; and so this trader in virtue again turns out to be our friend the Sophist, whose art may now be traced from the art of acquisition through exchange, trade, merchandise, to a merchandise of the soul which is concerned with speech and the knowledge of virtue.”

In other words old prickly Peg has sold her soul to the Republican propaganda machine and obediently does their bidding while posing as an independent objective observer!   And she does this even when it is apparent to every thinking person who is not blinded by ideology or seduced by political opportunism that she is spouting nonsense!

Speaking in the school mom persona that she assumes when she thinks that she is being especially insightful, Peg told the nation on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that Sarah Palin “is just terrific!” However future historians will show that McCain’s cynical and vulgar opportunistic choice of Sarah Palin did much to help sink his candidacy, because it exposed his terrible judgment and lack of integrity.

Palin is ignorant, abrasive, and overly ambitious.   She likes to refer to herself as “a maverick,” but the surviving members of the Maverick family has publicly protested her appropriation of their family name, considering her and John McCain to be embarrassments.  Strangely, there is no talk about “Nurnberg rallies” in regard to the McCain/Palin rallies.  Yet given the way in which they amp up the crowd with inflammatory rhetoric that Stevie Wonder can see is racist, it is no wonder that audience members are shouting out “Kill him!”

Although McCain appears to be surprised by the response of the mob after he and the ignorant Alaskan shrew has done all they could to incite the mob.  Instead he fains outrage at Congressman John Lewis for pointing out a historical truth: The Republican Party built their electoral majority based on the “southern strategy” concocted during the Nixon campaign and has been followed by every successful Republican Presidential campaign since.

This has been well documented by professional historians – Kenneth O’Reily and Dan T. Carter in their seminal texts Nixon’s Piano and The Politics of Rage.  Since Peggy Noonan is a celebrated intellectual she should know this.  And if she has read these texts – which I seriously doubt, because pundits in general don’t appear to believe that they should actually have evidence for the things that they say – now is the time for her to speak up if she is really interested in the future of this nation.

I say this because it is obvious to everybody who has sense enough to come in out of the rain that the rancorous rhetoric shamelessly employed by the McCain campaign, in concert with those racist lunatics on WABC – Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Michel Savage etc, – who exhort the ignorant pobel with a constant stream of invective aimed at Barack Obama, trying their level best to paint him as a collaborator with terrorist, is creating the atmosphere for him to be assassinated!

This is a constant fear among black Americans – this writer included – and should it happen it will tear this nation apart.  If Peggy Noonan was a thoughtful commentator seriously interested in advancing the political culture of this nation, instead of a hysterical charlatan posing as a thoughtful pundit, this is what she would be outraged about, not the sets for the hopeful and unifying message of Barack Obama.  Shame on you Peg!

And yo, my Aunt Rosa would have had an appropriate literary aphorism for you, one of her favorite jewels from Mark Twain: “Tis far better to be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt!”



 Playthell Benamin

Harlem, New York