Peggy Noonan recently wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal in which she criticized the culture of self-aggrandizement that America allegedly is plagued with, and Noonan took particular aim at the bio that Paula Broadwell (the woman who is at the center of the current scandal du jour) listed for herself on Twitter and at her personal website. Noonan makes some good points about excessive self-promotion and the decline of the idea of quiet dignity, but it's rather difficult to read this sort of thing coming from Peggy Noonan.
For starters, let's look at Peggy Noonan's bio on her website. Her bio mentions the various awesome jobs she's had, books she's written, honorary degrees she's been granted and the fact that she lives in New York City, which is also something quite impressive (or at least that's what I've heard from friends of mine who live in New York City). Now, Noonan has accomplished quite a bit in her life, and that's a good thing. And as we say here in Texas, "it ain't bragging if it's true." But Noonan also isn't very shy about mentioning her accomplishments, is she? It's a little rich for her to criticize the promotion materials of people like Paula Broadwell when she posts similar material on her own bio.
Also, Noonan has something of a history of imbuing herself with authority or insight she doesn't necessarily have on topics she wants to discuss. For example, she said the following, which rather obviously and high-handedly dismissed the work of pollsters like Nate Silver before the election:
But to the election. Who knows what to make of the weighting of the polls and the assumptions as to who will vote? Who knows the depth and breadth of each party's turnout efforts? Among the wisest words spoken this cycle were by John Dickerson of CBS News and Slate, who said, in a conversation the night before the last presidential debate, that he thought maybe the American people were quietly cooking something up, something we don't know about. I think they are and I think it's this: a Romney win.
Well, we all know how that turned out. To be sure, making bad predictions isn't the worst thing on earth and it certainly isn't unheard of in political punditry. However, as various observers have noted, Noonan tends to write her pronouncements in rather gauzy prose, spoken with an air of knowingness and authority. In other words, she's not the most quietly humble of writers.
I won't dispute the fact that there is a culture of self-promotion in America these days that is both off-putting and provides a poor example for how people should discuss their personal histories. I'm just having a hard time taking Peggy Noonan seriously as someone who can credibly critique that culture. I'd like to close with a particular clichéd saying on that point, but the title of this piece takes care of that.