Sunday, February 12, 2006

Please explain ...

As I recently said in an e-mail to friends:
I am a member of the Rodgers-and-Hammerstein wing of the conservative movement:

"Oh, the farmer and the cowman can be friends ...."

Paleos, neos, blondes, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, rednecks: As Ben Franklin said, we must hang together, or we shall all hang separately.

Within an hour after sending that -- of course in reference to the Ann Coulter "raghead" debacle at CPAC (part 1, part 2) -- I was looking for blogospheric reaction and came across a post by Little Miss Atilla:

Had I Mentioned Lately That My Sister is Half-Syrian?
Well, it's true.
And Ann Coulter can get f-----.

I'll never buy one of her books.

But 24 hours earlier, of course, Little Miss Atilla was cheering on the restrictionists in the immigration debate:
Tom Tancredo is, of course, a pistol. He's a strong speaker, and one of the important voices right now advocating for immigration reform. His stance is uncompromising: the border must be sealed as soon as possible, he insists, using both a physical barrier and more efficient deployment of our manpower.
Atilla, please, in all sincerity: You do realize, don't you, that there a plenty of people -- including some people who call themselves conservative Republicans -- who consider the restrictionist position racist?

The last time I checked, Peter Brimelow -- author of Alien Nation, perhaps the most popular book ever written about the immigration issue -- was persona non grata at National Review, The Weekly Standard and the Wall Street Journal simply because he dared to ask tough questions about the impact of immigration on our nation and culture.

Atilla, do you like Michelle Malkin? Do you realize there are some "conservative Republicans" who consider Michelle "beyond the pale" because she dared to defend the World War II "internment" policy?

Go talk to some of the elders in the movement who have witnessed this sort of bloodletting for the past couple of decades. Always, over and over, these internecine disputes seem to boil down to the fact that some conservatives fall into the left's notion that "the personal is political," e.g. "My great-grandmother from Sicily came through Ellis Island, therefore anyone who wants to enforce our immigration laws is a hate-filled bigot."

"All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." Heaven knows, I've been unable to resist this temptation toward identity politics. Conservative writer Christopher Caldwell once ran an article in The Atlantic Monthly that smeared the South, and I did everything but challenge him to a duel. (If I'd had his e-mail address, though ....)

Your sister is half-Syrian, and therefore Ann's ugly remark (though directed at the vicious mullahs of Tehran, I will remind you) means she should "get f-----." OK, I'll put you down as anti-Coulter. But you name any big-name conservative hero -- Bush, Condi, Bill Bennett, Limbaugh, Hannity, Liddy, Malkin, Buchanan, what the heck, even REAGAN -- and I can find you some conservatives who have the exact same "get f-----" sentiment toward them.

This infighting sickens me. I've got paleocon friends and neocon friends, and that split has been painful and damaging. The paleocons have turned negative and gloomy, while many neocons seem to have lost all sense of what Burk, Kirk and Weaver were about. (And the late Jay Nock is perhaps even more superfluous than ever!)

Meanwhile, adapting a phrase from Reagan, to say that Republicans in Congress are now spending like drunken sailors would be an insult to drunken sailors. Abroad, Bush seems determined to become a 21st-century Woodrow Wilson; at home, his policy preferences seem to fall somewhere in the range of LBJ and Nixon. It's not just me saying these things, Miss Atilla: This is a fair summary of what George Will said at CPAC on Thursday morning.

Lots of people who've supported Republicans for years are asking themselves: Is this what we voted for? If it weren't for the utter intellectual bankruptcy and political incompetence of Democrats, there could be a danger that Bush might spend his last 2 years in office facing a Democrat-controlled Congress. But given the record of the past few years -- No Child Left Behind? McCain-Feingold? The Ag bill? federalizing airport security? "guest workers"? -- I'm not entirely sure that such an outcome could be much worse.

So, with all these troubles facing conservatives -- concerns widely acknowledged by some of the movement's most loyal and venerable supporters -- I do not think that Miss Coulter's unwise choice of descriptors for the regime in Tehran, however hurtful to you or your sister, is Problem No. 1.

Along with every other person in the Regency Ballroom on Friday (probably including Ann herself), I wish she hadn't said that. But, hey, the personal is political, you see? And Ann's friend Barbara Olson (author of Hell to Pay and The Final Days) was on Flight 77 when it hit the Pentagon. So if you are now the arbiter of politically acceptable conservative discourse, and can tell Ann Coulter to "get f-----," would you please explain to the rest of us exactly what Ann Coulter is allowed to say about the Holocaust-denying president of Iran?

And while we're discussing what books we will and will not buy, let me tell you about the tattered old paperback book that's sitting on my desk right now. It's got an introduction by the Sen. Barry Goldwater and a foreword by John Dos Passos. The author spends pages 54-58 discussing "the distinctiveness of the Southern problem" in terms that no respectable Republican would today endorse, and concludes this discussion by repeating (p. 58) a joke that I don't think you would approve.

Just like Ann Coulter, this author was once a favorite of young Republicans. And just like her, he dared to defend Joe McCarthy. But if you want to run him and his kind out of the movement, there won't be much of a movement left: HERE IS THE BOOK.

Excuse me for singling you out like this, Miss Atilla -- yours was just the first link I came to in my search for Coulter-reaction. You have plenty of company in the "Ann's too mean-spirited" lobby. But if you will watch the video of Ann's appearance at CPAC, you will see her introduced by a young woman named Monique Stuart. And you will hear Monique explain that she was a liberal Democrat until the day she saw her college professor (attempt to) debate Miss Coulter: She demolished his arguments with ease, style and humor. She's done the same thing on campus after campus.

It's (still) a free country, Miss Atilla, and you are free to buy or not buy Ann's books. But until you can construct an argument more substantial than "my sister's half-Syrian ... get f-----," please don't embarass the rest of us by calling yourself a conservative.

Excuse me for being mean-spirited. Monique's a friend of mine. And, at least since quitting the Democrats, I've never been a fan of the "circular firing squad" approach to political organization.


UPDATE: To show the forgiving spirit of the Rodgers-and-Hammerstein wing of conservatism (I think I'm the only member so far), I will risk the odium of the SCV by paraphrasing William Tecumseh Sherman (!) who said of U.S. Grant, he defended me when everyone said I was crazy, and I defended him when everyone said he was drunk.

That kind of loyalty is little in evidence at Right-Wing Nuthouse, who says:
Coulter’s speech at the CPAC Conference, while well received by the audience, laid an egg with righty bloggers.
No, not so, not at all. Check my first blog on the speech: (a) Ann got off to a slow start, primarily because most of the CPAC audience already had read the columns she was re-cycling; (b) she then turned to the "cartoon jihad" topic, which kind of fell flat because most of the College Republicans had never heard of Dean Acheson and might have only the vaguest idea of what NATO is; (c) the "raghead" remarks met with a muted "oh, crap, did she really say that?" reaction.

I think Ann instantly knew she had said the wrong thing -- going too far even for the red-meat CPAC crowd -- and briefly went into "Apollo 13" mode afterwards. I don't have my notes in front of me, but if memory serves, it was only when she started hammering on Lincoln Chafee and moderate Republicans that she recovered somewhat.

The stunning impact of the "raghead" remark lingered. It was just about the only thing anyone was talking about afterward.

I was way back, and taking notes, so I didn't really watch her while she was talking. But I'll bet if you analyzed video of Ann's speech, you will see that she knew the remark was a mistake within, oh, about half a second of completing that sentence. She's too smart not to have realized it.

But it wasn't a slip of the tongue; it must have been pre-conceived. She had just started getting into some good new material -- comparing the mullahs in Tehran to someone who makes the mistake of pointing a gun at police officers -- when she said the "raghead" thing, prefacing by describing it as a "motto."


UPDATE II: If it was inevitable that every ambitious pseudocon in the blogosphere would puff up in angry outrage at Ann's breach of decorum -- treating her like a blonde distaff Dan Rather -- it was equally inevitable that certain Respectable Republicans (whom I won't bother to name) wouldn't speak a word in Coulter's defense. I hope some Kossacks and Atriosites will be astute enough to spot a variant of the classic Chickenhawk factor in all this. Respectable Republicans were happy to bask in the reflected glory of the Golden-Tressed Bad Girl, and to enjoy the benefits of belonging to a movement swollen by the addition of Coulter's young admirers. But when the bloodthirsty Left wing joins forces with the petit bloggoisie in seeking that famous blonde scalp where is the Respectable Republican who will defend her? Hmmm? Making silly non-committal noise that sounds a lot like some healthy Colllege Republican male explaining that, yes, of course, he supports the War on Terror, but can't be expected to demonstrate that support by visiting his local Armed Forces recruiting station. "Playing to type," indeed!