The case of Peggy Noonan.
Amongst Republicans there are two kinds of Trump-haters: the never-Trumpers who boast that they’ll never support him, and the non-never-Trumpers who say they’ll do so, but only by holding their noses. By their timidity, the latter reveal the tragic flaw that has prevented Republicans from winning elections. They’ll advance their arguments in favor of the Trump issues, and then go on to express their contempt for the man who had the courage to articulate them. Winners don’t do this sort of equivocating.
It’s like the codas one finds in medieval courtly literature, such as De Amore (The Art of Courtly Love), by Andreas Capellanus, believed to be a Capuchin monk. In this delightful discourse on love, Capellanus teaches how ladies and gentlemen should properly prosecute a love affair. The lover is ardent; his love object is doubtful. It’s all very beautiful. At the end, however, a retraction of the entire concept is required, lest the work be deemed improper by the Church. So there’s a coda, where the worldly priest exonerates himself by describing how disgusting women are and warning men to resist their natural inclinations lest they burn in everlasting hell.
In a variation on this method, Peggy Noonan, Conservatism’s sweetheart, describes four of Hillary’s transgressions, while exonerating herself by damning Donald Trump as well.
Just because I condemn her, doesn’t mean I like him, she protests, and thereby betrays her weakness.
First, there’s Hillary’s Russian connection, including the Uranium One scandal. This is where the Clintons, while Hillary was Secretary of State, pushed forward a number of deals backed by the State Department, which resulted in Russia owning large uranium stakes in Kazakhstan and the U.S. In this way, Russia acquired means to make nuclear fuel and, in return, the Clinton Foundation received $31 million and a pledge of an additional $100 million from one of the principles, and Bill Clinton received $500,000 for giving a speech.
In another deal, Secretary Clinton pushed for a joint U.S.-Russian technology initiative which gave Russia access to U.S. classified and sensitive information, as well to emerging technologies. In return, shares in the consortium were handed out to investors who were also Clinton Foundation donors. Some in the State Department were alarmed, but the Clintons were hugely enriched.
To balance her discussion of Hillary’s patently obvious corrupt Russian ties, Miss Noonan trots out vague rumors and speculation about Trump and Russia.
As for Donald Trump, we don’t know, because he has not released his tax returns, what ties if any he has with Russia. There are charges that Trump businesses are entangled with powerful Russian financiers. We know some of his top advisers had business ties to Russia or affiliated nations and leaders.
With Hillary, a presumption of innocence, not wholly rebutted. With Trump, a presumption of guilt.
As Trump has built hotels all over the world, which have been partially financed by local investors, there is nothing either surprising or sinister in his relations with Russia, nothing that remotely threatens American security. His tax write-offs would not have been possible if he’d assumed personal liability on business loans in Russia and, as he didn’t, they don’t have leverage over him. There are no issues here.
Just the opposite. His foreign investments have made him a good-will ambassador for the United States. A delegation of Indonesian dignitaries, including their House Speaker and Deputy Speaker, was in attendance at a September 2015 Trump press briefing. An Indonesian news source wrote that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss “strategic alliances between Indonesia and America going forward.”
Despite the fact that Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population, the Indonesians were happy that Trump had business ventures there. “We care about people who care also about Indonesia,” said the Deputy Speaker, who also described Trump’s position on immigration as being “very universal.” Indonesia, too, exercises control over who can enter their country.
Donald Trump’s foreign business relations are not “entanglements,” they’re commerce. And a businessman is not an elected official. In smearing Trump, Miss Noonan is adopting a submissive posture to her colleagues on the Left who might otherwise condemn her for not being never-Trump.
Miss Noonan turns next to the “allegations” of sexual abuse by the Clintons’ victims, and again she establishes an equivalency between Hillary and Trump — all of the victims must be believed:
We cannot know for certain what is true, but my experience in such matters is that when a woman makes such a charge she is telling the truth. In a lifetime of fairly wide acquaintance, I’ve not known a woman to lie about sexual misbehavior or assault.
It’s extraordinary that, with all of the empirical research on faux sexual abuse accusations, Miss Noonan chooses to look only to the experience of herself and her friends. Based on her own experience, the Trump and Clinton accusers have equal credibility. There’s no need to examine individual cases.
And yet one wonders how she can have missed such high-profile cases as the young woman who falsely accused three Duke Lacrosse players of having brutally raped her, or the similar University of Virginia case that was exploited in Rolling Stone until it all fell apart and had to be retracted.
Had she bothered to check, Miss Noonan might have found a list of rape hoaxes conveniently compiled for her by the Daily Caller. But this would not serve to appease the Left, who’d continue to think badly of her.
Miss Noonan’s third point involves the character of the candidates. Both have hurt her personally, for neither allows her to have “the spectacular illusions under which American voters once were able to operate.” She might have weighed their respective defects: On the one hand, a candidate who uses her political office for personal gain, endangers the security of her country by using an unsecure server to communicate classified information so that her misdeeds might not be discovered, serially lies under oath; and on the other, a candidate who uses bad language.
Miss Noonan justifies her vote for Trump by drawing on something mean and nasty that one of her friends said, a friend who like Miss Noonan herself is a conservative and an intellectual, a writer and a thinker:
The other day a conservative intellectual declared to her fellow writers and thinkers: “I’m for the venal idiot who won’t mechanize government against all I hold dear.”
Do you understand the gibberish that Miss Noonan’s smart friend spouted?
While Miss Noonan laments that “You can’t have illusions anymore,” she doesn’t reprise her last great illusion, when she gushed about a certain presidential candidate that
He has within him the possibility to change the direction and tone of American foreign policy, which need changing; his rise will serve as a practical rebuke to the past five years, which need rebuking; his victory would provide a fresh start in a nation in which a fresh start would come as a national relief.
That was October 2008, and the candidate was Barak Obama. “Eras end, and begin,” she wrote. “God is in charge of history. And so my beautiful election ends.” If the disastrous Obama presidency is what her illusions brought her, what good are her illusions, one might ask.
Finally, Miss Noonan turns to the transgression that most affected her: the vile comments about Catholics and Catholicism expressed in the hacked Clinton emails. She can’t find a similar expression of bigotry in anything either Trump or his campaign has said, so there is no coda or to this last point. It’s so outside of the common experience of folks like Miss Noonan, that her friends have nothing to say about it. She must summon up her dead grandmother — an immigrant bathroom attendant at a department store — for a conversation:
“Grandma, being Catholic is now a step up. It means you’re an aristocrat! A stupid one, but still.” Whereupon Grandma enigmatically replies: “America truly is a country of miracles.”
Miss Noonan should listen more closely to her grandmother. She sounds like a wise woman, one who would have been on Trump’s side from the get-go. I can hear her sotte voce telling her elitist granddaughter, “Just vote for the man, Eejit!”
It’s interesting that the bigotry does not bother Miss Noonan as much as the feeling that she’s being looked down upon by people who are beneath her:
Here’s what you see in the emails: the writers are the worst kind of snobs, snobs with nothing to recommend them. In their expression and thoughts they are common, banal, dumb, uninformed, parochial.… I don’t know about you but when people look down on me I want them to be distinguished or outstanding in some way — towering minds, people of exquisite sensibility or learning.
She’ll accept condescension only if it comes from a superior person. Someone like… well… Miss Noonan.
So here we come to the heart of the matter. The establishment Right has always felt insecure in the face of the more polished, witty, cosmopolitan Left. It is they who get the best tables at Le Cirque, they who get to hobnob with glamorous movie stars and sports figures. It is they who get to look down on conservatives simply on account of what they believe.
And so in an irrational act of prevenient penance, the establishment Right is willing to crucify the one person who can raise them up and re-establish their self-respect. Perhaps it’s as I have long believed: they have been so long on the bottom, so long despised, so long “patronized by [their] inferiors,” that they’ve come, on some primitive, subconscious level, to believe in their own inferiority. Comfortable, slothful, and lacking in courage, they want change but not if it means they have to fight for it.
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