Friday, March 06, 2009


Peggy Noonan writes an odd column this week. It consists mostly of a long account of the crash of a Marine jet in San Diego this past December, which killed four people, and a discussion of the ensuing Marine investigation and report, which uncovered pilot error and safety problems that were ignored.

Noonan has a reason for bringing this up, and it's this:

Residents told the San Diego Union-Tribune that they were taken aback by the report. Bob Johnson, who lived behind the Yoons and barely escaped the crash, said, "The Marines aren't trying to hide from it or duck it. They took it on the chin." ...

This wasn't damage control, it was taking honest responsibility. And as such, in any modern American institution, it was stunning.

The day after the report I heard from a young Naval aviator in predeployment training north of San Diego.... He and his squadron were in range of San Diego television stations when they carried the report's conclusions live.... At the end they were impressed with the public nature of the criticism, and its candor: "There are still elements within the government that take personal responsibility seriously." ...

By contrast, he says, when the economy came crashing down, "nowhere did we see a board come out and say: 'This is what happened, these are the decisions these particular people made, and this was the result. They are no longer a part of our organization.' ... Instead we saw ... everybody against everybody else with no one stepping forth and saying, 'We screwed up...'" There is no one in national leadership who could convincingly "assign blame," and no one "who could or would accept it." ...

All well and good -- but does Noonan know why the Marine Corps would act in this honorable way? It doesn't just happen. The military inculcates the notion of honor and taking responsibility and acting in the interest of the group rather than the individual.

By contrast, Noonan's fellow right-wingers right now are seekng to "go Galt" -- shouting pseudo-anarchist slogans and dreaming of societal subterfuge, all the while giddily quoting the Popessa of radical individualism, Ayn Rand. And large numbers of right-wingers have been feeling this way since ... oh, the 1980s, when they believed their time as radical individualists had come because they felt they had the imprimatur of the man in the White House -- Noonan's then-boss.

So if Noonan wants to call for a new era of responsibility and concern for the well-being of our society rather than for individuals, maybe she should take fewer swipes at the current president (as she does at the very end of this column) and take one or two swipes at President #40.

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