‘She’s a drag, a well-known drag…’

GEORGE: Oh! You mean that posh bird who gets everything wrong?
SIMON: Excuse me?
GEORGE: Oh, yeah. The lads frequently sit around the telly and watch her for a giggle. One time, we actually sat down and wrote these letters saying how gear she was and all that rubbish.
SIMON: She’s a trendsetter. It’s her profession.
GEORGE: She’s a drag. A well known drag. We turn the sound down on her and say rude things.

Many of the speakers at the two political conventions brought out the George Harrison in me. When they came on, I’d only be able to listen for a moment. Then I’d turn the sound down on them and say rude things.

Peggy Noonan apparently kept listening, and then when it was done, wrote down the rude things she was thinking. For my part, sometimes I only went so far as to turn the sound down. That was the case, near as I can recall, with Sandra Fluke. She came on, I listened a bit, then turned the sound down and went back to reading Wolf Hall. So next time I see her, I might confuse her with Anne or Mary Boleyn.

I learned later about what she had to say from reading Ms. Noonan, who characterized it thusly in her column this weekend:

The sheer strangeness of all the talk about abortion, abortion, contraception, contraception. I am old enough to know a wedge issue when I see one, but I’ve never seen a great party build its entire public persona around one. Big speeches from the heads of Planned Parenthood and NARAL, HHS Secretary and abortion enthusiast Kathleen Sebelius and, of course, Sandra Fluke.

“Republicans shut me out of a hearing on contraception,” Ms. Fluke said. But why would anyone have included a Georgetown law student who never worked her way onto the national stage until she was plucked, by the left, as a personable victim?

What a fabulously confident and ingenuous-seeming political narcissist Ms. Fluke is. She really does think—and her party apparently thinks—that in a spending crisis with trillions in debt and many in need, in a nation in existential doubt as to its standing and purpose, in a time when parents struggle to buy the good sneakers for the kids so they’re not embarrassed at school . . . that in that nation the great issue of the day, and the appropriate focus of our concern, is making other people pay for her birth-control pills. That’s not a stand, it’s a non sequitur. She is not, as Rush Limbaugh oafishly, bullyingly said, a slut. She is a ninny, a narcissist and a fool.

And she was one of the great faces of the party in Charlotte. That is extreme. Childish, too.

Unusually harsh language, coming from Peggy “Thousand Points of Light” Noonan.

I didn’t watch Ms. Fluke long enough to form the same impression Ms. Noonan did. But her description of why she found the young woman so off-putting is very familiar to me — it’s very like what I thought listening to non-headliner speakers at both conventions (sorry I’m not remembering any names; I wouldn’t have remembered this one had Ms. Noonan not made such a thing of her). So much of what they talked about just seemed… off-topic. Something they were going on about just to divide their partisans from the other partisans.

What’s interesting about this is that the parties apparently know this. They know the difference between these wedge issues and the central ones that should decide elections. The central issues, the ones that are not non sequiturs, are the ones the nominees themselves, and to some extent their running mates and other top surrogates talk about. There seemed to be a fairly strict line between the pre-10 p.m. speakers and topics, and the ones we heard from and about post-10 — the hour at which the parties got serious about trying to reach beyond their bases to try to win an election.

33 thoughts on “‘She’s a drag, a well-known drag…’

  1. J

    Eric Boehlert put her partisan behavior and “hack” comments into perspective last year. She has such disdain for an African-American Pres which is so typical of the Repubs since he was elected. She degenerates into name calling – such class!

    “Poor Peggy Noonan. The Wall Street Journal’s knee-jerk partisan columnist has completely surrendered to Obama Derangement Syndrome and turned her weekly Journal effort into plotting out ways to express her irrational contempt for the president.

    This week she calls Obama a “loser.” Last week he was a “boring” “walking headache” and Noonan suggested he just “shut up.”

    Oh my.

    Remember, of course, that Noonan was part of the conservative media movement that for years played defense for George W. Bush and demanded (demanded!) the office of the presidency always be treated with the utmost respect. Anything less was patently un-American. (Noonan also disdains incivility, or so we’re told.)

    But now with a Democrat in the White House that respect has evaporated and has been replaced with a type of absurd personal disdain that seems to be driving Noonan to utter distraction as she searches for way to express her scorn for Barack Obama.

    What’s curious is that unlike some media ideologues who relentlessly ridicule Obama’s policies, Noonan, a Beltway media favorite, seems to be fixated on the personal in a way that defies rational punditry.

    What’s also embarrassing is that her juvenile bout of name-calling comes during the debt debate in which she’s been trying to depict Republicans as the grown-ups and the ones trying to solve the nation’s problems. (If Obama would just get out of the way!) But as Thursday’s late-night non-vote on Speaker of the House John Boehner’s bill indicated, that doesn’t seem to match reality.

    And actually, if you go back to last week’s condescending column, Noonan was sure the Senate’s so-called Gang of Six had figured out the debt logjam, and if Obama would just stop his arrogant grandstanding the bipartisan Gang of Six could find a way out of this crisis.


    Turns out it was Republican Boehner, under pressure from far-right members of his caucus, who last week walked away from the Gang of Six deal. But Noonan’s now silent on that point.

    This week Noonan makes no mention that it was conservatives who torpedoed the Gang of Six plan she touted as the most promising compromise. (i.e. “It’s good, it represents progress, build from it. “) Instead, Noonan simply doubles down with the Obama name-calling.”

  2. bud

    At least Ms. Noonan didn’t call her a slut. Seriously folks the right started this whole contraception discussion so I would say to anyone on the right just shut the f*** up. This was an issue decided 50 years ago and no one on the left had any interest in bringing it up again. But nooooooo. Can’t just leave well enough alone. This could cost Mr. Romney the election given the huge gender divide it’s engendered. Poetic justice given they were trying to score polical points by making it an issue about religion.

  3. Phillip

    I agree with your observation about prime-time vs. non-prime-time speakers at the conventions, it was clear that really for all 4 major candidates the focus was the economy, economy, economy (with the Dems, if anything, adding more mention than the GOP on foreign policy issues).

    I completely understand that as a Catholic, Ms. Noonan has passionate views on abortion issues and contraception, so if she wants to go off on Sandra Fluke, that’s her choice. However, surely any neutral observer has to be stunned at the gall of a former speechwriter for the GOP to claim that she’s “never seen a great party build its entire public persona around [a wedge issue].” Good one, Peggy.

    Oh, Peggy, while you’re at it, before you point at others to call them “extreme” and “childish,” you might want to reconsider that phrase “abortion enthusiast” as regards a Cabinet secretary.

    Boy, nothing sadder than to see a once gifted writer shrink into a shell of her former self, increasingly bitter that the world has changed to something she can’t recognize.

  4. Karen McLeod

    Sandra Fluke would not have been speaking at the national convention had Rush Limbaugh not spoken first on his radio show. And his behavior exemplifies what fuels the concern for Ms. Fluke and her concerns.

  5. Brad

    As you could probably tell from the post, my own reaction to Ms. Noonan’s characterization of Ms. Fluke is highly mixed. On the one hand, there’s this guilty pleasure in seeing one of these litmus-test people slapped down with such disdain. On the other hand… this IS unlike Peggy Noonan.

    Several years ago, I wrote a post about her and her columns headlined “Lovely thinker, graceful writer.” I wrote that “Ms. Noonan’s writing, at its best, has a graciousness that takes us beyond that,” with “that” being the “political opinion as usual” that we got from the WSJ editorial board.

    And I have to disagree a bit with J and Phillip. I don’t so much recall her playing “defense for George W. Bush,” I seem to recall her taking disdainful little shots at W. “As a former speechwriter for his Dad, she’s always been sort of amiably disapproving toward the current POTUS,” I noted in 2008.

    Also, I don’t see her as part of the “wedge issue” crowd in the GOP, although it is disingenuous of her not to see the same thing going on in HER party.

    I find that the two parties are equally guilty on that score. That will no doubt meet disagreement among my liberal friends. Among some of them, it is an article of faith that only the right does that sort of thing. Although surely they’ve dropped that notion if they watched ANY of last week’s convention in the hours before 10 p.m.

    And Bud — here we go round and round again, but it is an objective fact that the left started this round of back and forth on contraception. They did it when the administration issued that order that started the showdown with the bishops. Everything else has proceeded from that action.

    And you know how distressed I was to see the left insisting upon launching all these Kulturkampf initiatives in a presidential election year? That’s because I foresaw what so much of the convention last week was about, which Ms. Noonan is reacting to.

    Why, back in my day, all the convention speeches were about throw-weights, and we LIKED it!

  6. bud

    I find that the two parties are equally guilty on that score.

    You’ve made that claim at least a billion times and for the billionth time you are wrong. The Dems may at times engage in wedge issue politics but usually it’s because they’re forced to play defense. The whole “Southern Strategy” thing was the beginning of the wedge. Now if the Dems don’t engage likewise they’re doomed. It’s a sad commentary on our current political discourse but it needs to be stressed who the main perpetrator is – THE G O P!

  7. bud

    … it is an objective fact that the left started this round of back and forth on contraception.

    Seriously? An OBJECTIVE fact is “the sun rose in the east this morning” or “humans cannot survive without oxygen” or “George W. Bush was the worst president since before WW II”. But that statement is no more an objective fact than “Budweiser is better than Miller”.

  8. Brad

    Yes, it is.

    By contrast, even though Budweiser is clearly better than Miller, and you’d be hard-pressed to find discriminating beer drinkers who would disagree (although serious beer snobs would turn up their noses at Bud as well), there IS some subjectivity in beer preferences.

    Truth be told, there was a time, long ago, when I preferred Miller, and even Busch, to Bud. My taste buds have matured since then.

  9. bud

    Brad, the reason you and I talk past each other on this contraception issue is pretty simple. I have a deep conviction that oral contraception is an incredibly valuable PUBLIC good that should be free for EVERY woman who wants it. It is valuable not just to the welfare of the woman but for society as a whole. I would even go so far as to suggest birth control is far more valuable than perhaps 2/3 of all military spending. And it’s at least as valuable (to society NOT just the woman wanting it) as food stamps, reduced cost housing or subsidies for ethanol and other fuels.

    The world is vastly over-populated and to add unwanted children when that could be prevented is immenselly important in todays world. Continued population growth is unsustainable and all the people we have now are generating pollutants that will overwhelm us in the near future. That’s not to mention the inability to feed so many people. And it should be something pro-lifers should appreciate given the certainty that many unwanted pregnancies will be terminated via abortion.

    Bottom line for me: Regardless of who started this debate it is a fight worth waging. And I applaud the president for his actions.

  10. J


    Your statement that “And Bud — here we go round and round again, but it is an objective fact that the left started this round of back and forth on contraception. They did it when the administration issued that order that started the showdown with the bishops. Everything else has proceeded from that action.”

    I guess it’s the fault of the little ones that caused those numerous priests to do what they did to children and then have to cover up all those allegations of abuse. I guess the Bishops had to stand up for their underlings given that the children started the showdown.

    With the Nuns on the Bus, it’s OK to disagree with the Bishops until Papa Benedict has to put them in their subordinate place (they are just women). The Nuns started it by believing what Jesus said in his book.

  11. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    Democrats didn’t make Fluke a victim; Rush Limbaugh did. And Noonan adds insults to injury with more belittling name-calling. Ad hominem, much?

  12. J

    Brad, You can go and edit your own posts. That’s great. I was going to comment on Demint but you changed it. I like you alright. Take care and will post later, got to go to Clba.

  13. Brad

    I don’t know. Of course, part of the controversy here is that Limbaugh — the court jester of the old king, if I remember correctly — accused her of being more like Mary than Anne.

  14. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    I’m confused about which Queens/Queen Consorts we are talking about. Mary Tudor and Anne Stuart? Anne Boleyn and Mary of Teck?

  15. Karen McLeod

    Contraception does a lot to prevent abortion. And no one is “forcing” contraception on anyone. The law is designed to ensure that the poor who want it can have access. No one is going to make any bishop use contraception, although perhaps in some cases it would be a good idea.

  16. Brad

    Here’s the thing about that… Correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that contraceptives are one of the cheapest drugs around. I read the other day that a generic prescription can be filled for about $4.

    Again, I could be mistaken, since I haven’t had to buy them myself.

    But it that is correct, then what this is really about is getting society to affirm one’s position on this social issue. It’s like same-sex marriage — there is no barrier to two people having whatever relationship they choose. But the “marriage” issue is about getting the society to AFFIRM the relationship.

    Isn’t that what’s going on here? Or is it really, truly about people who can’t come up with four bucks to avoid getting pregnant — which would be a pretty tiny sliver of the population?

  17. Brad

    And Karen, the issue isn’t about a bishop using contraception. The issue is about whether the institution that the bishop heads will be forced to provide it. I don’t know why it’s so difficult to get people to focus on that.

  18. Brad

    Which reminds me…

    One day at a news meeting back in the 80s, my fellow editor and newsroom comedian Jim Foster asked, “Did you hear what the bishop said about condoms?” He made it sound like he was about to tell us about an actual news development. So no, what?

    “He said that they ruin it for him…”

  19. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    Oral contraceptives are not 100% effective, even when used perfectly, which they frequently are not. More like 96% in real life.

    Oral contraceptives are not one-size-fits-all, either. Not only does each woman need a custom-fitted prescription, but as she ages, she will likely need to adjust it further.While many may be able to use generics, many may not.The few that are in the $4 formularies may well not work for many women. I can get more specific, but I’m guessing you guys don’t want the literally gory details of female problems.

  20. bud

    Brad, we have focused on the freedom of religion aspect. It’s bogus. No matter how many times you claim this as a religious issue I will counter that it is not. That only applies to the actual churches themselves not the public institutions supported by the church.

  21. Brad

    And of course, your calling it bogus does not make it so. Quite the contrary, in fact.

    The church’s ministry in the community IS the church. There is no other legitimate way of looking at it, unless you are unfamiliar with Christianity.

    If Jesus returned to walk the Earth today, he would recognize Catholic hospitals, for instance, as doing more to carry out his teachings than anything that occurs at an altar.


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