Early Saturday morning I dragged myself to the New Yorker Festival in Midtown, to see media mensch Ken Auletta moderate a panel discussion with Times editor Bill Keller, Atlantic blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates, Slate press critic Jack Shafer, and breathless WSJ columnist Peggy Noonan, the token conservative. I'll leave out the boring recap parts and distill the experience down to its key point: Peggy Noonan should go back to writing political speeches, because—even taking into account the fact that she's a Republican hack—her dishonesty is embarrassing to watch. Ugh. Noonan, remember, was caught on a live mic talking about how the selection of Sarah Palin as VP was "bullshit." A fact that was referenced repeatedly by Ken Auletta! So what did Noonan spend the bulk of her time on the panel (subject: "Covering the Candidates") doing? Defending Sarah Palin. It was far too early to take notes, but I'll sum up Peggy's arguments: "Sarah Palin, fresh, new, American, real, six-pack, women, sexism?, the American people." The experience was strange because every single person sitting in the room—the panelists, the moderator, the audience, the security guards—was well aware how dumb Sarah Palin is. But there was Peggy, gamely searching for some all-American Reaganesque prose to elevate Palin into something legitimate. The panel was about the media, so the bold political hackery was jarring and out of place, like when those crazy Christians wave signs at the funerals of dead soldiers saying God killed them because of fags. There's a time and a place for your brand of lying, Peggy. It's on the weekend talk shows, after you sign on as a speechwriter for the sure-to-be successful Palin administration. There are lots of political hacks writing columns; but Noonan always wants to pop up as some sort of spokeswoman for Middle America, in the most patronizing way possible to actual Middle Americans. You failed at the New Yorker Festival, Peggy Noonan. The contrast between Noonan and the other panelists was what made the entire ordeal grimace-worthy. Bill Keller has more political pressure on him than almost anyone in the entire media. But when Ken Auletta asked him how it affected him when the McCain campaign charged the Times with being in the tank for Obama, Keller said (approximately): "It makes me want to find the toughest, hardest story about McCain we have and put it on the front page the next day." That's called honesty, Peggy Noonan. Retire with your trademark false grace. [Pic via Startraks]
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