Peggy Noonan, a woman, of America, is a political columnist, yes. But first, she is an American. She does not go in for all the "data" and "numbers" and "relevant facts" mumbo-jumbo that clouds the political debates of our fine nation. Leave the "worthwhile" political theories for Nate Silver and other dewy younglings; Peggy Noonan will weave her own columns not out of "polls," but out of hazy, gin-soaked memories of Ronald Reagan, and trips to Brooklyn street fairs, and yard signs viewed out of her car window. And now: Peggy Noonan has taken a trip to a hotel. A hotel—in America.
One might think, "Oh, checking into a hotel, what a mundane experience, it would be absurd to attempt to glean some wistful conclusion about the state of an entire nation from such an everyday thing." And one would be correct. But one would not be Peggy Noonan.
I'm in Pittsburgh, making my way to the airport hotel. The people movers are broken and we pull our bags along the dingy carpet. There's an increasing sense in America now that the facades are intact but the machinery inside is broken.
Note the seamless segue from Peggy's statement of the preternaturally boring thing she is doing, straight into an unqualified statement about the "sense" of a nation of 300 million people. Peggy Noonan knows these things. She has traveled from frontier to frontier. Of airport hotels.
The hotel has entrances on two floors. I search for the lobby, find it. Travelers are milling about, but there's no information desk, no doorman, no bellman or concierge, just two harried-looking workers at a front desk on the second level. The man who checked me in put his phones on hold when I asked for someone to accompany me upstairs. As we walked to the room I felt I should explain. I told him a trial attorney had told me a while back that there are more lawsuits involving hotels than is generally known, and more crime, so always try to have someone with you when you first go to your room. I thought the hotel clerk would pooh-pooh this. Instead he said, "That's why we just put up mirrors at each end of the hall, so you can see if someone's coming." He made it sound like an amenity.
"What should we do then, scream?" I asked. He laughed and shrugged: "Yeah."
At that, Peggy Noonan screamed.