I hope I’m wrong, but I fear the War Party got a lot stronger with Chris Hughes’s decision to bring back Franklin Foer to edit The New Republic. Hughes is a young, very rich Facebook founder who understands that owning an opinion magazine is a great way have a political impact. TNR was owned by Marty Peretz, and then by some hedge fund friends of Peretz, and was steadfastly neocon on all the foreign policy issues that mattered. In the end Peretz made himself a laughing stock with repeated anti-Arab racist outbursts, but along with apparently tenured-for- life literary editor Leon Wieseltier, nothing was so certain as the fact that on Mideast issues, the “liberal” TNR would march in lockstep with Commentary and The Weekly Standard. This unfortunate fact was important in Washington, for it gave a false impression of intellectual bipartisan unanimity in foreign policy — the sense that anyone who questioned the need for serial wars against Israel’s adversaries or spoke in favor of the Palestinian human rights was some sort of marginal outlier.
I had hoped the coming of Hughes would change that. He is young (which isn’t necessarily relevant) and gay (which isn’t either, there is after all uberhawk Jamie Kirchik.) And an Obama supporter. The combination gave the ever-hopeful reason to think that the magazine might be open to more realist perspectives. It wasn’t a stretch to think that — after all both Andrew Sullivan, who has in the last five or six years become very wise on foreign policy, and Peter Beinart, now a vocal and effective critic of Israeli expansionism and of the American globalist foreign policy he once advocated, are former TNR editors.
Foer’s hiring seems to pour cold water on such hopes. In 2002 he wrote a mocking piece about the birth of TAC, seeming to find it absurd that any conservatives could imagine a magazine critical of the Iraq War could reach any kind of audience. When more establishment conservatives began to turn against the war a few years later, he wrote a well-informed and worried essay about the revival of the isolationist impulse in American foreign policy. Though people do change and Foer is not a full-time global war against Muslims agitator, it’s difficult to read these pieces as the work of a friend of realism. My guess is that Chris Hughes hasn’t thought about these foreign policy issues all that much, and hired someone who impressed him for other reasons. But with a disastrous war with Iran teed up on the neocon agenda, the last thing Washington needs is a well-subsidized hawkish magazine.
The Jay Cost post from The Weekly Standard that Rod links to argues, as the title indicates, that “liberals” were “surprised by the Supreme Court,” and many perhaps were. In the body of the post, he noted Bob Shrum’s delusions about John Kerry’s prospects in 2004 and says, “I imagine a lot of liberals felt a similar letdown reading the transcript of Tuesday’s arguments on Obamacare.” He later states, that “the Court might very well uphold the law, but it will not nearly be the slamdunk that almost all liberals thought it would be.”
I am confused as to why Cost is only imagining the letdown that liberals felt instead of, you know, checking with some actual liberal commentators and blogs. They aren’t that hard to find. And I would like to see a source for the claim that “almost all liberals” thought that a win in the Supreme Court would be a “slam dunk”
With a minimal effort I found a post from John Cole stating “I’m really completely uninterested in the actual arguments being made in the ACA case before SCOTUS. It just doesn’t matter what the law is, as these guys have proven time and again that they’ll do whatever they want.” Here’s Paul Krugman stating that, “while most legal experts seem to think that the case for striking the law down is very weak, these days everything is political.” Another liberal blogger I found wrote that “only one thing is relevant to this case for the Court’s Wingnut Four: the needs of movement conservatism.”
It doesn’t sound like these guys thought that Obamacare would be a “slam dunk” in the Supreme Court, but it is possible the three that I quote are unrepresentative of liberal opinion. However, it takes only a minimal effort to find weak spots in Cost’s argument.
Cost also makes the following observation:
The problem for the left is that they do not have a lot of interaction with conservatives, whose intellects are often disparaged, ideas are openly mocked, and intentions regularly questioned. Conservative ideas rarely make it onto the pages of most middle- and high-brow publications of news and opinion the left frequents. So, liberals regularly find themselves surprised when their ideas face pushback.
It would seem that Cost is the one enclosed in a bubble.
Readers of The American Conservative might be interested to hear that we will be at this year’s CPAC. Some of our staff will be at booth 1915 with subscription information and copies of this month’s magazine, as well as some past issues — plus exclusive TAC pens and notepads.
Some events of note sponsored by our friends at the Committee for the Republic include the following;
- 9am in the CPAC Theater: Eisenhower’s Farewell to the Nation, a presentation of President Eisenhower’s farewell address, introduced by his granddaughter Susan Eisenhower, with Q+A to follow.
- 10am in the Truman Suite: More Defense For Less, featuring COL Douglas Macgregor, USA (Ret.).
- 2pm in the Virginia Suite: Too Big to Fail: A Quadrillion Dollar Exposure!, featuring Peter Wallison, The Honorable Boyden Gray, John Henry, and John Prout.
- 2:30pm in the Jackson Suite: Founder Roundtable: Where did we go Wrong?, featuring Mark Skousen, Bruce Fein, Bill Nitze, Tom Whitmore, John Henry, and James Henry all portraying a selection of our Founding Fathers.
- 10am in the Truman Suite: America & Its Wars: John Quincy Adams vs. James K. Polk, featuring Bruce Fein and Roberty Merry as John Quincy Adams and James Polk.
The Spectator of London is the oldest weekly of the Anglophone world, a jewel of a magazine as distinguished and respected as it is beautifully written. It was first published in 1828, just as modern Greece became a nation, and in a recent speech the sainted editor (as I refer to him) remarked that the Speccie, as it is affectionately known, was as old as its longest running columnist, which is yours truly.
Novelist Graham Greene called The Spectator “by far the most elegantly written weekly in the English-speaking world” and went as far as to invite one of the most notorious drunks of London’s bohemia, columnist Jeffrey Bernard, to stay with him in Antibes. Both Greene and Bernard are now gone, but the Speccie has recently reached an all-time high in circulation—over 85,000 copies—which seemed to grate with our literary editor, Mark Amory, upon hearing the news. “I remember when our circulation was 12,000 and everybody used to read it.”
Actually, I joined the magazine as a columnist back in 1976, when it sold around 8,000 copies per week, but it seemed that everyone one knew did read it. Everyone that is at Oxford and Cambridge, in Westminster, in Kensington and Belgravia, as well as in London’s St. James’s clubland. Now at 85,000 copies, owned by the Daily Telegraph group, and a big money-maker, the Speccie’s sometime reactionary ethos is not as profound as it once was—who can forget its early support of the postage stamp and its prophetic thoughts on the motor carriage: the invention seemed likely to catch on. Read More…
Myths about human equality and universal rationality have embedded themselves deeply enough in our opinion-forming classes that conventional wisdom now needs the authority of neuroscience to get a hearing. That’s one thing that comes across in David Eagleman’s Atlantic essay on crime and the brain. That brain damage can lead to a loss of inhibitions and irregular, even criminal behavior is, I would have thought, fairly well known by now. Eagleman, however, warns that the latest advances in neuroscience require a rethinking of our criminal codes. Indeed, “because we did not choose the factors that affected the formation and structure of our brain, the concepts of free will and personal responsibility begin to sprout question marks.”
If you begin with the idea that everyone is the same, and everyone therefore reacts to the same stimuli in the same way, you may be shaken by Eagleman’s claims. But the idea that some people are congenitally more inclined than others to crime or irresponsibility would not have been news to, say, Aristotle. Eagleman’s proposed remedy for such intrinsic lack of self-control also amounts to old wine poured into new skin. Consider:
This Weekly Standard profile of Rand Paul may represent a high water mark in the Obama-era détente among competing factions among the Right. Matthew Continetti contrasts the subtle differences between the two Pauls on foreign policy without resorting to the usual smears:
Foreign policy used to be the ceiling that prevented Ron Paul from breaking into the Republican mainstream. But, whereas Ron Paul criticizes U.S. interventionism in tropes familiar to the left—anti-imperial blowback, manipulation by neocons, moral equivalence—Rand Paul merely says America doesn’t have the money. “I think we do need to go back to a constitutional foreign policy,” he told another New Hampshire voter, “which would include some savings by not being everywhere all the time.” . . .
Then there’s his position on foreign assistance. Ron Paul has raised the specter of the “Israel Lobby,” voted against condemning the United Nations for its scurrilous Goldstone Report on the 2008 Gaza war, and declared America should be neutral between Israel and the Palestinians. Rand Paul simply says sorry, we can’t afford the aid. “We can’t give away money to any country, even to our allies,” he told me.
It will be interesting to see how long this lasts. I predict it will end shortly after a Republican president moves into the White House, or perhaps when said president decides to start a war.
The Weekly Standard has a profile of David Mamet, focusing on his new found identity as a conservative. Mamet announced in the Village Voice three years ago that he was no longer a “brain-dead liberal.” Now he has a book coming called The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture— in which according to the the publicity material provided to Amazon.com—Mamet will “take on all the key political issues of our times, from religion to political correctness to global warming.” That sounds distressingly like the sort of right-wing tract published several times a year by conservative talk radio hosts, politicians and teenagers.
Mamet’s liberalism, as he characterized in in the Voice indeed sounds brain dead. “I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.” His conservatism doesn’t sound particularly compelling either. Andrew Ferguson quotes from a Mamet lecture at Stanford, in the Weekly Standard profile:
Higher ed, he said, was an elaborate scheme to deprive young people of their freedom of thought. He compared four years of college to a lab experiment in which a rat is trained to pull a lever for a pellet of food. A student recites some bit of received and unexamined wisdom—“Thomas Jefferson: slave owner, adulterer, pull the lever”—and is rewarded with his pellet: a grade, a degree, and ultimately a lifelong membership in a tribe of people educated to see the world in the same way.
I can’t imagine that the major problem with higher education these days is an excess of Dead White Male Bashing, and Mamet’s assertion makes him sound as if his conservatism is only caught up through the early 1990s when countering Political Correctness was all the rage. Give him a few months and he may be talking about Paula Jones and Whitewater. Toward the end of his profile, Ferguson notes how well thought out Mamet’s political views are.
The conversion is complete: This is not a book by the same man who told Charlie Rose he didn’t want to impose his political views on anybody. At some moments—as when he blithely announces that the earth is cooling not warming, QED—you wonder whether maybe he isn’t in danger of exchanging one herd for another. He told me he doesn’t read political blogs or magazines. “I drive around and listen to the talk show guys,” he said. “Beck, Prager, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved.”
In other words, Mamet is imbibing the lowest of talk radio dreck and then hectoring Standfordites for their groupthink. Mamet’s Liberalism may be in remission, but the brain-death still lingers.
Astute observers will see from our pop-up ad that supporters who donate $200 or more to The American Conservative this Christmas can get a signed copy of Bill Kauffman’s superb book Ain’t My America: The Long, Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism, a great gift for the season of peace and goodwill.
All contributions of any amount are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law, so this is also a useful way to adjust your year-end taxes while helping TAC continue to deliver the best in traditional conservatism (and much more). Even the smallest gift helps sustain the magazine and website and gives us the chance to bring you even more thought-provoking content in the New Year.
If you enjoyed Jack Hunter’s recent “Conservative Case for WikiLeaks” or Jim Bovard’s “Assassin Nation,” Jordan Smith’s recent essay on John Lennon or George Scialabba’s look at T.S. Eliot, make a gift to TAC so we can keep going strong.
“Cyber Monday” sounds like bunk to me, but any day is a good day to give a gift subscription to The American Conservative. Not only does the magazine for thinking conservatives make a great Christmas gift, it’s a present that keeps giving year round and won’t be forgotten after December 31. It’s also a vital way to support TAC and spread the word about the conservatism of peace, liberty, and tradition.
And not a moment too soon. With the Republicans on their way back to Congress, a thoughtful conservatism — as an antidote to the war-and-debt neoconservatism on offer elsewhere — is needed now more than ever.
Over the past three months, readers have been unstintingly generous in contributing to bring the magazine back into print. Your support has been a tremendous moral as well as financial boost. Now TAC is back. The new issue will begin showing up in bookstores and subscribers’ mailboxes over the next two weeks. And it features some superb material, including Justin Raimondo’s cover story on how Obama’s abandonment of his antiwar activist base doomed the Democrats; Ed Warner on Mexico’s narco-violence crossing the border into Arizona; Jim Antle on the Paul/Frank effort to cut the Pentagon budget; George Scialabba on the political and economic thought of T.S. Eliot; Paul Gottfried on Glenn Beck’s revisionist history; columns from Pat Buchanan, Bill Kauffman, and Bill Lind; and much more.
Needless to say, this is a good time to subscribe — and to give a gift subscription to a friend. You can also help by making a tax-deductible donation. We still greatly need, and appreciate, your support.