Two Washington Post writers acknowledged the infighting among conservatives in today’s columns. E. J. Dionne gets to the core:
Conservatism has finally crashed on problems for which its doctrines offered no solutions (the economic crisis foremost among them, thus Bush’s apostasy) and on its refusal to acknowledge that the “real America” is more diverse, pragmatic and culturally moderate than the place described in Palin’s speeches or imagined by the right-wing talk show hosts.
Conservatives came to believe that if they repeated phrases such as “Joe the Plumber” often enough, they could persuade working-class voters that policies tilted heavily in favor of the very privileged were actually designed with Joe in mind.
It is the McCain/Palin campaign, of course, that has really opened the rift. None of them is pleased with the campaign, either because McCain isn’t sufficiently nasty to appease the “social conservatives” or because his choice of Palin was such a ridiculous move. But, as Dionne observes, the “conservative elite” has finally had to pay the price for their long practice of catering to the Far Right at election time.
Then there are those conservatives who see Palin as a “fatal cancer to the Republican Party” (David Brooks), as someone who “doesn’t know enough about economics and foreign policy to make Americans comfortable with a President Palin” (Kathleen Parker), as “a symptom and expression of a new vulgarization in American politics” (Peggy Noonan).
These conservatives deserve credit for acknowledging how ill-suited Palin is for high office. But what we see here is a deep split between parts of the conservative elite and much of the rank and file.
For years, many of the elite conservatives were happy to harvest the votes of devout Christians and gun owners by waging a phony class war against “liberal elitists” and “leftist intellectuals.” Suddenly, the conservative writers are discovering that the very anti-intellectualism their side courted and encouraged has begun to consume their movement.
The cause of Edmund Burke, Leo Strauss, Robert Nisbet and William F. Buckley Jr. is now in the hands of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity — and Sarah Palin. Reason has been overwhelmed by propaganda, ideas by slogans, learned manifestoes by direct-mail hit pieces.
One conservative who isn’t joining the rush overboard, and has promised to “go down with the McCain ship” is Charles Krauthammer, also at the Post. It’s too much to hope that Krauthammer really will sink below the waves after the McCain ship goes down, but today’s column succeeds in demonstrating how detached he and his fellow conservative loyalists are from reality.
First, I’ll have no truck with the phony case ginned up to rationalize voting for the most liberal and inexperienced presidential nominee in living memory. The “erratic” temperament issue, for example. As if McCain’s risky and unsuccessful but in no way irrational attempt to tactically maneuver his way through the economic tsunami that came crashing down a month ago renders unfit for office a man who demonstrated the most admirable equanimity and courage in the face of unimaginable pressures as a prisoner of war, and who later steadily navigated innumerable challenges and setbacks, not the least of which was the collapse of his campaign just a year ago.
McCain the “erratic” is a cheap Obama talking point. The 40-year record testifies to McCain the stalwart.
Krauthammer pulls out the POW card immediately and makes his usual dishonest attempt to redefine the “erratic” comment. No, Chuck, it wasn’t made solely in reference to McCain’s inept and contradictory moves when the economy tanked (although his habit of switching back and forth in the matter of hours on the subject certainly didn’t help). The “erratic” label refers to his behavior over the last few months, flipping back and forth on virtually every issue under discussion — except that he was a POW. Having redefined McCain’s role in the economic crisis (and completely ignoring the looming idiocy of the Palin nomination), Krauthammer plays the only card he has: fear.
Who do you want answering that phone at 3 a.m.? A man who’s been cramming on these issues for the past year, who’s never had to make an executive decision affecting so much as a city, let alone the world? A foreign policy novice instinctively inclined to the flabbiest, most vaporous multilateralism (e.g., the Berlin Wall came down because of “a world that stands as one”), and who refers to the most deliberate act of war since Pearl Harbor as “the tragedy of 9/11,” a term more appropriate for a bus accident?
Or do you want a man who is the most prepared, most knowledgeable, most serious foreign policy thinker in the United States Senate? A man who not only has the best instincts but has the honor and the courage to, yes, put country first, as when he carried the lonely fight for the surge that turned Iraq from catastrophic defeat into achievable strategic victory?
Wah? McCain is the “most prepared, most knowledgeable, most serious foreign policy thinker in the United States Senate”? Is that supposed to be a joke? Could we get a little evidence to support this ludicrous claim, Chuck? Oh, here it is: McCain’s “lonely fight for the surge” . . . Wah? Don’t you mean George Bush’s lonely fight? Or General Petraeus’? Or maybe Joe Lieberman? Or the whole baying pack of conservative pundits that have been slavering about “the surge” for more than a year? If McCain was “lonely” it was only because he failed to show up on the Senate floor.
Can anyone ever again take Krauthammer seriously after the manifest stupidity of this column? Maybe Davy Jones needs a columnist, Chuck. Otherwise, it’s more than time to jump ship, it’s time to get a real job. You suck at this one.