Ed Driscoll

'The Column That Went Astray'

Blogger Victoria Coates is “Bidding A Sad Farewell to Peggy Noonan:”

I have a few sad thoughts to add to this more thorough, magisterial deconstruction of Peggy Noonan’s column today on Donald Rumsfeld’s Known and Unknown.

Through the years I have tried to like Noonan, primarily because there are so few prominent female writers on major editorial pages, and even fewer conservatives. Also, as she frequently reminds us, she worked for Ronald Reagan and what is not to like about that?

Unfortunately, today’s column is so far beyond the pale that even these powerful attractions cannot redeem her in my eyes. Noonan goes after Rumsfeld, who she declares devoid of “guts” and “brains,” and his “stupid little” book too (I hope that “little” book didn’t make too big of a hole in her plaster when she threw it at the wall, but I digress). Her main beef is that Rumsfeld failed both to capture Osama Bin Laden and to understand how the American psyche needed his capture after 9/11. Since as she again likes to remind us Noonan was in Manhattan on 9/11, she has claimed the mantle of Everyvictim and knows what all of us need, much more than Rumsfeld who after all was only in the Pentagon that day. We are treated to Noonan’s OBL revenge fantasies, which involve scatological imagery and decapitation, and to her fury that Rumsfeld has not facilitated their satisfaction.

Which brings us to Pejman Yousefzadeh, who similarly takes a blowtorch to Noonan’s latest column, particularly here:

The failure to find bin Laden was a seminal moment in the history of the war in Afghanistan, as far as Noonan is concerned. And it was a catastrophe in Noonan’s mind, since she continues to believe that the American war effort was directed against one man, rather than against a network of terrorism. From that moment—the moment he escaped his apparent hideout in Tora Bora and went on to make his sneering speeches and send them out to the world—from that moment everything about the Afghanistan war became unclear to people like Noonan, who train their myopic eyes upon a single person, rather than training them upon a terrorist organization, causing life outside the world of “pudding!” to become unfocused, murky and confused. Noonan’s focus shifted, she took her eye off the facts, and her column is now what it is.

You’d think, nearly a decade after the events of Tora Bora, that Noonan would put things in perspective. But since Rumsfeld’s opinion is not the same as Noonan’s, she believes that the baby Jesus is going to cry. Needless to say, Tora Bora was not considered anyone’s “fault” by Rumsfeld, but Noonan pretends otherwise, with quotes like “Franks had to determine whether attempting to apprehend one man on the run” was “worth the risks,” a quote that proves about as much regarding Rumsfeldian blame-casting as Noonan believes that governmental memos do about farsightedness. Needless to say “there were numerous operational details,” all of which likely “overwhelm[s] [Noonan] with wordage, with dates and supposed data, [and bores her] into submission, and at the end she’s going to throw up her hands and shout, ‘Pudding!’” So she won’t talk about what those operational details were, and why they might have been important. And of course, in a typical Noonanian touch, she says that Rumsfeld later learned CIA operatives on the ground had asked for help, but “I never received such a request from either Franks or Tenet and cannot imagine denying it if I had.” Noonan can. She likely can also imagine unicorns, leprechauns with pots of gold, and the Cubs winning the World Series in at the end of the 2011 baseball season, none of which imply that unicorns, leprechauns with pots of gold, and/or a giant tickertape victory parade down Chicago’s famed Michigan Avenue in October or November of this year are in the offing.

It’s not the Unicorn, it’s the man who rides it — and if I recall correctly, Peggy thought he looked pretty swell on the weekend before the election.