Am I Unfair To Limbaugh?

A reader protests:

You disavow prescribing a political program in your book. You just elucidate principles and guiding lights for policy makers. However, politics is a contact sport. Limbaugh and his fellow travelers are promoting a political program. They have to be team players. They have to hold their tongue when the coaches (President Bush, Hastert, etc.) call dumb plays. They are cheerleaders who are exhorting their listeners to beat the Democrats and the Left in America. Anyone with experience in teams (corporate, athletic, military) that actually function effectively with coordinated action knows that the individual must subordinate his will to the team's goals. It's childish to call a team member a lackey or a hypocrite for sticking with his teammates and refusing to publicly criticize the coaches even if he doesn't like the plays being called.

So cut them some slack. Of course, they cannot engage you on the same level with the same intellectual openness that you demand. That would compromise their mission and their livelihood. Pick on someone in your own league who doesn't get dirty in the arena of political combat. Yes, to form a Republican majority means forming coalitions with religious conservatives, spendthrift Northeasterners, and libertarian Westerners. It's messy. It's seldom coherent. I'm frustrated, but I understand.

I sense that part of the frustration motivating the intemperate remarks in Jonah's review of your book springs from your failure to recognize this division of political labor. If you recognized this division of labor, then maybe you could more charitable toward your critics.

The reader has a point. I really have few truly partisan instincts. Maybe that's because I grew up as a Tory, not a Republican, and so don't have American partisanship in my blood. Maybe it's just my generally non-joiner personality. I chose to be a writer rather than a politician for a reason. I can be more honest as a writer. And my people skills are limited. In the book, I do indeed tackle serious arguments by non-partisan thinkers. On my blog, I'm free to tackle anything someone writes.

I'll concede this, as well. If Goldberg, Hewitt and Limbaugh simply declared that they were Republicans, working within and for a political party, my reader's point would hold water. But they want both to claim such an allegiance and yet also speak for something called "conservatism." My point is a basic one: in most periods, this finessing between party and principle is a difficult task. But today, when the GOP has abandoned the most basic conservative principles, it's impossible.

I can understand their frustration. I can understand their anger at someone exposing their cognitive dissonance and spin. But it really is their problem, not mine. The job of a writer is not to express "charity" toward other ideas or players. It is to express one's own views as honestly as one can. I don't know what else I am supposed to do. If that upsets some, too bad. I have enough friends already.