There was a time, years ago, when I looked forward to reading Peggy Noonan. Her weekly Wall Street Journal column seemed to cut through the noise of national politics and the churn of the news cycle to articulate some important nugget of wisdom about the state of our shared civic life. Whether I agreed with her or not, I always wanted to know what she thought, and I always took the time to read her.
Those days are, of course, long gone. Like nearly every elite media pundit, the Trump era utterly confounded Noonan. She simply couldn’t understand Trump’s appeal, and her analysis of him was often reduced to ridiculous anecdotes — a conversation she’d had with her uncle, a chat with the Dominican guy who works at her local deli, a phone call with a retired three-star general. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as the time she predicted a 2012 Mitt Romney win based on seeing a lawn sign in Florida, but too often it was in that general vein.
Over the weekend, Noonan torched her last shred of credibility, penning a piece that encapsulates how the entire establishment media class came to believe its own unhinged propaganda about Trump and Russia, and in the process became totally disconnected from reality.
In the wake of Special Counsel John Durham’s damning 306-page report on the corrupt origins of the FBI’s Trump-Russia collusion hoax, Noonan says she still doesn’t “know what to think of Trump/Russia” and is “not satisfied we’ll ever fully understand it.” After reading her take on the entire sordid affair, I’m confident that Noonan, at least, will never understand it — even if it’s crystal clear to the rest of us.
In case you missed it, the Durham report chronicles in detail what can fairly be called an attempted coup by the FBI. The agency’s investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign, codenamed Crossfire Hurricane, wasn’t simply a matter of the FBI getting “ahead of itself,” or pulling a “Watergate-type dirty trick,” as Noonan euphemistically puts it. In this case, the Washington cliche “worse than Watergate” is apt. The Russia-collusion investigation was nothing less than a coordinated effort by the agency’s top brass to prevent Trump from becoming president using any means necessary — lying to FISA judges to secure warrants to spy on Trump campaign associates, ignoring or quashing exculpatory evidence, illegally leaking to the news media, and at every turn betraying the FBI’s guiding principles of “Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity.”
Ultimately, Crossfire Hurricane was a betrayal of the Constitution and the principles of republican self-government. Simply put, the FBI didn’t think the American people could be trusted, so they decided first to meddle in the presidential election and, after Trump won office, to undermine his presidency.
It’s hard to overstate the seriousness of what the Durham report reveals, yet for Noonan it was merely a case of “otherwise temperate and responsible people” who “found themselves willing to believe anything about [Trump], and, in the case of the FBI, willing to pursue any probe even when the evidence was thin or nonexistent.” Her implication, impossible to justify in light of the report, is that the people at the center of the Russia-collusion hoax were acting in good faith but unfortunately ended up getting blinded by their priors.
It’s a position almost as absurd as the false equivalence Noonan draws between the treasonous launch of Crossfire Hurricane and the “mystery” of why Trump was friendly to Putin at a joint press conference in 2018. For Noonan, seeing Trump be deferential to Putin in front of cameras — something Trump’s predecessor also did, but never mind that — was evidence of a deep, dark conspiracy that the Durham report failed to explain.
This is where Noonan’s alienation from reality really shows. In public, Trump was generally friendly and deferential to nearly every world leader, especially ones who, like Putin, praised him during the GOP primary. Part of what made Trump an unconventional politician, and therefore difficult for people like Noonan to comprehend, was the casual, not-too-serious way he treated the traditional trappings of politics, such as press conferences, which he clearly — and correctly — thought were ridiculous.
Thus for Noonan, when Trump declined to accuse Putin of election interference to his face at the behest of an AP reporter at the Helsinki press conference in July 2018, it was evidence of a sinister plot. It was “chilling,” she says, a disgraceful performance, shocking that Trump would take such a moment not to attack Putin but to imply that the FBI “was incompetent or corrupt.”
Never mind that the FBI was incompetent and corrupt. For Noonan, the staged, fake atmosphere of a televised press conference was more real than Trump’s actual policies vis-à-vis Moscow — policies that, in the real world, were much tougher on Putin than anything Obama had done or anything Biden would do after 2020. Trump urged Europe to reduce its reliance on Russian oil, unleashed the U.S. military on Russian forces in the Middle East, armed Ukraine with weapons that Obama withheld, and imposed sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline (which Biden lifted).
None of these things seem to matter to the likes of Noonan as much as how Trump himself seemed. To the establishment, he seemed like “an obviously bad man” and a “threat to our country.” The top men at the FBI, says Noonan, “experienced themselves as motivated by patriotism.” They just wanted to protect the country.
What utter nonsense. If after everything we know now, Noonan still thinks the FBI was motivated by patriotism in its perpetuation of the Trump-Russia collusion hoax, then may I suggest with all due respect that it’s time for her to put away her typewriter and retire? She, along with other once-respected pundits on the right such as Jonah Goldberg and David French, has lost the ability not only to explain the state of American politics but to ascertain basic reality.
The reality is this: Trump wasn’t a member of the establishment, so the establishment hated him. He had bad manners. He was boorish and rude. He thought the media and the federal bureaucracy were corrupt and ridiculous, and said so repeatedly. That deeply offended the establishment, people like John Brennan and James Comey and Peter Strzok. Who was he to give them orders? He was just some griftery New York real estate mogul. They were the experts, the serious people. That many ordinary Americans, like the Dominicans who make Noonan’s sandwiches, liked Trump and actually agreed with him didn’t much matter. He had to be stopped.
For our elite media class, Trump’s popularity couldn’t possibly be real. They themselves couldn’t possibly be that out of touch, could they? No, there had to be another explanation for Trump. He had to be a real-life villain, a Russian agent, or at least a Putin apologist. Nothing he did, no actual policies or actions undertaken by the Trump administration would dissuade them of this belief. It was an indispensable narrative. Their careers and reputations depended on it.
No wonder, then, that faced with something as damning as the Durham report, Noonan’s reaction is to wonder aloud whether we’ll ever know the truth about Trump and Putin.
Well, we all know the truth now. We also know the truth about the establishment media, and we’re never going to forget it.