Archive for ‘Rod Dreher’

May 26, 2009

‘In the Famous Wordsof Rahm Emanuel . . .’

And you know what those two words are, don’t you, Rod Dreher?

Lately, Dreher has endlessly whined about talk-radio personalities he considers uncouth lowbrows. In March, Dreher said that Limbaugh’s speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference “made clear that the GOP and the conservative movement are stuck on stupid.” In April, Dreher said Glenn Beck was “giving crackpots a bad name.” Then Friday, Dreher called Mark Levin a “cretin,” a “creep” and a “trashmouth.” . . .
“Cretin”? A magna cum laude graduate of Temple University, Levin served in the Reagan administration, ultimately as chief of staff to Attorney General Ed Meese, before becoming president of the Landmark Legal Foundation. All of this Levin accomplished before beginning his successful radio career and, most recently, authoring the No. 1 bestseller Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto.
That Levin employs hyperbole and sarcasm on his show is only shocking to people who don’t listen to talk radio. More importantly, Levin believes conservatives are in a fight they cannot afford to lose, against implacable adversaries determined to win at all costs. When a guy begins a fight by slamming a barstool into the back of your head, the Marquis of Queensberry rules do not apply. If you respond by ripping open his carotid artery with the jagged edge of a broken beer bottle, whose fault is that? (“He needed killing,” as Texans like to say.) . . .

Please read the whole thing. Of course, Levin is fully capable of defending himself, and does so at length at Dan Riehl’s blog, including back and forth in the comments with Conor Friedersdorf. This is all part of the same problem I’ve been talking about for months, so also see:

You will find unfavorable reference to me in a series on “Conservative Renewal” at The Ordinary Gentlemen. What manner of conservative is Freddie DeBoer? Beats me, other than to say he’s the kind of conservative who doesn’t like me — a potentially formidable coalition there, I’m sure.

Unfortunately, there is so much competition for anti-Stacy market share that the numerous Gentlemen could manage only 45K visits in April, less than a third of what we racked up here with just me and Smitty.

I’m the pinata at this fiesta, so Clark Stooksbury gets in a whack, as does Friedersdorf. (What, Larison took a holiday?) The experience of being bear-baited like this, when I have so much to do that I can’t even keep up with my e-mail, is one reason I’m sympathetic to Levin:

Levin, who served as Ed Meese’s chief of staff, must defend in detail everything he says during 15 hours of weekly radio time against whatever specific criticism any blogger might make, or else be presumed indefensible.

It’s absurd, you see. Friedersdorf lashes out and then, if Levin considers it unworthy of his labor to respond point-by-point, Friedersdorf shouts that Levin didn’t address his “substantive criticisms.” Like Zell Miller said to Chris Matthews, it makes a fellow nostalgic for the days of the code duello.

Tim Blair of the Telegraph is at least amused my enumeration of behaviors that distinguish one from the wusses of Beltway elite journalism. OK, Tim, you want more?

  • If you’ve ever paid your rent with proceeds from ticket-scalping;
  • If you’ve ever had a search warrant served at your home;
  • If your high school yearbook was signed by at least one person later sentenced to life without parole;
  • If you have at least one scar as the result of a motorcycle accident;
  • If you’ve ever been in a fight that ended when your sister-in-law pulled a pistol;
  • If you know all the words to at least one David Allen Coe song;
  • If you’ve ever eluded a pursuing police car;
  • If you’ve ever been on the front row at a ZZ Top concert;
  • If you’ve ever worked in a strip club;
  • If you got fired for “fraternization” . . .

Well, the list could be extended ad infinitum, I suppose, but my wife reads the blog. And I must point out that I used to be a Democrat, so that the charge of “conservative hypocrisy” doesn’t apply. Of course, the main thing that separates me from the Beltway elite wusses is that none of them ever sported a Speedo in such fine style.

UPDATE: Thanks to Freddie DeBoer, Sully has now named me “the Malkinyest of Malkin Award winners.” Hey, I’m just “a kid from the South Bronx,” yo.

May 26, 2009

Hayekian, Reaganite or Texan?Essay on the Arrogance of the Elite

“It is just mind-boggling how some people think that an M.A. or a Ph.D. is somehow a bestowal of omniscience. . . . So why is it that so many academics believe that their word is final when it comes to anything and everything under the sun? As an academic myself, I can answer that question with one word: arrogance.”
Mike LaRoche, May 23, 2009

“The typical intellectual . . . need not possess special knowledge of anything in particular, nor need he even be particularly intelligent, to perform his role as intermediary in the spreading of ideas. What qualifies him for his job is the wide range of subjects on which he can readily talk and write, and a position or habits through which he becomes acquainted with new ideas sooner than those to whom he addresses himself.”
Friedrich Hayek, 1949

When I use “intellectual” and “elite” as putdowns, it is a Hayek’s conception of modern intellectuals as “secondhand dealers in ideas” that informs my disdain. The arrogance of their presumed omniscience, as Mike LaRoche says, is what renders them obnoxious.

Thomas Sowell (who far outranks me as a “top Hayekian public intellectual”) describes the liberal worldview as The Vision of the Anointed, a book that every conservative ought to read, re-read, and continue re-reading until it is thoroughly understood, if not indeed memorized.

When speaking about liberal bias in the media, I sometimes explain to conservative audiences what should need no explaining: The media elite hate you.

They hate you with a thoroughgoing contempt you cannot begin to comprehend. They hate everything you believe in and everything you stand for, and until you understand why they hate you, no defense against their hatred is possible.

The reason the elite hate you is because of your failure to acknowledge their superiority. What the elite cherish, above all else, is prestige. By questioning the truth of the elite’s belief, you deny their superiority and deprive them of prestige.

Have you ever wondered why evolutionists are so vehement in denouncing creationists? Among the elite, one cannot gain prestige by advocating biblical truth, creation ex nihilo as an expression of the transcendent soveignty of the Almighty.

If the Bible is true, then the elite are fools. To admit the possibility that “in the beginning was the Word,” is to suggest that Richard Dawkins is the intellectual inferior of the holy roller shouting hallelujahs at the Pentacostal revival in the hollows of eastern Kentucky.

Your Christian faith therefore is an insult to the elite, an attack upon their precious prestige, an invitation to whatever evil word or deed the elite employ against you. Creationism is a threat to the elite in the same way that the Ukrainian kulak was a threat to the Soviet revolution, or as Albert Einstein’s genius was a threat to Hitler’s vision of Aryan supremacy.

As the Marxist would say, those analogies are no accident, comrade.

“[E]very scholar can probably name several instances from his field of men who have undeservedly achieved a popular reputation as great scientists solely because they hold what the intellectuals regard as ‘progressive’ political views; but I have yet to come across a single instance where such a scientific pseudo-reputation has been bestowed for political reason on a scholar of more conservative leanings.”
Friedrich Hayek, 1949

For all that we are told about the need for conservatives to come up with “new ideas,” it is amazing how little the situation has changed in the six decades since Hayek wrote “Socialism and the Intellectuals.” Even the Nobel Prize (which Hayek won in 1974) has been tainted by being recently awarded to Al Gore and Paul Krugman.

The prestige enjoyed by Dawkins, Gore and Krugman is denied to Michael Behe, to Steven Hayward, to Thomas Sowell. To protect their status, the elite must deny prestige to their critics and it is this monopolization of prestige — not the pursuit or dissemination of sturdy truth — that eventually becomes the chief occupation as they seek to defend their supremacy against rivals.

You need not be an intellectual to understand this. Anyone who has ever worked in a dysfunctional office under an incompetent manager knows how this game is played. The manager has attained his position by deceiving his superiors into believing he is competent, and the object of the manager’s manipulations is to prevent the discovery that he doesn’t know how to do his job.

In this situation, the incompetent manager will:

  • Routinely take credit for the achievements of others;
  • Identify as enemies the most intelligent and competent of his underlings, since they are most aware of his ineptitude and most likely to benefit from his downfall;
  • Attempt by favoritism toward sycophants to create a Praetorian Guard to defend himself against criticism; and
  • Attribute all failures to scapegoats or circumstances beyond his control.

If you’ve ever been in the kind of toxic work environment where office politics is a bloodsport, then you understand how ambitious frauds can ascend to dominance, especially in environments where quantitative and qualitative measures of individual output are difficult to obtain.

This is one reason every bright, industrious student abhors the “group project” method that became vogue among progressive educators in the 1970s. Five students are assigned to the project, one or two do all the real work, sharing their grade with the slugs and dullards.

Students of Nicco Machiavelli, Antonio Gramsci or James Burnham equally understand how the organizational structure of institutions favor or disfavor various types of personalities and various means of advancement within those institutions.

Again, to borrow the Marxist’s maxim, it is no accident that incompetent backstabbers flock toward careers in academia. Who is to say whether one professor of women’s studies is superior to another? What are the criteria by which a dean chooses a new chairman for the sociology department? Now that Ph.D.’s in history, psychology and similar disciplines so vastly exceed the number of available tenure-track positions, the business of hiring and promoting in those fields has become notoriously arbitrary and politicized.

Academia is remote from the direct input of markets, and such is the prestige of elite institutions (e.g., the Ivy League schools) that the hiring process at Columbia or Yale can never affect the success and prosperity of those institutions unless — as in the notable case of Lawrence Summers at Harvard — they accidentally hire someone with the effrontery to criticize the elite’s belief system.

Yet it is a mistake to suppose that this sort of elitism exists only in academia or that elitism is only a problem among liberals.

“This is the issue of this election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”
Ronald Reagan, 1964

As with Hayek, so with Reagan, one of Hayek’s most successful admirers. Isn’t it amazing how little things have changed? Truth is a sturdy thing and human nature is a constant factor in the equation, so that the elite always strive to impose their will, and the free man always struggles to resist.

If Reagan sneered at the elite, was he a “populist”? If he used “intellectual” as an epithet, did this make him “anti-intellectual”? No, he was merely expressing the Hayekian insight: Knowledge is so scattered among the population that, in the universe of facts, no one — no professor, no pundit, no politician — can ever have all the facts or claim such a superiority of knowledge that he qualifies to be an “expert” dictating the ordinary affairs of others.

That such arrogant presumptions of expertise are common among intellectuals is as obvious to me and Mike LaRoche as it was to Reagan and Hayek. And that those we might broadly descibe as the ruling class in Washington constitute an elite is self-evident. Reagan was therefore speaking of a real problem in American political life.

Having dealt with this intellectual elite in Washington for more than a decade, I know their habits and attitudes quite well. They habitually presume to know things they do not know, and react with hostility to anyone who questions their presumptions.

Ross Douthat, whose father is a successful attorney, grew up in New Haven, Conn., attended Hamden Hall Country Day School (tuition: $26K/yr.), graduated from Harvard University (tuition $32K/yr.), and married one of his Harvard classmates.

And the title of Douthat’s most recent book? Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.

Douthat might be competent to suggest how Republicans can win the alumni of Hamden Hall and save the Harvard dream, but his only qualification to speak for the working class is the ubiquitous arrogance of the intellectual elite.

“You look back in the earlier times, there were no opportunities, so there were no opportunists. . . . Later on, you have all these people who figure it’s probably a pretty good political thing to do. And so they start talking about being conservative when they’re running [for office], but they really aren’t. So when they get to Congress or wherever they go, they’re pretty easily dissuaded.”
Al Regnery, The American Spectator

Douthat is the answer to a question that has long puzzled conservatives. When I abandoned the Democratic Party in the mid-1990s (hint: “From My Cold Dead Hands!”), one of the first things I discovered was that grassroots conservatives were perpetually peeved by the ineffectiveness of Republicans in Washington.

Living in northwest Georgia (Bob Barr’s district 1995-2003) this grassroots discontent was palpable. After I moved to Washington, I’d sometimes see people roll their eyes at any mention of Barr, whom even most conservatives in D.C. considered a reckless firebrand. I’d always tell them, “Man, if you think Bob’s an extremist, you ought to meet his constituents!”

The guy in charge of IT at the newspaper I worked for in Georgia was a federal licensed firearms dealer who used to tell me, “Hey, if you ever want to shoot a machine gun, just let me know.” Another grassroots leader among Republicans, the wife of a county judge, was also the head of the local Eagle Forum and an activist for the John Birch Society.

Bob Barr never could have been elected without the support of people like that, and if you believe in representative government, then it was Bob’s job to represent those people.

And that was my job, too. In 1997, I left Georgia to join the staff of the Washington Times, but not before all my conservative friends down home had thoroughly warned me not to forget where I came from. So it was that I came to Washington with a two-fold mission.

First, I would attempt to represent accurately the essential decency of the good folks I’d left behind — hard-working, God-fearing, patriotic and self-sufficient. If there is one belief that the elite never doubt for a minute, it is that the average citizen of Floyd County, Georgia, is demonstrably inferior to the average citizen of Chicago, Boston or San Francisco.

Bullshit. Want to argue, Harvard boy?

My second mission in Washington was to discover why the Republican Party failed so miserably to advance the kind of agenda that grassroots conservatives believed they were voting for. It took me many years to understand this, and the answer is complex, but it is also as simple as two words: Ross Douthat.

Well, the liberals had their intellectual elite, you see, and so conservatives decided they needed to get them one, too. Given the natural assumption that the finest minds in America had all been scooped up by the elite schools, there soon developed an intellectual superstructure in Washington of think-tank wonks, policy analysts, political advisers and journalists who came from the same elite background, and had attended the same elite institutions, as the liberal elite.

OK, fine. Let us match Ph.D. to Ph.D., expert to expert, in a sort of intellectual equivalent of the Harvard-Yale game. But while the liberal elite were directly and constantly associating with the liberals whose beliefs it was their job to translate into policy, the conservative elite were generally isolated from the kind of people whose beliefs they were representing.

The Democrat in Brooklyn may resent the arrogance of the Columbia University graduate who specializes in urban policy for the Brookings Institute, but the Brookings specialist is not immersed in an environment where that Brooklyn Democrat is sneered at contemptuously, the way a policy wonk at the American Enterprise Institute sneers as the constituents of the typical Republican congressman.

Whatever their differences in terms of policy, the Brookings wonk and the AEI wonk share the elite belief that the typical Brooklyn Democrat is somehow superior to the typical Georgia Republican. And from that shared belief — which I assure you is well-nigh universal among the intellectual elite in Washington — emanates the great divide between the Republican elite in Washington and the rank-and-file of the GOP.

The Republican elite is ashamed of its constituents in a way that the Democratic elite is not. Therefore, Democrats fight ferociously for their agenda in a way that Republicans seldom do.

The Republican elite in Washington crave prestige, you see, and they cannot gain prestige by sticking up for the typical GOP voter in Tucson, Tulsa, Tampa or Tulllahoma. You cannot become one of The Republicans Who Really Matter by defending Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh. No one can impress his friends at a Georgetown cocktail party by saying nice things about Sarah Palin or Joe the Plumber. No one in the D.C. elite — whether Republican or Democrat — can ever advance his career by quoting Michelle Malkin or Mark Levin.

You see why not only do Republican elites fail to defend their own party’s constituents, but they viciously attack anyone who attempts to represent the core beliefs of the conservative grassroots. Because if Michelle Malkin is a conservative, then David Brooks is not, and it is only his status as token “conservative” that assures Brooks of membership in the elite. If Brooks were just another liberal Democrat, after all, the New York Times already has plenty of those from which to choose.

So when you see some “conservative” sneering at Rush Limbaugh or mocking the Tea Party movement — what you are witnessing is the effort of elitists to signal to their fellow elitists that they are in on the joke, that they don’t take seriously the core values of grassroots types like Joe the Plumber.

“Even where the direction of policy is in the hands of men of affairs of different views, the execution of policy will in general be in the hands of intellectuals, and it is frequently the decision on the detail which determines the net effect. We find this illustrated in almost all fields of contemporary society. Newspapers in ‘capitalist’ ownership, universities presided over by ‘reactionary’ governing bodies, broadcasting systems owned by conservative governments, have all been known to influence public opinion in the direction of socialism, because this was the conviction of the personnel.”
Friedrich Hayek, 1949

What Hayek says here can be applied equally, you see, to the Republican Party and the various institutions of the conservative movement. If the think-tank wonks, the congressional staffers and the writers for conservative journals believe in same-sex marriage, global warming or universal health care, efforts to employ those institutions on behalf of contrary opinions will not be as effective as if those efforts were conducted by personnel who actually shared the beliefs they were paid to advance.

The elite cadre of the GOP and the official conservative movement constitute a bureaucracy, and the critique of bureaucracy are equally valid. The beliefs of the Heritage Foundation bureaucrat are in many ways more important in the operations of that institution than the beliefs of Ed Feulner or Ed Meese. The enemy within the camp is always the most to be feared.

Why, after all, does John Cornyn not hesitate to urinate all over the Republican rank-and-file in Florida by endorsing Charlie Crist more than a year before the primary? Because no one at NRSC headquarters, nor any member of Cornyn’s Senate staff, has any interest in the concerns of the conservative grassroots nor any incentive to represent those concerns.

Is David Brooks going to speak up for Marco Rubio? Will Kathleen Parker defend the rights of Florida Republicans to choose their own candidates? Do you expect Rod Dreher to tear himself away from the important work of defaming Mark Levin in order to tell his readers in Dallas what Cornyn has done?

“This is the arrogance of the intellectual elite, to imagine that their particular specialty — the expression of abstract ideals via the written word — is the only ability that matters, qualifying them as experts on anything and everything they choose to write about.”
Robert Stacy McCain, May 22, 2009

Michelle Malkin went to Oberlin, Mark Levin went to Temple and Ann Coulter went to Dartmouth. These are all elite institutions, and all three of these individuals engage in endeavors that qualify them as “intellectuals” in the sense that their work involves “shaping public opinion.” Why, then, are they at odds with, and scorned by, the people you think of as the “intellectual elite”? Chiefly because they do not look down at The Ordinary American, nor do they ever entertain the notion that their readers are morons incapable of thinking for themselves.

The greatest example of this respect for the grassroots, of course, is Rush Limbaugh. If you listen to Rush regularly, you know that sometimes he’ll get a caller who’ll say, “Rush, how can you say such-and-so? Everybody in the MSM is saying the opposite. The people will believe the MSM, not you!” And Limbaugh will calmly reply, “Look, you figured it out on your own. I figured it out. Don’t you think that other people see the same thing and can figure it out for themselves? Give people some credit.”

What makes Rush angry is the evident belief of so many Republican “leaders” that the American people can’t handle the truth. Among these truths is that the economic agenda of today’s Democrats is the exact same agenda that Hayek warned was being advanced by the intellectuals of 1949.

Begins with an “s,” ends with an “m,” and I don’t mean “sarcasm.” But don’t say it out loud, or Rod Dreher will call you a “crackpot.”

May 25, 2009

Rod Dreher: Truman Capote Con

The Bearded Church Lady speaketh:

If you have to descend to the level of trash-talking vulgarian to prove your bona fides with the Common Man, then fine, in the aristocracy of character, I’ll keep working toward being an elitist. It is hard to imagine the conservatives I admire the most, and wish to emulate — men like Wendell Berry and Russell Kirk — being very impressed with Mark Levin’s crude shtick. Or Robert Stacy McCain’s, whose perpetual blunderbuss brings to mind the inner life of a failed oyster: a constant irritation, with no resulting pearl.
(I stole that oyster dig from Truman Capote, but boy, does it ever apply here!)

What is relevant here:

  • Wendell Berry? WTF? Since when is Wendell Berry an icon in the conservative pantheon?
  • Russell Kirk was not a wienerhead. Rod Dreher is.

Russell Kirk once said, in a lecture at the Heritage Foundation, no less: “Not seldom has it seemed as if some eminent Neoconservatives mistook Tel Aviv for the capital of the United States.” Only a real troublemaker, a mixer, would have said such a thing. Kirk was a cultural eccentric, a man who cherished his status as an outsider, an anachronism, disdaining all things modern and “mass.”

Among those thinkers whom Kirk examined in his landmark study, The Conservative Mind, was John C. Calhoun. Having long ago read the entirety of Calhoun’s Disquisition on Government, I’m sure I would have noticed if Dreher had ever found occasion to reference Calhoun’s most important insight:

The necessary result, then, of the unequal fiscal action of the government is, to divide the community into two great classes; one consisting of those who, in reality, pay the taxes, and, of course, bear exclusively the burthen of supporting the government; and the other, of those who are the recipients of their proceeds, through disbursements, and who are, in fact, supported by the government; or, in fewer words, to divide it into taxpayers and tax-consumers.

But this sturdy thought appears nowhere in Crunchy Cons, where instead we find the economic mysticism of E.F. Schumacher. And, as I’ve said before, I am aware of no evidence that Dreher has ever read Mises and Hayek. If he did, he evidently gained nothing from it.

Ultimately, it comes back to my critique of the Politics of Niceness:

So when Rod Dreher gets sniffy about Mark Levin or people act horrified by an implied slur in an RNC video, I just want to pound those weenies on the head and scream: “Wake the f— up, you clueless dingbats! The Democrats are eating Republican babies for breakfast, bankrupting our grandchildren, and giving major industrial corporations as gift-wrapped presents to their labor goon buddies! If you want to award gold stars for ‘plays well with others,’ go be a kindergarten teacher and leave politics the hell alone!”
Maybe when the grown-ups are through beating the Democrats, then we’ll have time to mind our manners like we were eating watercress-and-endive finger sandwiches at the Ladies Cotillion Society luncheon.

This is not debate club. The Democrats are not interested in “civil discourse,” and your fearful hand-wringing is worse than useless in the present situation.

UPDATE: Rumblepak writes:

The problem reveals itself immediately when we look at the left, its heroes and media spokespeople. The average person under 40 indulges in heavy doses of Jon Stewart, Adult Swim, Bill Maher, et al, and none of these guys are particularly nice or civil. They are pretty darn “mean,” in fact.

Exactly. It is one thing to condemn harsh rhetoric, per se. It is something else entirely to say that Republicans are losing elections because Rush said “I hope he fails” or because Levin told a caller to take a flying leap. There are two sides of this argument, and we don’t see disgusted ex-GOP voters switching their radios from Michael Savage to “All Things Considered.” Democrats are not attracting votes because Rahm Emanuel reduced his f-bombs to once every other sentence.

How many votes did the GOP lose because Ann Coulter called John Edwards a “faggot”? And how many votes did the GOP lose because John McCain endorsed the Bush bailout?

May 22, 2009

The Geek at the Prom vs. Mark Levin

“Having spent about 15 unpleasant minutes listening to this creep, I cannot imagine why anybody pays attention to him. Seriously, where is the pleasure in listening to this kind of trashmouth?”
Rod Dreher, May 22, 2009

“You’re always ranting against any conservative who is actually popular with Republicans. Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Mark Levin, et cetera. . . . You’re like the geek at the dance, complaining that the prom queen and the quarterback are so popular.”
Robert Stacy McCain, May 17, 2009

Do yourself a favor. Buy the No. 1 New York Times bestseller by the founder of the Landmark Legal Foundation, the nationally syndicated radio host recently ranked No. 11 in the nation by Talkers magazine, “the Great One,” Mark Levin.

Ed Driscoll reminds us of a line from The Three Amigos: “In-famous is when you’re more than famous.”

UPDATE: I must address something my friend (shhhhh!) Joe Marier says in the comments:

The smash-mouth style is a traditional part of talk radio, granted. It takes its cues from the Don Rickles – George Carlin brands of comedy. In the DC market, though, WTOP has been killing it with more of an NPR style, and that’s the style Rod Dreher (and Frum, for that matter) has been pursuing.

Joe, neither Dreher nor Frum is a professional talk-radio host, and I’m guessing neither one of them would last six months in the medium if they tried it.

People who’ve never done talk radio, or who’ve never been in a studio and seen how it’s done, have no idea how extraordinarily difficult it is to fill so much as a single hour, much less three hours a day five days a week. Now, consider how difficult it is to do it well, so as to attract a commercially viable nationwide audience. For Dreher (and his source) to disdain Levin is for them to sneer at someone who has succeeded exceptionally in a venue they’ve never even tried.

This is the arrogance of the intellectual elite, to imagine that their particular specialty — the expression of abstract ideals via the written word — is the only ability that matters, qualifying them as experts on anything and everything they choose to write about.

Written expression is an ability, and an important one, but it is not synonymous with intelligence. I don’t give a damn what your SAT score was — and I’ve been knocking the tops off standardized tests of verbal reasoning since I was in elementary school — an 800 verbal does not qualify you to dictate to the rest of the world what they should do, what they should say, or what they should think.

Despite my frequent and scathing criticisms of George W. Bush, I never mistook his verbal awkwardness for stupidity. The man was a fighter jet pilot and holds a Harvard MBA. Even if his syntax and delivery are atrocious — and even if he inherited the family trait of disastrous political instincts — George W. Bush is not less intelligent than Conor Friedersdorf.

A disdain of blunt expression is natural among those who make their living in the wussified environment of contemporary elite journalism. To be a journalist in Washington is to live one’s life surrounded by men who have never driven 110 mph, never spent a night in jail, and never won a fightfight in their lives.

The upper echelons of American journalism have become the exclusive monopoly of former teacher’s pets, who as children were never sent to the principal’s office, who as teenagers were never suspended for showing up drunk for chemistry class, who as college students never woke up at 6:30 a.m. on the porch of the ATO house, who never played in a rock band or sold a pound of weed or dove from a 50-foot cliff into an abandoned rock quarry.

Washington journalism is like some kind of perverse alternative reality where the Beta males are dominant.

It is therefore not surprising that the effete elite of American journalism sneers at Mark Levin. What Levin possesses — and what the typical 21st-century journalist never has possessed nor ever will — is the double-dog-dare-ya boyish audacity that the Ordinary American naturally admires.

Levin’s insult to the woman who called him up was perfectly understood by his audience. The woman was engaged in an essentially dishonest tactic that every succesful talk-show host knows too well: Lying her way past the call-screener and then attempting to hijack Levin’s show to disseminate a pro-Obama message.

Levin insulted her because she deserved to be insulted, and for every Conor Friedersdorf who was shocked — shocked! — by Levin’s abrasiveness, there were at least a hundred normal guys driving home from work who reflexively slapped the dashboard and said, “Hell, yeah! You tell ‘er, Mark!”

“One of the basic principles of military strategy is to reinforce success. If you see a man who fights and wins, give him reinforcements, and bid others to emulate his success.”
Robert Stacy McCain, March 21, 2009

Mark Levin is such a success, a man who fights and wins. He has achieved his success independently, by his own merit and relentless labor, and I am not fit to tell him what he should or should not say on his own radio show.

One more thing: Mark Levin is a big man. His nasal tenor voice might lead the uninformed listener to picture him as a diminuitive nebbish. He is not. He’s the size of a Big 10 linebacker and I’d bet dollars to donuts Levin could take out Rod Dreher with a single punch.

UPDATE: Reply to Dreher.

UPDATE II: ‘In the famous words of Rahm Emanuel . . .’

March 4, 2009

Frank Schaeffer and the barking dogs

After I posted the video of the CNN debate between Jason Mattera and Frank Schaeffer, I got an e-mail from a blog buddy who sent me a link to a September 2008 blog post by some useless idiot who followed Schaeffer into the so-called “Obamacon” camp.

Today, I’ve got a lot on my mind. I’m planning a visit to Alabama soon for an appearance at an event, my personal financial situation sucks, and if I don’t get some serious tip-jar action going, it’ll be even more scary than it already is. And so this idea of Frank Schaeffer being on CNN to peddle his book, making money by pushing the Obama agenda, kind of stuck in my craw, and my e-mail reply to my buddy ran to 1,400 words. Grab a cup of coffee and pull up a chair, because here is what I wrote:

You see that Schaeffer and others of that ilk were, in large measure, turned off by the cynicism of the Mehlman/Rove/Bush manipulation of evangelical Christians, as well as the shameless flag-waving “be patriotic, vote Republican” use of 9/11 and the Iraq War. Any intelligent, well-informed and politically aware person couldn’t help that. But to jump over into the enemy camp over that, and publicly denounce the GOP in the manner that the soi-dissant “Obamacons” did — that was stupid and dishonorable.
When I left the Democratic party (circa 1994-95), my disillusionment and sense of betrayal was so deep and profound that, as a conservative, I have maintained a very detached, skeptical and, you might say, objective view of the Republican Party. I try to avoid using “we” when speaking of the Republican Party, because I am not part (and have no desire to become a part) of the official electoral apparatus.
Politics is a very dirty and very cynical business, full of self-serving ambitious men who — to give them every benefit of the doubt — hope to do well by doing good. It’s a racket, and if you’ve spent as long as I have watching it at close range, it is impossible to be too idealistic about it.
All that said, however, when push comes to shove, you have to choose sides and keep in mind the fundamental differences between the two parties, differences that have never been clearer than at the present moment, as the Obamanomics agenda devastates the market economy and Democrats enact policies intended to make their political hegemony permanent.
I talked to an old friend Tuesday, a retired fellow who has worked all his life, as has his dear wife, and they had managed to amass sufficient savings that he was set to enjoy a comfortable retirement. Or so he thought.
“Stacy, I’ve lost a half-million dollars in this market,” he told me, and explained that the mortgage payment on his retirement home was becoming problematic. “We might lose our house.”
My friend is an erudite man, who views his plight philosophically, and appreciated my jocular reply.
“Well . . . just think. Eighteen months ago, you could have given me a quarter-million, and whatever I did with that investment, you wouldn’t have been worse off than you are now,” I said. “You gotta go with who you know.”
He laughed, and mused that, indeed, I’d have been a better steward of his investments than Lehmann Brothers. And then I told him that I’d managed by sheer lunatic accident to outsmart the market. When I walked out of the Washington Times in January 2008, I had money in my 401K that, over the course of several months, I withdrew and spent to subsidize the launching of my career as a freelance journalist and blogger.
At this point, although I might be flat broke and faced with all manner of financial woes, my blog has just passed the 1-million hits threshold, I’m being published at The American Spectator, Pajamas Media, Taki’s Magazine and Splice Today, and it appears that investing in myself was the best move I could have made. It was a helluva crazy gamble, but it’s starting to pay off.
Which brings me back to Frank Schaeffer and some of that “evangelicals for Obama” nonsense. Do you remember three weeks ago when Michelle Lee Muccio rocketed to Internet fame with her YouTube video? I’ve known Michelle for a couple of years, just from hanging around libertarian events in D.C. She works at the Acton Institute, which is all about getting Christians to understand that property rights and the free economy are far more consonant with Bible values than the socialist class-envy agenda of the Left.
This is a basic idea I’ve had for years, which I wrote about last fall in a column for the American Spectator called “The Bible vs. the Bailout.” It infuriates me when people like that idiot Ryan Sager claim that there is some kind of conflict within the Republican “Big Tent” between evangelicals and libertarians. It’s not true or, at least, it shouldn’t be true. The idiocy of Frank Schaeffer — and people like Rod Dreher, who can’t seem to find time in their busy lives to read Ludwig Von Mises or Friedrich Hayek — is that they have failed to understand, embrace and proclaim the truth that without economic liberty, we will have no other liberty, not even a free press or freedom of religion.
If the leadership of the Religious Right had proclaimed this truth to their followers — who are “poor, uneducated and easy to command,” we’re told — then evangelical conservatives would have screamed bloody murder over the Bush administration’s deficit-spending ways and the profligacy of Republicans in Congress during those six long years where Bush seemed to have misplaced his veto pen. But the Mehlman/Rove axis was happy to get 51% with their jingoism and token gestures to the “base,” while ignoring the basic maxim of governance that good policy is good politics.
So it is not as if I don’t share the disappointment of effete critics like Schaeffer and Dreher and David Brooks — the dogs who bark while the caravan moves on — but rather that I was as undeceived about the essential nature of politics in 2001 as I am today. There are other maxims of politics that the barking dogs ignore, including this one: You can’t govern if you don’t win.
At a very basic level, politics comes down to the business of who can put the most butts in voting booths on Election Day. And when my libertarian or neocon friends scoff at pro-lifers and the Religious Right, my answer is always, “Yeah, but they can put butts in voting booths.” How many votes can David Brooks deliver? Where is his powerful following? And since the answer is, “Not very many,” then who the hell cares what David Brooks says about anything? He speaks for no important constituency, and his influence is effectively nihil, because the only people who pay attention to him are media types and others of the intelligentsia who vote about 8-to-1 Democrat year after year.
Dreher and Schaeffer and their ilk, however, are far more valuable to advancing the Democratic agenda. Because their dyspeptic obfuscations spread like a squid inking the waters, confusing and demoralizing the Bible believers who by all rights ought to be the staunchest advocates of economic liberty and, thus, the most militant opponents of Obamomics. What they are telling their readers is, “Don’t bother to hope. Don’t try to get involved and make a difference. You don’t need to investigate for yourself what’s going on. Why even bother to vote or contact your congressman? It doesn’t matter what you think or what you do, because you are not important and politicians only care about important people. Just sit here with me, as inert as argon, complaining about everything, and take comfort in the dignity of your irrelevance.”
Well, that ain’t how I roll. Knowledge is more powerful than ignorance, truth is more powerful than a lie, and courage will always triumph over the weakling cowardice of those who sit on the sidelines whining because Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter are in the starting lineup.
So I kept talking to my old friend who lost a half-million in the stock market, and I said to him that I have closely watched the signs of the times, and have seen the omens, and have faith that a mighty work is at hand. My friend laughed and remarked that, of course I know he’s utterly unreligious.
“Yeah, I know, you’re a damned pagan and I’m a hillbilly holly roller,” I said. Nevertheless the signs of the times are clear to me, and I see which way this situation is headed. It doesn’t matter whether you believe now, you will see soon enough. We are in the midst of a great sorting, separating the wheat from the chaff, and I don’t plan to be the chaff.
As for Schaeffer and Dreher and those other barking dogs, they can either grow up and confront the realities of coalition politics, or find themselves counted as members of the hostile army encompassing the camp of the saints. I know what side I’m on, and I’m sick and tired of their carping pusillanimity. They can stand with us and fight the enemy, or they can get the hell gone, but the time for deciding is at hand, and they’re not necessarily going to be the ones doing the deciding.
Living like a wild man on tip-jar contributions and freelance assignments isn’t exactly fun, but at least I can tell the truth without having to ask anybody’s permission. WOLVERINES!

Now, if you like that attitude and you want more of it, please hit the tip jar. To give you an idea of how bad things suck right now, before I opened my buddy’s e-mail and wrote that reply, I’d been working on a little promotional idea. In college, I minored in art with an emphasis in commercial design, so I know a thing or two about effective messages that grab the reader’s attention.

Exploring new nadirs of blogospheric shamelessness is kind of a hobby. Like I said, I write for money, and I have a lot of fun thinking up imaginative new ways to build traffic and enhance my revenue stream. As amusing as these detours into transparent blogwhoring might be — oh, the joys of Rule 5! — I’d rather be writing about politics, which would be easier to do if I didn’t have to spend so much time coming up with devious new ways of shaking the tip jar.

I’m obliged to John Hawkins at Conservative Grapevine who linked to some smokin’-hot bikini pics of Miranda Kerr that inspired my latest fundraising scheme. So if you’ve been thinking about whether to hit the tip jar, hit it now. I don’t know how much longer the ACORN protesters on the picket line will be able to keep the repo man from towing my car.
October 15, 2008

Dreher on the Crusader State

He makes very good points:

[T]he thing that people now call the neo-con foreign policy is actually American foreign policy, and it goes back generations. And this idea, the shining city on a hill, as you know, goes back to the very founding. And I think it is a real American temptation to see America as a sort of secularized Israel, speaking in a biblical sense, and that we are that special nation set apart from all other nations to fulfill God’s providence. And that is a very, very common theme you hear in political discussions among Evangelicals on the right. But I think if anything, the last eight years and our experience in Iraq should have taught us Americans not to be so full of hubris, and that the idea that we know better than the rest of the world is just madness and folly. Unfortunately, it’s a bipartisan folly.

The interviewer repeatedly misspells David Rieff’s name, but I think Dreher is making reference to Rieff’s essay in World Affairs, which is critical of the policy implications of “American exceptionalism.”

Conservatives, having opposed so long the Left’s “American the Evil” ideology, have in many cases succumbed to a counter-fallacy, deifying “democracy” and “human rights” in such a way as to justify almost any policy in an ends-justify-the-means rationale.

A perfect example is how some conservatives celebrate women’s suffrage in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m not even sure women’s suffrage is such a good idea in America; I’m certainly not such an enthusiastic suffragette as to believe that “women’s rights” should be imposed worldwide at the point of a bayonet. (Singapore is not a democracy. Should we invade them, too?)

American foreign policy should have exactly one object: The advancement and protection of America’s national interests. It can be argued that the spread of democracy and free markets is in our national interest, but we simply don’t have enough troops to do this by force.

The whole point of John Winthrop’s “City on a Hill” metaphor was that the Massachusetts Bay colony would be an example to the world, for good or ill. Winthrop certainly wasn’t envisioning America as a Crusader State, imposing egalitarian universalism on an unwilling world.

BTW, considering how Massachusetts has turned out, I’d say that Winthrop — a devout Puritan — would be thoroughly disappointed at the result of his endeavor.