The thesis of Peggy Noonan’s latest Wall Street Journal column is stated in her opening paragraph:
Everyone’s insane now. I mean everyone in Washington. The great challenge of the era is to maintain your intellectual poise under pressure. Washington this week looked like a vast system fail.
She’s only just noticed this? I think that Washington has been a “vast system fail” at least since 9/11 and possibly for long before that. I don’t have direct memories of its entire history but maybe it’s been a failure since the beginning.
The balance of her column is devoted to two examples. The first is an interview of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by Wolf Blitzer. Here’s a snippet:
Tuesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on CNN, let it be known she won’t countenance pushback. At issue was the stalled stimulus deal. Anchor Wolf Blitzer noted that millions have lost their jobs, can’t pay the rent. Members of the speaker’s own caucus want a deal—why not accept the president’s $1.8 trillion offer?
Mrs. Pelosi went from zero to 60 in a nanosecond: “What I say to you is I don’t know why you’re always an apologist, and many of your colleagues, apologists for the Republican position.” “Do you realize” the GOP bill is inadequate, she demanded. “Do you have any idea . . .?”
What about Democrats who want a deal? “They have no idea of the particulars. They have no idea of what the language is here. . . . You’re the apologist for Obama. Excuse me. God forbid. Thank God for Barack Obama.”
That’s a theme very common among progressives with which I am familiar. If you’re insufficiently and uncritically acquiescent to their views, you must be a closeted Republican. That is a fallacy known as the tertium non datur, characteristic of the shallow or the fanatical. Maybe that trope is equally common among conservatives and I just haven’t noticed it. I’m not so sure. That progressives are looking for heretics while conservatives are looking for converts rings true to me.
I think that Ms. Noonan calls this about right:
It was bonkers. To watch was to witness, uncomfortably, the defensive aggression of an official who goes through life each day not being challenged nearly enough.
The other example was from the confirmation hearings of Amy Coney Barrett:
The Barrett hearings were almost as strange. They were, as usual, not really about her and her views but the senators and theirs. But it seemed to me that slightly more than usual they treated her like a piece of furniture. There were bizarre questions. From Mazie Hirono of Hawaii: “Since you became a legal adult, have you ever made unwanted requests for sexual favors or committed any verbal or physical harassment or assault of a sexual nature?” No, Judge Barrett said. Ms. Hirono says she asks this of all nominees, but it would have been nice if she’d said it with a hint of doubt.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse delivered a Rachel Maddow-style monologue on “dark money.” His data board linking “phony front groups” was wonderfully John Nash-like. The not-funny part, the sadness of it, actually, is that you could do a mirror-image chart of Democratic activism and money surrounding court nominees, and it would have been a public service if he had.
Whether those opposing her confirmation or those supporting it, they were unfailingly condescending. Once again, these are people who have received so much deference for so long they think they’re entitled to it. She concludes:
Guys, did you not notice the immediate recall with which she summoned, and the depth with which she analyzed, the history of American jurisprudence? Say thank you, God, and move on.
Leadership of all three branches of government is just full of malignant narcissists. God help us.