Sunday, February 27, 2011

Peggy Noonan and Internet speeches

Peggy Noonan’s opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Internet Helps Us Get Serious,” takes a ramble through Fantasyland to conclude that speeches by conservative politicians on the internet are what caused the Republican resurgence in the last election. 
Here is the progression: the Left, who want big government, are happy about massive debt 1) because it causes other governments to influence US policy with the IOUs they hold, and 2) because the debt crisis will force reduction in gun spending in order to maintain butter spending. The aim of the Left is to weaken America. But what about the rest of us? Why have we allowed all this debt?
First, regular politicians cannot recognize a real crisis because they have been laboring under false claims of crisis as far as they can remember. Secondly, legislators are suffering from Rich Boy Syndrome. They inherited a strong, vibrant economy, and since they never had to really work for a living, they never learned to respect the system that created the wealth. Third, it is human to avoid dealing with unpleasantness.
Why this linkage between the Left and Rich Boy Syndrome? Is it an honest linkage, I asked myself. So I decided to investigate.
Noonan was a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan. Excessive, peace time, deficit spending started on her watch. Reagan cut taxes with the intent to increase the deficit, claiming tax breaks for the wealthy would tinkle down to the middle class. The percentage of wealth at the top has increased ever since. Does she apologize?
But even Reagan raised taxes when the deficit got too big from his perspective. And Clinton left office with a budget surplus. Who came in and blew the budget wide open? The guy born into wealth, the guy whose dad got him out of Vietnam, the guy whose dad got him jobs in the business world, the guy whose dad got him his entre into politics. Whose draft-dodging vice-president said “deficits don’t matter”?
George W. Bush led us into two wars without asking America to pay. He cut taxes on the wealthy, again citing the tinkle-down theory, which was disproven by Reagan, refudiated by it creator, David Stockman, and has now been disproven again. He added prescription benefits without providing a way to pay for those benefits. Then, the failure of his administration to supervise the Rich Boys on Wall Street caused the economy to collapse. It was combination of these four things that caused today’s huge deficits. 
What is Noonan’s theory on how to get out of this fix? We should not go back to the pre-Rich Boy tax rates. We should not raise current taxes to fight the current wars. We should not get out of the wars. We should not raise taxes to pay for the drugs. We should not cut the prescription drugs. 
No, the solution is the new conservative politicians who got elected to cut spending on other things. And how did we get so many of these new politicians elected in 2010? Not by Fox News propaganda. Not by corporate propaganda thanks to Citizens United. Not by propaganda blaming the poor, black kid for not solving the problems created by the Rich Boy—quick enough. They got elected, Noonan says, due to the dissemination on the internet of full speeches by these conservative politicians containing “serious, fleshed-out ideas.”
In support of her internet theory, Noonan give three examples. The first two are speeches by Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie at CPAC, three months AFTER the election. The third is the Lincoln Day Dinner speech by Ron Johnson, which became so viral, she claims, that it brought down liberal Russ Feingold. 
I never heard of this speech. Since I do not live in Wisconsin, I assumed that was the reason. So I went to the internet to find the revolutionary speech. I was anxious to see it, since I had read he had no serious, fleshed out ideas on how to solve the budget crisis.
I started with Youtube, and searched for Ron Johnson listed by number of views. The first relevant, with 16,563 views, hit I get is entitled “Ron Johnson at the GB Press Gazette reveals that he has no job plan,” where he was caught flatfooted by the Green Bay editorial board. The next hit, with 9,586 views, is entitled, “Ron Johnson Testifies Against child Abuse Victims, Opposed Child Victims Act in wisconsin,” where he sought to protect the Catholic Church from lawsuits by child rape victims.
So I ran “Ron Johnson Lincoln Day speech” on Bing. I got no videos on the first two pages. I tried Google with same search terms. Still no video link. In fact, on the first page, I get two links to Peggy Noonan’s article on her speech theory citing the Ron Johnson speech. She has no link to his speech, either. I gave up trying to find this revolutionary speech.
As a conservative who claims to write speeches with “serious, fleshed-out ideas,”I am sure Peggy would like to think such speeches have effects on elections. But where is the evidence? I am sure the Ron Johnson speech may have made the Tea Bagger rounds through email, but neither Youtube, Google, nor Bing provide evidence of influence outside the right-wing true believers.
I guess we have to go back to right-wing, corporate propaganda as an explanation. Occam's razor.

So this is my take on how she wrote this column. She read that Ron Johnson thanked a conservative talk show host for promoting this speech as the reason he decided to run. Tea Baggers liked what Johnson said, and they started sending it around to their fellow Baggers. Since the speech was 20 minutes long, it must have been filled with facts and stuff. Ron Johnson won. Ergo, post hoc proctor hoc. The full speech was the cause of Johnson's election. Since she wrote long speeches for a living, she believes that they are important. She wanted the Tea Baggers to win. Therefore, long speeches are the reason.

Now one speech does not show a pattern so she needed at least 2 more. "I know," she thought, "CPAC had some speeches a couple weeks ago. In fact, the speakers were just like those smart people on TED that people are always watching. Hey, TED is another example. And then I'll pick Christie and Daniels for my additional political examples. Coulter is a little too creepy.  Sure, those speeches were after the election, but no one notices stuff like that."

Since it was being published in the WSJ, she decided to throw in an irrelevant, dishonest attack on the Left. But comparing CPAC to TED was the funniest.


  1. Great post. I detest when Conservatives try and tell others what "Liberals" mean/think/want because they are almost 180' off the mark. As the saying goes, if a Republican accuses you of wanting to do something, that's because that's what THEY would do in your situation (rg: the fiction of the Left sending "rable-rousers" with Hitler posters into Tea Party protests to make them look bad, vs. WI Gov Walker discussing that he considered doing that to the pro-Union protests in Madison.)

    The actual list of examples is longer than my arm.

  2. Chris in Seattle - This should help about TED:

    (Sorry. That always makes me laugh. Because I am 12).

  3. Peggy Noonan, an old fashion conservative
    Reagan girl posting on viral historic
    speeches by Ron Johnson that nobody
    saw or heard and all made possible
    by that brand new technology, the inter-ludes.

    BTW, hard to believe Obama is our 1st
    computer literate president who admits
    to knowing nothing about computers.
    That in itself puts him way ahead of Bush,
    McCain, Palin and apparently, Peggy Noonan.