Archive for Playthell On 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