The Liberal Media's Conservatives (II)

A couple of reader emails on the previous post:

It's not the dissent from McCain/Palin, or that these commentators are "aware of their audience" that I find so alienating. It's the glee. And the public rush to the liberal embrace. I mean if Kathleen Parker is conscience-bound to oppose Sarah Palin, then so be it. But does she have to go hold hands with Steven Colbert and make wisecracks about "bubba fantasies" in the South? You say it's not about getting invited to all the cool parties, but it sure doesn't seem like these high-minded folks are turning down any invitations.


I think you erroneously conflate two type of conservative pundits. One kind attacks McCain for his divergence from conservative views or from diverging from the base. The other attacks him because of Palin and its disdain for the lumpen Republicans they imagine burning Obama in effigy at NASCAR rallies ...

My view of Palin is that she needed a few more years seasoning but I love her on the stump, her fearlessness and her freshness ... deep down I think Sarah Palin and people like her are as useful and necessary, but far rarer at the highest levels of government as the Harvard John Kerry and Obama-types. The problem is that I really do think the George Wills and the Brooks and even (a little) David Frum, would exclude such people from high office because they have never seen a copy of Foreign Affairs and do not even know it exists ...

It is this aspect of the criticism, especially coming from Buckley's son, that rankles the most ... I am New York born and went to Greenwich High School. I graduated at the top of my class at Hamilton College and Georgetown University. In all of these places I've been asked the equivalent of "surely you're not really pro-life" or "you don't support these hunters" or its assumed every decent person has internalized the sexual revolution etc... Well, a lot of people don't but if you are Peggy Noonan or Brooks (pro-abortion, pro-same sex marriage) you are constantly having to make apologies for your fellow conservatives Liberals never have to do this.

If like me, or I presume Levin and Hanson, you feel betrayed because of how much garbage we have had to take in these circles and to see them pile on Palin when she is the only bright, joyful thing to happen to the Republican Party this year it is just too much. It may be that its what they really believe but we know they will be feted and applauded by all of those outlets that hate us and denigrate Sarah Palin and it rankles.

I read your book and I have a question for you and all of these people. You went to Harvard. How many people from your graduating class will have accomplished as much at 44 as Sarah Palin has? How many women will? She has a successful family (compare Giuliani who the media loves). She fought a powerful political machine (compare Obama who the media loves). She accomplished things she promised to do, a pipeline and budget cuts. (compare Obama who the media loves). She gives tremendous speeches and connects with crowds (compare Bush, McCain, Romney, or just about any Republican since Reagan).

Anyway, I agree that if conservative punditry was all Hugh Hewitt we'd be sunk. But do remember that the criticism that is rankling people is not just any criticism but the sneering disdain all those who did not go to Ivy League schools, or any school at all, tend to get from a certain East Coast elite - regardless of what they have accomplished in their lives.

Points taken. I wouldn't defend everything that's been said in criticism of McCain and Palin, or every pundit who's been saying it. I didn't find Buckley's case for voting for Obama even remotely persuasive, for instance, and I found his whining about all the nasty emails he received to be somewhat wimpish. (What did he expect?) I think Frum tends to overestimate the folly of picking Palin, and underestimates the extent to which her rising negatives reflect not only her own weaknesses but the way the McCain campaign has used her, which is of a piece with larger mistakes they've been making all along. I never thought conservatives should be all that thrilled to have Christopher Hitchens lining up beside them anyway. And so forth. (And while I've been disappointed in Palin, obviously, I also think she's been ill-treated by the press, and I've tried to defend her on many of the fronts that the second emailer has mind.)

My original point, though, was that even if you view all of these critics and their motivations in the worst possible light, you still have to address the problems that are making them jump ship, instead of just saying "good riddance!" as they jump over the side. This isn't David Gergen milking his "Republican" cred on the Sunday talk shows while spouting a center-left line; this is a large and diverse swathe of the right-of-center intelligentsia, and just calling them careerist RINOs in search of crumbs from the liberal table isn't going to cut it. Maybe Kathleen Parker's delight at appearing on the Colbert Report is unseemly, and maybe Frum and Brooks and Will are getting carried away in their anti-populism. But the counternarrative being pushed by the critics of the critics - namely, that the GOP ticket is losing mainly because the media is biased, Obama's playing dirty, McCain isn't a true conservative and his campaign won't go after the Ayers connection hard enough - is vastly more damaging to conservatism's long-term prospects, I think, than anything that Brooks or Parker or Buckley or anyone else had said and done.

Take this passage from Steyn's post, for instance:

But, if the combination of gazillions of dollars in illegal foreign donations, Acorn's Dig-Up-The-Vote operation, a doting media that would embarrass Kim Jong-Il and the Republican nominee's inability even to speak up on issues where he was right all along (like Fannie Mae), if all that is now unstoppable, I will be proud to have lost with Sarah Palin, who (unlike Brooks and Buckley) runs a state bigger than most European Union nations, has fought an honorable campaign, and has been responsible for such energy and enthusiasm as the ticket can muster.

This is what a lot of conservatives are going to be telling themselves after election day: That Obama cheated, that the media cheated, that McCain wasn't a conservative anyway, and that the only reason Sarah Palin wasn't a hit with swing voters is that the press - with an assist from conservative quislings like Frum and Brooks and Parker and Noonan - poisoned the well. And in such thinking lies the seeds of years or even decades of defeat.