Archive for ‘National Review’

August 1, 2009

Things for which there is no time now

A friend just invited me to join a Facebook group called, “Birthers for Intellectual Honesty.” This is probably a joke, and he is a friend, and therefore I will not get mad at him.

Please note the previous “Amen” to Philip Klein. Whatever the circumstances of Obama’s birth, they cannot now constitute the basis of an effective political attack. So any further attempt to advance along that line is wasted time or, worse, giving fodder to those who delight in portraying conservatives as kooks. Mitchell Blatt writes:

[D]id you know that NBC was planning on asking [Michelle Malkin] if she is a birther conspiracy nut? . .
NBC wanted to ask Michelle what she thought of where Obama was born even after Media Matters themselves noted that Malkin thought the theory was insane.
Malkin said at her book signing [Friday] that NBC producers were actually asking her about it before she went on . . .

It is inarguable — and I’ve been watching this steadily develop on Memeorandum for several days without mentioning it — that the same online minions of the Left who spent months assailing Sarah Palin have now re-directed their efforts toward pushing this “Birther” thing.

Any conservative who thinks that the Left is interested in a rational discussion of facts (whatever the facts may be) needs to wake the hell up.

Please pardon my French, but if they actually cared about facts they wouldn’t be the Left, would they? The Left wants propaganda, and they clearly think that this Birther meme serves the propaganda purpose of portraying everyone on the Right as a tinfoil-hatter.

Ergo, STFU, IYKWIMAITYD.

Both National Review‘s anti-birther editorial and Andrew C. McCarthy’s extended discussion of the related issues are but the latest exhibits for the prosecution in the continuing case of Why Rich Lowry Should Have Been Fired No Later Than 2001.

For some reason, Lowry keeps publishing things that never should have been published, stirring up fights that avail nothing for the conservative cause, and otherwise stepping on his . . . Well, pardon my French.

When Lowry permitted Ann Coulter to be banned from NRO on account of her famous 9/12/01 tribute to her recently departed friend Barbara Olson, you knew the man’s judgment was flawed. And he has since repeatedly blundered in ways too numerous even to begin listing them here.

Of all the particular kookeries to which National Review might have devoted its efforts in recent weeks — Waxman-Markey, hello? — what purpose was served by this engagement with Birtherism?

As Richard Brookhiser reveals (perhaps not altogether intentionally) in his new book, Right Time, Right Place: Coming of Age With William F. Buckley Jr. and the Conservative Movement, the crowd at National Review has always been a peevish clique of snobs and oddballs.

Oh, the stories that D.C. conservative journalists could tell you about their dealings with National Review! Since I cannot breach any confidences, let me just ask you to imagine a D.C. press conference or discussion panel.

Mingling around the danish-and-coffee table in the back of the room, you’ll see representatives of all the various Right-side media: Washington Times, Human Events, American Spectator, CNS, etc., etc. Camaraderie and conviviality are the prevailing spirit — a spirit of which the National Review representative does not partake.

The National Review man is not a mere reporter, you see, but an intellectual! And therefore, he doesn’t hang out and chat with the lowly ink-stained drudges, who are so far beneath the NR man as to be mere Sigma Nus to his Skull and Bones.

Oh, they’re not all equally bad. But the insufferable snobbery of the NR crowd is notorious, and even the most down-to-earth of them cannot resist succumbing in some degree to this esprit des snobs.

Which might not be so bad, and perhaps even justifiable, if NR was as good as the NR-ites think it is. But the magazine’s repeated blunders under the Lowry regime — remember, it was Lowry’s NR which deemed Rod Dreher’s “Crunchy Cons” deserving of a cover story and later gave Dreher his own separate blog to promote that ridiculous philosophical cul-de-sac — have become an embarrassment.

One hesitates to speculate on who the proper replacement for Lowry would be, especially since howls of fury would erupt at the mere mention of Jonah Goldberg. Howling aside, Goldberg is far more intelligent than Lowry, and at least has something of the basic virile pugnacity that Lowry so conspicuously lacks. Goldberg has in the past committed errors of his own, but in the current crisis his ferocity on the attack would certainly be a change in the right direction.

As I said, however, one hesitates to speculate about these things, and I’m sure that the moment I hit the “publish” button, an online lynch mob will descend into the comments, denouncing me for even suggesting Goldberg for the gig, telling me what ideological heresies and political deviations I have thereby endorsed.

Before I’m strung up, however, let me point out that we are not proposing to elect a beau ideal of conservatism, but merely replacing Rich Lowry. And it would be hard to imagine any replacement actually being worse.

OK, Fred Barnes would definitely be worse, but . . . why quibble?

Whatever the facts about Obama’s birth, the most important fact is that Lowry is a clueless son of a bitch.

Pardon my French.

(P.S.: Programming note — The weekly FMJRA Rule 2 round-up will probably be late this week. I got a frantic e-mail late Friday from Smitty, saying he’d missed a flight at O’Hare, thus derailing his schedule and leaving him off-the-grid before the thing was complete. Will try to get it online at some point this afternoon. We appreciate your patience.)

UPDATE 2 p.m. SATURDAY:Apologizing again for the continued delay in the FMJRA, but without the Porsche Man’s key, I can’t get his legendary TechnoratiBots to function, and we must await Mr. Smith’s return to give our bloggy friends the obligatory courtesy prescribed by everyone’s favorite Gunnery Sergeant. (To paraphrase: If you link them, they will come. But better late than never, as they say.)

Meanwhile, in a not-entirely-unrelated development, CIA Director Leon Panetta tries to tell the Left to drop their obsessive crusade to expose the eeeevil deeds of the Langley Spook Shop. Or, as one of Panetta’s former bosses once famously said, “Better put some ice on that.”

Of course, the Left will not listen to Panetta’s wise counsel, any more than some of the Birthers who have infested Free Republic will let go of their own idee fixe.

The point that some obstreporous knuckleheads apparently cannot comprehend, and I must again refer everyone to Philip Klein’s argument, is this: Whatever the True Facts may be — e.g., the intriguing theory that Obama was conceived in Jakarta, sired by Beelzebub and subsequently whelped by a Kenyan jackal — the quixotic pursuit of those facts is an utterly irrelevant and arguably self-defeating waste of time for conservatives who have any real talent that might be applied to the serious task of halting the advance of the progressive policy agenda.

Any Birthers tempted to denounce me as a pawn or a dupe of the Establishment would be advised to consult my friends — or even, perhaps, my enemies — whereby they might discover that, among my many other talents and interests, I am well-known as a Friend Of The Fringe.

A Vow of Vengeance
My long habit of sympathy to the marginal and excluded is probably a result of my having been one of the last of a formerly plentiful breed, the Sam Nunn Democrats.

Man, talk about life on the fringe! To have been a common-sense sort of Democrat in 1988, the year the Democratic Party’s nominee decided to campaign not for the presidency of the United States, but for the presidency of the ACLU, is to learn a cruel lesson in the politics of marginalization.

Stubborn then as always, I hung on doggedly as late as 1994 until finally President Clinton — whose bumper sticker adorned my old Chevy Impala during the ’92 campaign — signed into law that abomination I call The Great Gun Grab of ’94. (What part of “From My Cold Dead Hands” is so hard to understand, Bill?)

I have been a professional journalist since 1986 and spent the early years of my newspaper career covering sports, education and many other ordinary matters no more political than a local school-board election. My career as a conservative journalist since the mid-199s, however, can be accurately understood only in light of Clintonian betrayal.

Nothing less than the complete destruction of the Democrats coudl ever sate my desire for revenge on those backstabbing bastards. I will not be satisfied until the Democratic Party exists only in the pages of history books.

Not until we have completed that noble mission shall we take up the business of annihilating whatever vestiges of Voinovichism might still persist.

And you, Dear Birther Kook, are getting between me and my revenge. If you think you’re the first, you’re wrong. You are the inheritor of a long and sorry legacy of time-wasting triviality, of a sort that I encountered as soon as I swore my oath of vengeance against the Democrats.

All Roads Lead to Mena
Hey, pal, ever heard of Mena Airport in Arkansas? You know, the place where Columbian drug lords imported tons of coke to supply the habits of Gov. Clinton and/or his brother Roger and/or the hordes of nymphomaniac coke whores who flocked to the cocaine-fueled orgies in Hot Springs with Bill, Roger, Vince and Hillary.

Ah, yes, Sodom in the Ozarks! The Hillbilly Gomorrah! A sinister cabal of drugs, sex, payoffs and bribery. Woe unto the Arkansan, however prominent or obscure, who posed a threat to the Mena-Medellin Connection! An army of amateur researchers devoted themselves to demonstrating conclusively — with True Facts[TM]– that every suspiciously unexplained death in Arkansas from 1978 to 1992 was attributable to the sinister operations of the murderous Mena Mafia.

Alas, despite accumulating mountains of True Facts[TM], the Mena-obsessed Kook Corps was frustrated in its ambitions. Why? Because the Clintons’ personal private army of assassins finally rubbed out Vince Foster, a/k/a, The Man Who Knew Too Much.

As soon as the Park Police found Foster’s corpse, the Kooks Corps lost all interest in those tales of two Arkansas boys on bicycles slain in the late ’80s because they inadvertantly stumbled onto the scene of Hillary’s hot-tub rendezvous with Janet Reno — excuse me if I don’t recall all the details of that well-documented True Fact[TM] — and set out to prove the falsehood of that transparently bogus “Vince Foster Suicide” cover story. (The media, then as now, was oblivious or perhaps even part of The Conspiracy Of Silence.)

But seriously, folks: Have we learned nothing from all that Mena Airport/Vince Foster idiocy?

The truly sad thing is that, underneath all the hype and hysteria, there was the stuff of genuine scandal. Yes, one could say that when the Clinton gang ruled in Little Rock, there seemed to be a suspicious indifference to certain criminal activity in Arkansas. And yes, though all evidence suggests Vince Foster’s death was a suicide, it was a despair produced by the blundering amateurism of the Clinton White House in 1993, and by Hillary Clinton’s inability or unwillingness to understand that non-cooperation with federal investigators is both bad policy and bad politics.

However, efforts of serious journalists and legitimate conservative activists to document and publicize the genuine Team Clinton scandals were constantly being obscured by the clouds of chaff scattered everywhere by the Kook Corps.

Team Clinton quickly learned, and eventually developed into a science, a reliable method of de-scandalization. They could scare MSM reporters away from almost any potential scandal, you see, by insinuating that it was just another one of those fact-challenged fringe fodder scams, like the various overblown Clinton “exposés” peddled byKook Corps hucksters circa 1993-96.

You Might Be a Kook If . . .
Let me give you Birther people a clue: You are being scammed by cheapjack flim-flam artists no less repulsive than those maggots who made handsome sums pushing the “fire-can’t-melt-steel” 9/11 conspiracy theories. The minute you see somebody promoting themselves as an “expert” on such stuff — UFOs, ghosts, the JFK assassionation, no-money-down real estate — you need to apply some good old-fashioned common-sense skepticism: “What’s in it for him?”

Next thing you know, your crackpot self-anointed “expert” will be hustling a crudely-made video or badly written self-published book, and you’ll find yourself attending a “national conference.” In a meeting room at a hotel, you and a few dozen or maybe even a few hundred of your kooky kindred spirits will convene. There will be panel discussions, lectures and debates. There will be tables with books, magazines, pamphlets, T-shirts and bumper stickers for sale. There will be kook organizations eager to sign you up for their newsletters and Action Updates.

God Bless America, where citizens have the right to assemble peaceably, even if their main grievance is the high price of heavy-duty alumimum foil for their hats. Freedom means nothing if it does not include the freedom of fools to waste their time and squander their money listening to idiotic lectures on “The Lost Secrets of Atlantis” or homeopathic herbal miracle cures, and to support such fringe political causes as Dennis Kucinich For President.

Caveat emptor, as the Romans said, the best English translation of which is, “Never give a sucker an even break.”

You Birthers think you’re so much smarter than everybody else, right? So how come you never ask that basic cynic’s question: “What’s in it for him?”

The Cynicism Deficit
In the case of the Kucinich For President crusade, the final haul was precisely calculated as $5.5 million and the affections of an astonishingly beautiful redhead. Those low-level idiots who worked at starvation wages — or worse yet, volunteered — on the Kucinich campaign were a special kind of stupid, a stupidity that is unfortunately common among some grassroots conservatives who suffer from similar deficits of cynicism.

Before any conservative sheds a tear of pity for the Kucinich moonbat brigades, let us pause to ask ourselves what was the fate of the sincere grassroots Republican who volunteered to work the phone banks, or perhaps even donated $20 of their hard-earned income, to such bogus activities as the 1996 Dole For President juggernaut.

There are McMansions in Loudon County, Virginia, occupied by the overpaid campaign operatives — no need to name names — who shrewdly spotted the potential of Dole’s doomed venture as a lucrative get-rich-quick scheme. Trust me, there are plenty of Republican political operatives whose motto might as well be, Caveat emptor (or its English equivalent).

Well, there are secrets a reporter learns that he can never publicly divulge, but one secret I must share: You will never accomplish anything useful in politics until you learn to tell the difference between a Cause and a Scam.

“But wait a minute!” you say. “Nobody’s selling me anything. I’m doing this because I sincerely believe the True Facts[TM] are of vital political importance.”

There is no fool like a volunteer fool.

So you Birthers just keep it up with your political Lamaze classes (“push! push! push!”) and intelligent people who are serious about effectively opposing the Obama agenda will do the only sensible thing: Ignore the living shit out of you.
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July 8, 2009

Did I mention that National Reviewnever bothered to notice our book?

“In other words, stop thinking of the Democratic Party as merely a political party, because it’s much more than that. . . . Rather, think of the Democratic Party as what it really is: a criminal organization masquerading as a political party.”
David Kahane, National Review Online, July 7, 2009

“[T]he main difference between the Democrats and the Gambino mob is that Democrats qualify for federal matching funds — and at least the Gambinos have never pretended to advance the cause of ‘social justice.’ “
Lynn Vincent and Robert Stacy McCain, Donkey Cons: Sex, Crime, and Corruption in the Democratic Party (2006)

November 24, 2008

The only issue that matters

Mona Charen covering last week’s National Review Institute conference:

The most important battle, Yuval Levin of the Ethics and Public Policy Center argued, will be health care. If health care is successfully nationalized in America, the case for a smaller and less bureaucratic state becomes immeasurably more difficult. Throughout the developed world, in countries that have adopted socialized medicine, every call to limit the size and scope of government is instantly caricatured as an attempt to take medicine away from the weak and sick. People become awfully attached to “free” medical care even though it is emphatically not free (it is supported through higher taxes), even though it requires waiting periods for care (even in cases of cancer and other serious illnesses), and even though it deprives people of the latest technology (the city of Pittsburgh has more MRI scanners than the entire nation of Canada).

Philip Klein said the same thing in July:

[T]he worst possible thing that could happen for conservatives during an Obama administration, would be for him to create a government-run health-care system. . . .
Both in terms of the sheer cost, as well as the psychological impact of putting the state in control of our life and death decisions, this would represent the final defeat for advocates of limited government, because if history is a guide, such reforms will never be undone.

This was why Republican support for Medicare Part D was such a gutless and self-defeating move. Twisting arms to secure passage, Tom DeLay sought to buy off senior citizens in an election year by pushing through the largest entitlement expansion since LBJ. But Republicans can never outbid Democrats on entitlements, and the attempt to do so undermines the GOP’s credibility on the size-of-government argument.

Now, when Obama starts pushing for nationalized health care, Republicans will have both diminished numbers and diminished credibility in their opposition.

November 20, 2008

Wither conservatism

The title of the National Review Institute’s “Whither Conservatism?” conference (co-sponsored by Hillsdalle College) yesterday at the Grand Hyatt easily lends itself to the pun. With Republicans at their lowest ebb since 1974, indeed one could be forgiven the impression that conservatism has withered.

The audience was smallish, with a good contingent of journalists — Sean Higgins of Investors Business Daily, Michale Brendan Dougherty of The American Conservative, James Poulos and Conor Friedersdorf of Culture11 and Jamie Kirchick of The New Republic — but if there were any MSM reporters on hand, I didn’t see them. Not even The Washington Times sent a reporter. It seems to be the position of mainstream news editors that events like this are not newsworthy. Sigh.

I missed the early-morning domestic policy panel with Jim Manzi, Yuval Levin, Kim Strassel and Heather MacDonald. The foreign policy panel moderated by Rich Lowry was lively. Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute and NR’s Andy McCarthy represented the hawks, with Paul Saunders of the Nixon Center the lone voice urging restraint and non-intervention.

Saunders pointed out the policy drift toward a “national commitment to rebuilding” Iraq: “Is this what we signed up for?” As to those advocating regime change in Iran, Saunders said, “I don’t understand how these are realistic objectives for U.S. policy.” When Lowry sought to steer the discussion toward the question of whether Obama’s election will (as liberals claim) improve the U.S. image abroad, the panel continued to hash over Iraq for a while. Kagan observed, “We don’t poll much better in France than we do in Egypt. . . . The people who are blowing themselves up . . . don’t give a damn whether it’s Obama or Bush.”

Kagan noted that our European “allies” are almost completely disarmed. This was one thing that struck me as entirely absurd about the debate over “world opinion” in the 2002-03 run-up to the Iraq invasion. If the U.S. was intent on invading Iraq — and clearly, by fall 2002, the decision had already been made and the mobilization of military resources was well underway — why were we on our knees begging for help from, inter alia, France? The French can’t deploy so much as a single effective army division. So whether France supports or opposes a U.S. military action, it’s irrelevant either way. Why disgrace ourselves by groveling and begging these European “allies” for the commitment of token forces to a sham “coalition”?

As we dined on our free lunch, Hillsdale professor Burt Folsom gave an energetic lecture about his new book, New Deal or Raw Deal, a history of the Great Depression and the Roosevelt administration that ought to be read as a companion to Amity Schlaes’ The Forgotten Man.

The panel on cultural issues, moderated by Kate O’Beirne, featured Maggie Gallagher, Ed Whelan, and Jeff Bell. Gallagher, who talked extensively about the marriage amendments that passed in Florida, Arizona and California, was the star of this panel. She called attention to the “extraordinary outpouring of threats and intimidation” against supporters of Proposition 8 in California – an atmosphere that Prop 8 opponents stoked with ads like this:

“Ideas have consequences,” Gallagher said, noting that the essential argument of gay radicals is that “Christianity is a form of bigotry,” so that the result of the gay rights agenda will be the elimination of Christian moral arguments from the public square. Gallagher called attention to the August decision in the Benitez case in California, requiring physicians to provide insemination services to lesbians, as an example of the impact of the gay-rights doctrine.

Then it was time for the big show, “The Future of Conservatism” panel, in which Jonah Goldberg had threatened to beat moderator David Brooks into a coma (an empty threat, alas). A phrenologist would have automatically picked out Goldberg and the Atlantic‘s Ross Douthat as the intellectual heavyweights on the panel — both men have impressively large heads. Douthat’s receding hairline exposes his massive, broad forehead, truly a thing to behold. If you didn’t know who he was, and were forced to guess, you’d figure him for a Russian grand master of chess, named Ivan or Boris. In terms of temperament, however, the melancholy Douthat and the sanguine/choleric Goldberg are quite different. Goldberg livens his remarks with sarcastic wit. Douthat makes a joke or two, but doesn’t have Goldberg’s smart-aleck zeal for a clever putdown. And Goldberg, of course, is more dedicated to a regular Republican sort of conservatism, while Douthat’s all nuance and doubt.

In terms of raw cranial capacity, then, these two stand out, although their fellow panelists are obviously no slouches. Douthat begins the discussion by describing his views as “pessimistic,” and then goes into a trend-mongering spiel so as to spread the paralyzing miasma of defeatism throughout the room.

David Bobb of Hillsdale gave a five-point summary of conservative principles, outlining a Madisonian vision of limited government to which he urged the movement to adhere. He warned that conservatism is an “ism” that some say is about to become a “wasm,” and argued against a doctrine of “necessitarianism” that leads to abandonment of principles.

Gene Healey of the Cato Institute is the good-natured token libertarian, and begins by recalling his childhood conviction (in 1995) that Phil Gramm was destined to be the next president. (Don’t worry, Gene. Lots of us thought so.) Healey name-checked Hayek while noting the fashion cycles of New Conservatism, with compassionate conservatism, national greatness, crunchy cons, South Park conservatism and now “reformist” conservatism. “Its name is Legion” — a Biblical reference (Mark 5:9) that perhaps went over the heads of some.

Ramesh Ponnuru’s high tenor voice causes me to look up from my notebook. This happens every time I see Ramesh on a panel. The other baritone voices will be droning on, and I’ve got my head down scrawling notes. Then it’s Ramesh’s turn, suddenly the range jumps an octave, and I look up. Ramesh shares the Douthatian gloom, and talks about the question of whether America is a “center-right nation” — “center-right” being a term with which I’m getting weary as all hell, by the way.

Goldberg is the scrappiest voice on the panel, whose views most closely mirror my exasperation with the tendency of intellectuals to overthink the election. “Personalities matter,” Goldberg says, pointing out this year’s obvious charisma mismatch in the presidential candidates, and the crushing political burden of the Bush-damaged GOP brand. Goldberg slams “compassionate conservatism” as an “enormous surrender to liberalism,” and says the first challenge for the “reformist” conservatives is to show “why this isn’t compassionate conservatism 2.0.” Exactly. We don’t need conservative arguments for half-a-loaf responses to big-government liberalism, we need conservatives to stand resolutely against big government, period.

Just one incidental gripe: Too many of the NRI panelists were willing to cede ground to global warming, the biggest liberal hoax since the “homeless crisis” of the 1980s. Besides the specific evidence of fraudulent statistical manipulation and the problematic assumptions of climate “modeling,” the very fact that liberals passionately believe in global warming is an argument against the theory. When have liberals ever been right about anything?

Finally, I would strongly urge everyone interested in understanding the 2008 election to pick up the Dec. 1 print edition of National Review, especially Rich Lowry’s extensively reported article on Page 22, “In the Snake Pit.” Having immersed myself in various accounts of What Went Wrong with the McCain campaign, I thought I’d learned about as much as could be gleaned from such analyses, but Lowry manages to find new insights.

UPDATE: Alexander Burns of the Politico was there, and caught David Brooks’s quip on the final panel:

Brooks joked cheerfully about conservative criticism of his work. Introducing a panel on the future of conservative thought, he made reference to a controversial comment he reportedly made about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. “When I really love someone, I call them a fatal cancer on the Republican Party,” Brooks said. “And sitting to my left are five fatal cancers.”

It was funny. Not as funny as dropping Brooks from a C-130 over Jalalabad, but funny.

November 19, 2008

Jonah Goldberg threatens David Brooks

But I think he’s just joking:

I too will be at the NRI event tomorrow. I’m on “The Future of Conservatism” panel at the end of the day moderated by (drum roll please) David Brooks. As this is fundraising week, if you pledge $25,000 right now, I will promise to attack Brooks like he was Rifki in Midnight Express the moment he calls Sarah Palin a cancer on the GOP.

Driving home today, I passed a house where previously there had been a “McCain-Palin” sign. The owner had folded it in half and hung it from his mailbox so it read simply, “Palin.” And no, the house wasn’t a double-wide. It was a mansion on Kirby Road in McLean, Va.

Since Goldberg mentions fundraising that means it’s time for you to hit the tip jar, or else I might be forced to post more Anne Hathaway cleavage pics. And you don’t want me to do that, do you?

November 17, 2008

Have erudition, will travel

The New York Times says that National Review “may have lost . . . its reputation as the cradle for conservative intellectuals and home for erudite and well-mannered debate.”

I could have prevented this tragedy, if only those &%$#ing @$$holes had hired me instead of that %$#&!#$%ing douchebag Rich Lowry . . .

UPDATE: The lowbrow slobs will have a tractor-pull/Jello-wrestling contest Wednesday.

November 2, 2008

Byron York on Palin

Last week in Shippensburg, Pa., I ran into National Review‘s Byron York, who has a nice feature today about the enthusiasm Sarah Palin generates among rank-and-file Republicans.

I covered two McCain events (in Wilkes-Barre and York, Pa.) before he picked Palin, and I’ve covered three events (Lebanon, Ohio, Hershey, Pa., and Shippensburg) since he picked Palin, and the difference is night and day in terms of the grassroots energy. “People have been coming out of the woodwork ever since Sarah Palin’s name was announced. … She’s a person that has brought the Republican Party together in a huge way,” as Don Prince, GOP chairman in Warren County, Ohio, told me.