Friday, November 09, 2007


Peggy Noonan tells an awful story about Hillary Clinton today -- and, well, after this you kind of understand why Noonan hates Hillary so much:

...Hillary Clinton held a meeting with her aides and staff, all of whom were dominated by her, even awed. When it was over she invited them to join her at dinner in a nearby restaurant. They went, arrayed themselves around the table, jockeyed for her attention. A young waiter came and asked if they'd like to hear the specials. Mrs. Clinton said, "I will have beef."

Yes, said the waiter. "And the vegetables?"

"They will have beef too."

What an imperious witch, right? Noonan, understandably, is appalled.

...Whoops, sorry -- my fingers must have slipped as I copied and pasted that. That's not a story about Hillary Clinton -- it's a story about Margaret Thatcher, and it's meant as a contrast to Hillary Clinton. Noonan loves the Thatcher story:

Too good to check, as they say. It is certainly apocryphal, but I don't want it to be. It captured her singular leadership style, which might be characterized as "unafraid."

You may not quite grasp how insulting one's subordinates is evidence of a "leadership style" that's "unafraid." But this is Peggy Noonan we're reading -- everything that tickles her fancy about someone she likes is evidence of that person's greatness, whether or not a normal human being can see any connection whatsoever between the two.

(We're also told that, more recently, a stroke-ridden Thatcher flew from London to Washington to California for Ronald Reagan's funeral "and never once on the plane removed her heels. That is tough," Noonan says. Take that, Gandhi, you barefoot second-rater! If you were really a great man, you'd have worn uncomfortable shoes!)

But the point of Noonan's column is -- I think -- that Hillary Clinton isn't man enough to be an admirable woman. No, really, I'm serious. Parse this for me, gender studies majors:

In fact, [Thatcher] wasn't so much a woman as a lady. I remember a gentleman who worked with her speaking of her allure, how she'd relax after a late-night meeting and you'd walk by and catch just the faintest whiff of perfume, smoke and scotch. She worked hard and was tough. One always imagined her lightly smacking some incompetent on the head with her purse, for she carried a purse, as a lady would.

Scotch, smoke, and instrumental assault -- yes, all the things you associate with a properly bred lady. (Hillary, of course, is widely castigated among righties for reportedly throwing a lamp at Bill. Maybe she should have put the lamp in a purse first.)

Later, Noonan turns to the Clinton-Obama battle, and if you dig just a little bit below the surface of her words, you feel as if you're in a John Waters parody of a fifties/sixties teen movie, with Noonan wishing the dreamy but wussy Barack would be man enough to beat up the boorish Big Man on Campus -- i.e., Hillary:

I wonder if Sen. Obama, as he makes his climb, understands the kind of quiet cheering he is beginning to garner from some Republicans, and from those not affiliated with either party. They see him as a Democrat who could cure the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton sickness.

...I am not sure of the salience of Mr. Obama's new-generational approach. Mrs. Clinton's generation, he suggests, is caught in the 1960s, fighting old battles, clinging to old divisions, frozen in time, and the way to get past it is to get past her. Maybe this will resonate. But I don't think Mrs. Clinton is the exemplar of a generation, she is the exemplar of a quadrant within a generation, and it is the quadrant the rest of us of that generation do not like. They came from comfort and stability, visited poverty as part of a college program, fashionably disliked their country, and cultivated a bitterness that was wholly unearned. They went on to become investment bankers and politicians and enjoy wealth, power or both.

Mr. Obama should go after them, not a generation but a type, the smug and entitled. No one really likes them. They showed it this week.

Come on, Barack! Don't let the socs push you around!

But let's return to the main point of the column, which is Margaret Thatcher. She's admirable, Noonan says, because she

would no more have identified herself as a woman ... than she would have called up the Kremlin and asked how quickly she could surrender.

That would be the same Margaret Thatcher who once said,

"Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country."


"I've got a woman's ability to stick to a job and get on with it when everyone else walks off and leaves it."

Those were early Thatcher lines. Later on, the Thatcher brand was codified: She was the Iron Lady™. Hillary has chosen to brand herself in this election as an old-fashioned 1970s-vintage boomer feminist, just as Thatcher branded herself as a tough old buzzard who mocked feminism and seemingly would rather hit you with her purse. It's all image-making, and Noonan takes it way too seriously.


UPDATE: Peggy's "too good to check" story is actually from the British TV series Spitting Image. It was actually a grotesque Thatcher puppet who said, "They'll have the same as me." I love it.

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