Peggy Noonan Knows Biggest Problem Right Now: Joe Biden's Flowery Speeches
The Trump years had not been kind to Sister Peggy Noonan of the Sacred Order of the Hydrocodone Torpor. The ghastly cantaloupe-colored barbarian had invited so many mountebanks and scallywags into her beloved White House that it might as well have been a halfway house. His wife with her incomprehensible accent and her unsensible shoes had decorated the place like some sort of Slavic bordello every Christmas season. His daughter who kept showing up dressed like an extra in The Nutcracker while his son-in-law frightened the nation’s children. His sons kept appearing on TV without shaving, bestubbled like sailors after three days of shore leave, if not nearly as coherent.
At least when Ronnie Reagan lived there, his people had the dignity to commit crime mostly out of sight. These Trump people were so open about it. She hoped the White House staff had hidden the good china before they moved out.
Worst of all was the fate of her erstwhile houseboy, Manuel, scooped up by Trump’s immigration Stasi and deported to wherever he had come from — Guatemala? Mexico? Jersey City? She hadn’t really ever been listening — as he returned to her apartment from the corner bodega with her dinner of a crate of wine and a package of Kraft Sharp Cheddar Singles. She was still haunted by the sound of him yelling up at her windows begging her for help as the officers wrestled him into their van, leaving her groceries scattered in the gutter.
It was so awful. She had really been looking forward to that cheese.
Ah, well. Now normal Joe Biden was president, with his normal wife and his children who keep misplacing laptops and diaries. Peggy was free to once again contemplate meatier issues. Issues such as Biden’s fealty to the Marxists driving her beloved America straight off the socialist cliff.
But the Democrats too have their weirdo quotient—extreme culture warriors, members of the Squad—
“Peggy,” That Voice whispered. That Voice was what she called the whispers that started up like a light breeze inside her skull at moments where something she had typed did not feel Quite Right.
“Peggy,” That Voice said again, its mellifluous notes tickling her eardrums. “Are you sure you want to equate, say, activists battling to give dignified lives free of persecution to trans people, or a quartet of congresswomen with little power who were mostly a good branding moment in 2018 but have since faded from the spotlight as the media moved on to other shiny objects — are you sure you want to equate these groups to a Republican base that has been taken over by QAnon nuts who think Democrats are satanic cannibal pedophiles, who think the 2020 election was rigged by Mark Zuckerberg, who think Donald Trump is secretly still president and put a Joe Biden clone in the White House while the real Biden sits on a barge floating off of Guantanamo Bay awaiting his trial for crimes against humanity? Really sure? Positive that this is not some silly useless need to appear Above It All, observing politics from a ketamine hole deeper than the Laurentian Abyss?”
Peggy shrugged and bent again to her parchment.
If the 2024 election were held today and the candidates were Joe Biden vs. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who would you back? Mr. Sununu trounced the president 53% to 36%. Mr. Sununu is popular and that unusual thing, a vigorous moderate conservative who appears to have actual intellectual commitments. But Mr. Biden carried New Hampshire in 2020 with 53%. He’s cratering.
“But Peggy,” That Voice said, a note of anxiety rising like heat waves off a hot pavement. “New Hampshire’s status as a bellwether is greatly overdetermined. It has a huge white majority, when Biden is popular with minority voters. He came in fifth there in the 2020 primary. And Sununu is governor of the state, it makes sense that his own constituents would prefer him in a hypothetical matchup two and a half years before the election. Even Mondale won Minnesota. As a data point, this information is more useless than a mocktail.”
But Peggy, as the kids say, was rolling.
When you speak to America you don’t have to repeat yourself for the slow. I don’t think he’s aware he often seems to be talking down. People will tolerate this from a politician when they think he’s their moral or intellectual superior, but they push back when they don’t, as in the polls.
That Voice had gone mostly quiet, though she perhaps heard its faint mumbling about giving evidence to back this claim, such as finding even one Biden supporter who likes him for his intellectual superiority.
The larger problem for the president is that in his most important prepared speeches there’s a lot of extremely boring faux-eloquence, big chunks of smooth roundedness, and nothing sticks. Last April to a joint session of Congress: “America is on the move again, turning peril into possibility, crisis into opportunity, setback into strength.” This sounds as if it means something—it has the rhythm and sound of good thought—but it doesn’t, really.
“You coined the phrase ‘a thousand points of light!’” That Voice cried in a full-on panic. “The entire American political realm has spent thirty-five years making fun of that pabulum for aspiring to be something other than meaningless filler!”
Too late! She was already reaching for JFK’s Oval Office speech announcing the Soviets had nuclear missiles in Cuba:
It was down to the bone, stark and completely compelling. The military response he explained was persuasive because it was based in fact and clearly put interpretation. He provided complicated information…You say: Well, that was a crisis, you cut to the chase in crisis. But our political moment is pretty much nonstop crises, and there are more than enough national platforms for emotionalism.
“Biden's joint address was a State of the Union in all but name,” That Voice said, weeping. “It was a speech to lay out his priorities for Congress and the nation. Of course it was full of emotionalism. It was basically a national pep rally, not some downer about imminent nuclear war!”
And then That Voice was gone, replaced by the watery gurgling sound of an old man having a seizure as his brain finally gives way like the St. Francis Dam.
Peggy, on the other hand, felt great. She just wished she had that cheese.