Peggy Noonan Thinks Deeply About History Then Cuts Hillary Clinton's Face With Broken Gin Bottle
Dame Peggy Noonan knew she had to write about the cache of journal entries by Diane Blair about her Good Friend Hillz Clinton that had been published in theWashington Free Baconnaise, but she didn't want to just dive into them like some sort of gossip -- definitely not her style, darling; she's got a reputation, a legacy, a gin-embalmed heritage to uphold. And so in her column this week, she begins with a lot of filler about the Deep Historical Question: Why do we write things down?
To keep it: to capture your time in history as it happened. To remind yourself it's real.
To understand it: to order it as you write and try to make sense of it.
To reflect on it. To suggest through what you include what mistakes in attitude or action were made, what challenges met.
And again, to tell history what happened. To cast light, provide context, give a deeper feel.
And also because the really juicy quotes only fill up half a column, and you need to stuff more into it. This outing was definitely written with an unsteady eye to the word count.
What Peggy finally gets to is that we leave "our papers" behind as a record of ourselves, of our place in History, provided that We are actually friends with the FLOTUS. No matter how hard the average cab driver tries, no library is likely to house their archives, even if they did once tell Thomas Friedman to get bent. After this Deep Insight, which sounds a bit like a Freshman English introduction to a paper on the diaries of Samuel Peeps (Cliffs Notes edition), we finally get to the meat -- Blair was a good friend, not a toady, an equal who was unafraid to note her friend's strengths and foibles, although none of the former make it into Noonan's column because come on, Hillary Clinton.
Dame Peggy starts with this reminder that she is an Insider, unlike You the Reader -- though if you read Peggy Noonan every Friday in the Wall Street Journal (subscribe today!) you can feel like an insider too:
What do we learn of Mrs. Clinton from the Blair papers? Not much that close observers don't already know. A small mystery is what was left in the papers by accident or happenstance, and what by design. Was what appears to be a romantic note from Bill Clinton something of value with which Blair could not part, or a clue left for history's Sherlocks?
Not rumormongering -- historical research.
Above all, we learn -- for the sake of historical context -- that Hillz is possessed of "an always-startling pugnacity and aggression" because she talked about playing hard ball or wishes others would "toughen up." Such a ruffian, that little Peppermint Hillary:
The Clintons are always "getting killed." "HC on treadmill, how furious she is." "HC furious at speechwriters." "Is trying to work through her anger."
Mrs. Clinton often boasts about her toughness. After her husband's impeachment, Blair has Hillary observing it "drives their adversaries totally nuts, that [the Clintons] don't bend, do not appear to be suffering." On Beltway pundits: "We've rendered them irrelevant." People often "need to get the message bigtime." "They should have their noses rubbed into it."
Mercy! So uncouth! We can imagine Peggy wearing a look of shock as she sits at her typewriter (a massive Webley-Vickers manual, said by the antiques dealer to have once been used by Claire Luce Booth). But enough of these details -- let's get to the historical lessons, "Four Observation," which plug right in from the Noonan Conclusions Toolkit, v. 4.6:
First, the Blair papers remind us the Clintons in their early days in the White House were much like the Obamas. They didn't know Washington and were taken aback by its meanness and mayhem. They thought it was something personally directed against them. Their reaction in turn was outsized. They thought, essentially, that any means necessary were justified in fighting the opposition's wickedness. They didn't understand wickedness was par for the course. In both cases their simple lack of sophistication in this area warped the politics of their era.
Ah, yes, the old "Obama is a child who is incapable of taking his serious job seriously" motif. Also, Washington is a rough place, and you'd better not venture into it unless you have a thick skin. But whatever you do, don't take the regular suggestions that you're a traitor too seriously, lest you say something intemperate. But don't be too cool either, or you're calculating, cold and bloodless. Also, did you know that Peggy Noonan is an Insider who knows her way around Washington? She really is, you know.
Second, the Clintons rejected the machine politics of Richard J. Daley, and in their struggle, they
rose and went on to become . . . rough, tough, a machine. In politics as in life you can become what you hate.
Wow. Peggy Noonan is a liberal Democrat, then?
Third, the Blair papers remind us that in the past quarter-century the office of the presidency has become everyone's psychotherapy. There is an emphasis on the personality, nature, character and charisma of the president. He gets into dramas. He survives them. He is working out his issues ...
History becomes the therapist The taxpayer winds up paying the therapist's bill.
This wouldn't be so bad—it would actually be entertaining!—if the presidency were not such a consequential role. People can lose lives when presidents work through their issues. This Endless Drama of the Charismatic President is getting old. And dangerous.
Well, yes. If only people didn't spend so much time psychoanalyzing the President. Like Peggy Noonan does. Things were so much better when
her Daddy Ronald Reagan was President.
And finally, while Blair's diaries were interesting and fun, Hillay Clinton is such a shrill control freak and Bill such a bully that everyone else will be warned: "Ditch the papers. Have a bonfire. Or see that they're sealed until 2066." But that's not a dig, it's just the historical perspective of a woman who knows her way around Washington. And if you subscribe to the WSJ, so can you.
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