Thursday, February 01, 2007

Rod Most Certainly Is Mistaken.

Apparently we mainstream conservatives never strongly criticized the Bush Administration or the GOP Congress, at least not until it was too late. Responding to something Rich Lowry said at the NRI Summit this past weekend -- and building his entire blog entry around a rhetorical question that sounds clever but makes absolutely no sense in context -- Rod accuses the leading voices of conservatism of being silent as Bush and the Congress drifted from our principles:
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall that National Review, nor conservative journalists in general, nor especially Your Faithful Servant -- mea maxima culpa -- rising in any serious and sustained way to stand up to this administration or Congressional Republicans as they did violation to conservative principles back when they were riding high in power. [emphasis in original]
Put simply, he's wrong.

Steel tariffs, the highway bill, farm subsidies, the prescription drug bill, campaign finance "reform", judicial nominees waiting in limbo, Social Security reform going nowhere, and an apparent inability to use the veto: on these and a host of other issues, publications like National Review and broadcasters like Rush Limbaugh have most emphatically not been silent.

I'm not the least bit surprised that the only "notable exception" to the lack of criticism is Buchanan's magazine. Rod continues:
Personally, I fell off the Bush wagon with Harriet Miers and Katrina, but until then, I wrote and thought as if the president could do no wrong. And I think you'd have to look pretty hard to find much criticism in my written work of the Republican Congress. I might be mistaken, but I'd guess that's the record of most, though not all, journalists and commentators who identify themselves as conservatives.
He'd guess wrong; he admitted that he might be mistaken, and he earlier asked to be corrected if he was wrong. I took him up on his offer, listing three NR cover stories between late 2005 and the November elections, all of which were highly critical of Republicans in Washington.

Rod's reply? He implied I personally attacked him, which is not true, and he wrote, "I don't mean to trash NR either; I am as guilty of anybody of the same thing, because I didn't start to criticize the president until around the time the first story you cite came out." That's hardly comforting: if an admitted horse thief accuses an innocent man of the same crime, that's still slander, as the accuser's admission of guilt doesn't give him carte blanche to spread the blame around.

On the substance, he suggests that my evidence isn't strong enough.
Anyway, you give me the opportunity to clarify my point: I said "serious and sustained." I applaud the stories you bring up, but I note that the ones you pick out only started appearing in late 2005, only a year before the GOP got walloped. Maybe there were others, I don't know. I hope to find out.
We should stop right there because Rod admits that he doesn't know if there were earlier criticisms. He doesn't know, and he hopes to find out, but that doesn't stop him from acting as if he knows there is little or no earlier criticism.

He continues:
What I'm trying to say is that the tendencies of Bush and the GOP Congress that many of us on the Right woke up to and started writing critically about didn't suddenly appear in 2005. What I'm interested in is why we only started noticing it then, and speaking out.
I responded that, as a journalist, perhaps Rod should confirm whether a theory is true before investigating the causes behind the theory.

I say this because I immediately pointed out another NR cover story critical of the DC GOP, this time from two years prior:
Sept 29, 2003: Swallowed by Leviathan:
Government spending has been growing faster under Bush than it did under Clinton, renewing the debate about how conservative Bush is. A minority of Bush’s supporters have celebrated the president’s alleged embrace of "big-government conservatism." By Ramesh Ponnuru
(I should probably admit that, though I have an uninterrupted archive of the last five years of NR, I rediscovered these stories simply by reviewing the free contents pages in the incomplete archives at National Review Digital: it was not the most comprehensive research, yet I believe it to be enough to call into serious question Rod's ridiculous theory.)

In addition, I pointed out that Jonah Goldberg was apparently suspicious of big-government tendencies in "compassionate conservatism" way back in 1998. Another reader pointed out other examples, and as of this blog entry's publication, Rod has yet to offer another response.

Let me be clear that I think some mainstream conservatives are less critical of Bush than others: Larry Kudlow seems less critical than most of his fellow writers at NRO, and Sean Hannity seems less critical than Rush. And I'll reiterate that I doubt that National Review has been as critical as Pat Buchanan.

But that makes Rod's assertion no less ridiculous.

While supporting Bush as clearly preferable to Al Gore or John Kerry, the intellectual leadership of mainstream conservatism has long been disappointed and often infuriated at the Republicans in the White House and on Capitol Hill. He misses this clear and basic fact, and so I wonder -- I truly wonder -- just what in the hell Rod Dreher is doing writing about conservatism as a so-called conservative.

6 Comments:

Blogger Bubba said...

Posted some more research in a subsequent comment:

- "Blowing It" by Ted DeHaven, National Review, April 5, 2004. "The administration's spending is inexcusable, no matter what the White House spin."

- "The Tempting of Conservatism," by Ramesh Ponnuru, December 22, 2003. Ramesh concludes that if conservatives decided to act primarily as "cheerleaders for the Republican party" or even act that way, "they will have negated the reasons for their own existence." He begins his article with the litany of criticisms leveled at Bush during his first three years of office:

"Conservatives have had no trouble denouncing President Bush's steel tarriffs, his Medicare bill, his profligate spending, and so on. Libertarian-minded conservatives have roundly criticized the Patriot Act. Social conservatives have complained that the administration has not done more to resist gay rights."

He says that he thinks that, if anything, conservatives have been "too unreflective in their criticism" rather than too willing to nod their heads at whatever Bush says, though the sub-head of the article is this: "In supporting Bush and the GOP, don't lose yourself."

- And then there's the cover story to the August, 2003 issue of the Limbaugh Letter. Two years before Meirs and Hurricane Katrina, during which time Rod was apparently still nodding at George Bush's every word, Rush Limbaugh himself asked quite plainly:

Whatever Happened To Limited Government?

5:11 PM  
Blogger Bubba said...

And maybe I'm misreading an inside joke between Rod Dreher and Rich Lowry, but I was struck by Rod's use of "sic" in quoting Rich. The note is perhaps technically correct, but even then, I've seen dictionaries that permit Rich's use of the word "disinterest," if only as a secondary meaning. But, still, barring a private meaning that I don't know, it seems like a petty thing to insert into the comments made by a "friend and former boss" who apparently made the decision to run Rod's original crunchy con story on the cover of National Review.

5:19 PM  
Blogger kathleen said...

Bubba, it looks like the dire predictions from your previous post "Gaming the Table" have come to pass, at least as regards Dreher. You say he's wrong, and he says that's a personal attack, and in turn uses the "personal attack" as justification to ignore you (to wit, "Settle down, Bubba. The reason I ignore you, even when you make good points, is because you have the hardest time making them without personally insulting me."). ah yes, how un-Christian of you to say and demonstrate that someone is wrong, Bubba.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

you have the hardest time making them without personally insulting me

Pot-kettle...well, you know the drill.

That Rod can take umbrage at anyone else's alleged personal insults just shows how tone-deaf he is to his own nonsense.

6:42 PM  
Blogger Pauli said...

Someone should explain to Rod that being corrected and being insulted are different things. They might both make you feel hurt, but the similarity ends there.

7:26 AM  
Blogger Paul Zummo said...

The idea that conservatives didn't criticize Bush until Katrina or later is pure bs. As Bubba demonstrated, conservatives complained long and hard about any number of issues. I seem to recall an NR cover shortly before the election 0f 2004 which mocked Bush's big-government conservatism and rampant deficit spending.

It's true that things came to a head with Miers, but to say that there weren't an awful lot of conservative critics before then is pure revisionist history.

11:09 AM  

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