WSJ's Peggy Noonan on the "Drama Queen"-in-Chief

July 27, 2017 6:06 p.m. ET

The president’s primary problem as a leader is not that he is impetuous, brash or naive. It’s not that he is inexperienced, crude, an outsider. It is that he is weak and sniveling. It is that he undermines himself almost daily by ignoring traditional norms and forms of American masculinity.

He’s not strong and self-controlled, not cool and tough, not low-key and determined; he’s whiny, weepy and self-pitying. He throws himself, sobbing, on the body politic. He’s a drama queen. It was once said, sarcastically, of George H.W. Bush that he reminded everyone of her first husband. Trump must remind people of their first wife. Actually his wife, Melania, is tougher than he is with her stoicism and grace, her self-discipline and desire to show the world respect by presenting herself with dignity.

Half the president’s tweets show utter weakness. They are plaintive, shrill little cries, usually just after dawn. “It’s very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their president.” The brutes. Actually they’ve been laboring to be loyal to him since Inauguration Day. “The Republicans never discuss how good their health care bill is.” True, but neither does Mr. Trump, who seems unsure of its content. In just the past two weeks, of the press, he complained: “Every story/opinion, even if should be positive, is bad!” Journalists produce “highly slanted & even fraudulent reporting.” They are “DISTORTING DEMOCRACY.” They “fabricate the facts.”

It’s all whimpering accusation and finger-pointing: Nobody’s nice to me. Why don’t they appreciate me?

His public brutalizing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions isn’t strong, cool and deadly; it’s limp, lame and blubbery. “Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes,” he tweeted this week. Talk about projection.

He told the Journal’s Michael C. Bender he is disappointed in Mr. Sessions and doesn’t feel any particular loyalty toward him. “He was a senator, he looks at 40,000 people and he probably says, ‘What do I have to lose?’ And he endorsed me. So it’s not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement.” Actually, Mr. Sessions supported him early and put his personal credibility on the line. In Politico, John J. Pitney Jr. of Claremont McKenna College writes: “Loyalty is about strength. It is about sticking with a person, a cause, an idea or a country even when it is costly, difficult or unpopular.” A strong man does that. A weak one would unleash his resentments and derive sadistic pleasure from their unleashing.

The way American men used to like seeing themselves, the template they most admired, was the strong silent type celebrated in classic mid-20th century films—Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Henry Fonda. In time the style shifted, and we wound up with the nervous and chattery. More than a decade ago the producer and writer David Chase had his Tony Soprano mourn the disappearance of the old style: “What they didn’t know is once they got Gary Cooper in touch with his feelings they wouldn’t be able to shut him up!” The new style was more like that of Woody Allen. His characters couldn’t stop talking about their emotions, their resentments and needs. They were self-justifying as they acted out their cowardice and anger.

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Comment by alsoknownas on July 28, 2017 at 7:22am

Absent the gender references, he remains a whiny, wimpy backstabber.

Comment by Foolish Monkey on July 28, 2017 at 11:11am

I heard this op-ed this morning and I felt like Peggy outdid herself.  I'd have expected that from Maureen Dowd, but this wasn't funny.  It was dead serious.  Excellent piece!

as for dishing Melania - IMO:

Melania's is very glamorous.  She's always been glamorous and she remains true to herself and her vision of herself.  Of the entire white house staff and family members, she is the classiest by far.  

So if the first lady wants to wear certain designers, fine.  she's sticking with American designers and she's dressing as she always has.  Beautifully.

BTW, ALL first ladies have had fashion disasters.  Michele Obama wore a dress once that almost blinded me it was so garish on TV.  And her false eyelash habit was scary.  Hillary dressed like an easter egg. and so it goes.

Frankly, if you want to dish the trump family how about the business practices of his children - fashion forward daughters slave labor factories in china for starters. 

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on July 28, 2017 at 11:15am

No one will ever accuse me of caring abt or having a sense of    ....    fashion, particularly mine.  

Comment by Rob Wittmann on July 28, 2017 at 12:38pm

I think this is a rhetorically brilliant piece. Trump's m.o. is that he is a hyper-masculine, dominant, macho, alpha-male with high levels of testosterone who can be a warrior for the people. Teddy Roosevelt, JFK, Ernest Hemingway, and Putin all appealed to that sentiment. Noonan takes this paradigm (which appeals not only to conservatives, but to large numbers of Americans, and people globally, for that matter).

In this piece, Noonan talks to people who find that imagery and paradigm attractive. She is not aiming for liberals on Huff-Post, or Salon. She is aiming this at conservatives and moderates who may have liked Trump precisely because of his machismo. What she does here is clever, because she inverts that paradigm and uses that very sentiment to undermine Trump.

I am reminded of Konrad Adenauer, Germany's first post-war Chancellor. Nationalists on the radical right attacked him and called him a traitor, because he favored economic integration with the West, an alliance with France (God forbid!) and a de-militarized, de-Prussianized Kultur. Adenauer used nationalist imagery to destroy the nationalists, showing that the nationalists were the least nationalistic people around. If they really loved the nation, why would they murder their own people? If they really loved their nation, why would they cause a war that would destroy their own country? If they really loved their nation, why would they conscript 8 year olds to fight, and shoot their parents for refusing to let their 8 year olds shoot Panzerfausts at American tanks?

It reminds me of Antony's funeral address, too. "honorable men." Antony was being ironic with the speech, using the paradigm or nomenclature of the Optimates and turning it against them, exposing their hypocrisy. And that's what Noonan is doing here. Brilliant.

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on July 28, 2017 at 12:49pm

ty

Comment by Rob Wittmann on July 29, 2017 at 9:20am

I plead ignorance, though, as to why some of you have problems with her language here. Are some of you saying that her language is sexist? If so, how? I'm not trying to be obnoxious, I'm just clueless.

Comment by Dicky Neely on July 29, 2017 at 9:40am

Very good Jonathan!

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