Peggy Noonan Outdoes Herself, Blames America's Problems on "Adam Lamberts" of the World
For reasons I can only blame on Twitter, I read Peggy Noonan's newest column late last night and went to bed soon after. This morning I woke up thinking, "Surely, not. It must've been some sad, low-intensity nightmare. No serious person would write an article that ridiculous."
Then I remembered: Peggy Noonan is not a serious person.
Sure, she writes for a Serious paper -- The Wall Street Journal -- and is invited to share her analysis on Serious programs ("Meet the Press"). She writes like she speaks: primly, with an air of breezy, high-class intellect. I imagine she writes beautiful cursive.
She is well groomed. So well groomed, in fact, she believes it is her right -- nay, her obligation -- to publicly humiliate those who fail at grooming. (Noblesse oblige, Mika. Don't take it personally.)
The last time I read Lady Noonan, in late November, she was being driven down Manhattan's Fifth Ave -- a perennial source of inspiration -- and was so moved at the sight of the Bergdorf Goodman building ("tall, stately, mansard-roofed") -- it instilled her with a sense of deep relief:
It looked exactly as it looked 10 years ago, 20, only better. Because it's there. New York has been so damaged by the crash, and last year at this time small shops, the ones with the smallest margin for error, were closing. And now I see more that are opening, and Bergdorf's is preparing its Christmas windows. The sight of it came like an affirmation. We're still here. I am so grateful.
It was not the first time she wrote a Thanksgiving-themed column that celebrated the survival of the ruling class as the rest of the country went to hell. After all, impressionistic validations of her own sense of privilege are her forte. (If Berdorf survives, that means the rich survive; Food stamps? Collectibles of the goblins to the north.)
But I digress.
It appears Peggy Noonan decided this week that she is done feeling grateful about the survival of luxury goods and is back to being worried.
At first glance, it appears she is concerned about the economy:
The news came in numbers and the numbers were fairly grim, all the grimmer for being unsurprising. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll reported this week that more than half of Americans, 55%, think America is on the wrong track, with only 33% saying it is going in the right direction. A stunning 66% say they're not confident that their children's lives will be better than their own (27% are).
It is another in a long trail of polls that show a clear if occasionally broken decline in American optimism. The poll was discussed on TV the other day, and everyone said those things everyone says: "People are afraid they'll lose their jobs or their houses." "It's health care. Every uninsured person feels they're one illness away from bankruptcy.
All too true. The economy has always had an impact on the general American mood, and the poll offered data to buttress the reader's assumption that economic concerns are driving pessimism. Fifty-one percent of those interviewed said they disapproved of the president's handling of the economy, versus 42% approving.>
At this point, I ask myself, "Where is she going with this?" After all, Bergdorf is still standing, so it can't be all about money, right?
But something tells me this isn't all about money.
It's possible, and I can't help but think likely, that the poll is also about other things, and maybe even primarily about other things.
Sure, Americans are worried about long-term debt and endless deficits. We're worried about taxes and the burden we're bequeathing to our children, and their children.
Do go on.
But we are concerned about other things, too, and there are often signs in various polls that those things may dwarf economic concerns. Americans are worried about the core and character of the American nation, and about our culture.
She's really building up the suspense and if you're like me you are dying to know what this looming threat to our "core and character" is. Finally, after setting up the following parallel -- "It is one thing to grouse that dreadful people who don't care about us control our economy, but another, and in a way more personal, thing to say that people who don't care about us control our culture" -- she tells us:
In 2009 this was perhaps most vividly expressed in …
Oooh, ooh! I know! The torture memos? Bagram? Rush Limbaugh?
… the Adam Lambert Problem.
…the Adam Lambert Problem?
American Idol winner Adam Lambert? This guy?
Yes, America, Peggy Noonan has peered into the soul of our nation -- it resides somewhere near Berdorf, I assume -- and concluded that, of all the indignities suffered by Americans in 2009 -- say, paying billions in taxes for wars and bank bailouts while seeing health care reform virtually torpedoed -- Adam Lambert's highly sexualized -- homosexual -- performance at the American Music Awards -- an episode she calls, simply, "the Adam Lambert incident on ABC in November" -- was the poison pill that has us all feeling so depressed. (Who knew?)
This incident, she says solemnly, was a betrayal of the American family. With this incident, the great unspoken "compromise" of American television -- pay for smut on cable but don't drag good people into it -- was "breached."
It was a broadcast network, it was prime time, it was the American Music Awards featuring singers your 11-year-old wants to see, and your 8-year-old. And Mr. Lambert came on and -- again, in front of your children, in the living room, in the middle of your peaceful evening -- uncorked an act in which he, in the words of various news reports the next day, performed 'faux oral sex' featuring 'S&M play,' 'bondage gear,' 'same-sex makeouts' and 'walking a man and woman around the stage on a leash.'"
"Mr. Lambert's act left viewers feeling not just offended but assaulted."
Noonan goes on to insist that she, personally, does not waste too much time worrying about such vulgar things (apart from writing entire columns condemning them). "In the great scheme of things a creepy musical act doesn't matter much." But she observes that "increasingly people feel at the mercy of the Adam Lamberts, who of course view themselves, when criticized, as victims of prudery and closed-mindedness. America is not prudish or closed-minded, it is exhausted. It cannot be exaggerated, how much Americans feel besieged by the culture of their own country, and to what lengths they have to go to protect their children from it."
So there you have it. The "Adam Lamberts" of the world are trying to impose their values on your children. Am I dreaming, or is this really a fundraising appeal from the National Organization For Marriage?
I agree with Noonan about one thing: Americans are exhausted. From endless war, from lay-offs, from the craven politicians who build their careers on false populism only to betray the ideals they claim to represent just when it matters most. People feel betrayed, yes, but not for the reasons Noonan pretends they do.