It is with regret that I must record a radical parting of the political ways with my dear friend, columnist Peggy Noonan (and many other like-minded commentators).
Our differing views of candidate and President Donald Trump have been a matter of civilized and often humorous comment for five years. Peggy saw from the outset better than most observers the attractions of Trump to a wide swath of America who felt that they had been ignored and disparaged by the rich Reagan and Bush Republicans and forgotten by the Clinton and Obama Democrats in their hot pursuit of the approval of the yuppies and the trendies.
I have no standing to read minds, but Peggy Noonan came to Washington to serve Ronald Reagan, a great president and consummate gentleman. He used to say that his 11th Commandment was “Never speak ill of a fellow Republican,” and he never did. Trump wouldn’t have lost his appeal to the huge numbers of people who thought that there were no other presidential contenders who listened to them if he had avoided the personal physical disparagement of his opponents. (I never understood why those whom he ridiculed didn’t respond in kind; there is plenty to make fun of about the outgoing president.)
But for all his stylistic enormities, Trump was almost always right on policy questions. When he ended the appeasement of Iran and resumed sanctions, he dried up the support for Middle Eastern terrorist organizations and encouraged the Arab powers to bury the hatchet with Israel and focus on their ancient Persian enemy as the real threat to the Middle East.
He played an indispensable role in mobilizing concern and civilized resistance throughout the West to the unfair trading practices, currency manipulation, violation of international waters, and attempted intimidation of neighboring states by the People’s Republic of China. Trump did this cogently and with no hint of the red-baiting McCarthyism of the early Cold War against the Soviet Union.
He was much criticized for stopping direct flights from China to the United States on Jan. 31, 2020, and for identifying the coronavirus as Chinese, even though the regime in Beijing effectively unleashed a biological war on the world by promoting the exportation of the virus, and has since had the effrontery to declare that its response to the virus (a subject of massive lies, as well as totalitarian repression) demonstrates the superiority of the Chinese communist dictatorship over democracies.
‘A Cancer’Noonan generally was relatively polite and sparse in her references to the president for a couple of years. Even from her, he received no credit for reviving the concept of nuclear nonproliferation with Iran and North Korea, for building his promised wall and reducing illegal immigration by 90 percent, or for eliminating unemployment and creating conditions for the first time in any serious jurisdiction where the lowest 20 percent of income-earners were gaining income in percentage terms more quickly than the top 10 percent.
The three previous administrations had been swindled by North Korea, and for 20 years, all we heard was pious claptrap about “Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” as millions of illegal migrants swarmed in, and inconsequential handwringing about the problem of income disparity.
Denying Election IrregularitiesBut in these last weeks, Noonan and others have crossed a Rubicon of unprofessional bias. They have all submitted to the diktat that no credence can be attached to claims of material election irregularities in Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. It didn’t happen, it’s canceled, and those who suggested otherwise are to be boycotted, excluded, and even expelled from the U.S. Senate.
Republican Rep. Elizabeth Cheney, according to Peggy Noonan, showed “great leadership” in supporting a second impeachment of Trump that’s even more outrageous than the first. Trump, typically, squandered his credibility by claiming that he had been robbed of a “landslide” in the election, and by publicly pressuring the vice president to reject the vote of the Senate confirming the composition of the Electoral College, a preposterous idea.
Trump breached the walls of the Democratic electoral fortresses of the African and Latin American communities, made important gains in congressional and state elections, and broadened the Republican base of support. But very plausible and disturbing evidence of decisive voting irregularity in the five states mentioned were deemed to be legal, under COVID-justified changes in voting and counting methods that facilitated widespread election fraud.
Since the states have the constitutional responsibility for elections, the relevant laws were apparently legal, and the Supreme Court abdicated its responsibility and declined to hear a direct complaint by Texas supported by 18 other states against four of the swing states for failing to fulfill the constitutional obligation of fair elections.
In the circumstances, when Trump addressed his 300,000 followers in Washington on Jan. 6 (95 percent of whom were respectable concerned citizens, not the mob that’s been depicted), his remarks were relatively restrained. He incited nothing illegal, and certainly gave no hint of insurrection (the attempted violent overthrow of the government).
It now emerges that most of the ringleaders were semi-professional hooligans with no particular connection to Trump, but Speaker Pelosi jammed through a wad of newspaper clippings purporting to be an indictment of the president for inciting an insurrection.
Being one of 10 Republican members of the Congress to support this wasn’t leadership by Cheney, or fair comment by Noonan. This impeachment will sink like a rock and may never be argued, but it was the most contemptible and absurd legislative initiative in U.S. history: no evidence, witnesses, or due process, just a malicious attempt to defame an outgoing president with a move to remove him from an office that he vacated at the normal expiry of his term.
Peggy thinks it’s a triumph of the establishment and the merciful end of a freakish interlude. The suspect election, the abdication of the Supreme Court, the indifference of much of Republican officialdom, which foolishly believes it can have the benefits of Trump’s policies and electioneering while knifing Trump himself in the back, the rabid partisanship of the media, and the thought control of the totalitarian dictators of social media. All of it is an unmitigated and horrifying disgrace that compromises America’s status as a functioning democracy and a free country.
It remains to be seen how durable Trump and Trumpism are, but that Donald Trump—an acquired taste as a public personality (or not)—could have driven civilized people such as Noonan to such transports of irrational hatred will puzzle historians and socio-pathologists for many decades. “Sad.”