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Why does Peggy Noonan goad me so? Her softness of tone; her airy sound of literary facility, at least to the ears of those who generally read only policy papers; her friendship with Cesar, at the deli counter. In her own way, she is the right wing version of Thomas Friedman: dangerous because people who have power believe that she is spouting wisdom, when in fact she is spouting only the dust of a faded photo of Ronald Reagan that has been burned on a sacrificial altar of worship.

A strong human tendency is to believe things that sound poetic regardless of how stupid they may be, logically speaking. This explains the existence of both Successories posters and Peggy Noonan’s continued political relevance, three decades after her political hero launched America into a nonstop journey towards ever-widening economic inequality. Objectively, Peggy Noonan’s track record of political expertise is very bad. But she has that tone, you know, that seems like it would sound great being spoken aloud by a professional voice-over actor, and so she persists.

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Today, Peggy is worried. Worried about this man, this Donald, the Trump. Presidential? He is not. And yet... she is wistful about what might have been:

Near the end of the campaign I wrote a column called “Imagine a Sane Donald Trump,” lamenting that I believed he was crazy, and too bad. Too bad because his broad policy assertions, or impulses, suggested he understood that 2008 and the years just after (the crash and the weak recovery) had changed everything in America, and that the country was going to choose, in coming decades, one of two paths—a moderate populism or socialism—and that the former was vastly to be preferred, for reasons of the nation’s health. A gifted politician could make his party the leader toward that path, which includes being supportive and encouraging of business but willing to harness government to alleviate the distress of the abandoned working class and the anxious middle class; strong on defense but neither aggressive nor dreamy in world affairs; realistic and nonradical on social issues while unmistakably committed to protecting the freedoms of the greatest cohering force in America, its churches; and aware that our nation’s immigration reality was a scandal created by both parties, and must be redressed.

You could discern, listening to his interviews and speeches, that this was more or less where Donald Trump stood.

Allow me to momentarily make the mistake of treating Peggy Noonan as one who deserves to be taken seriously.

  1. Does celebrity showman Donald Trump really understand that “that the country was going to choose, in coming decades, one of two paths—a moderate populism or socialism—and that the former was vastly to be preferred, for reasons of the nation’s health”? No. Donald Trump understands how to sexually harass models, and how Donald Trump likes to eat steak. He does not “understand” nuanced socioeconomic issues. His lack of true understanding was a large part of his appeal to many Americans, who also don’t understand these things, and were happy to see their ignorance accurately reflected in a presidential candidate.
  2. To argue that socialism would be bad “for reasons of the nation’s health” is to argue that the alternative to socialism, which is what we practice in this country, is good for the nation’s health, which is demonstrably untrue in both a physical and economic sense.
  3. This phrase—“being supportive and encouraging of business but willing to harness government to alleviate the distress of the abandoned working class and the anxious middle class”—what does it mean, specifically? What does it mean on tax policy? What does it mean on financial and environmental regulation? What does it mean on adding or subtracting to Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and food stamps and the rest of the social safety net? Here is what it means: nothing. It is a soup of vague, contradictory ingredients. She might as well write “be good, to all the people.”
  4. This phrase— “unmistakably committed to protecting the freedoms of the greatest cohering force in America, its churches”—is it... true? No it is not.
  5. Which is more accurate: to say that Donald Trump is “aware that our nation’s immigration reality was a scandal created by both parties, and must be redressed,” or to say that Donald Trump wants to scapegoat Mexicans for America’s problems? I submit the latter.
  6. Peggy Noonan has written a paragraph that is a mishmash of meaninglessness, error, and mischaracterization, masquerading as a set of policies. Can you really “discern, listening to his interviews and speeches, that this was more or less where Donald Trump stood,” considering the facts that A) “this” refers to a mishmash of meaninglessness, error, and mischaracterization, masquerading as a set of policies, and B) Donald Trump stands primarily in whatever place he believes will most immediately benefit Donald Trump? I submit no.

Anyhow, Peggy Noonan is taken quite seriously and will be until America’s elder generation passes into death.