Matthew Towery is unhappy with how “conservative” commentators have gone after Republican senators who voted for the START treaty with Russia. This agreement limits those antinuclear weapons that may be stacked by the two signatories. Towery observes the support that some Republican senators gave the treaty has been used to brand them as Republicans in Name Only. This “political bludgeon” has been applied to even such stalwart conservatives as Senator John Isakson of Georgia, who had the temerity to vote with the Senate majority. Last week the FOX news commentator Dick Morris urged the American Right to punish Republicans who voted incorrectly, as enemies of American security.
In my view, START is something Americans could argue about in a reasonable fashion. I see advantages to an agreement that will reduce our expenses for weapons systems; and while I wouldn’t confuse Putin for America’s founders, I also don’t equate today’s Russia with the brutal Soviet empire that murdered millions of Europeans. But I’m also not against considering our defenses a second time before entering a critical disarmament agreement.
Unfortunately Morris and other “conservative” commentators have pushed the established Right leftward on social issues, while brandishing a sword against those with more modest foreign-policy goals. From his statements it would seem that Morris endorses affirmative action, favors expanded immigration, and is strongly behind gay marriage and abortion rights. His politics are indistinguishable from those of the socially liberal but hawkish Sen. Joe Lieberman, but after a bitter quarrel with the Clintons, Morris began moving toward the GOP.
The people the Right should be targeting are not honorable men like Senator Isakson. It is the neoconservatives who took over their movement in the 1980s and have been bending it to their purposes. Those purposes include aggressive interventionism, particularly in the Middle East, where the neoconservatives are focused on Israel’s enemies, sometimes in ways that most Israelis may consider to be excessive. Neoconservatives are in the habit of screaming “Islamic terrorism” or “Islamo-fascism” to justify any war they’re about to push the country into. They were key players in encouraging the invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Although some Israeli politicians also backed that venture, it was at least as controversial in Israel as it was here.
The neoconservatives have backed the Religious Right for tactical reasons, because it helps put wind in their sails. They recognized decades ago that the theology of the Evangelicals, which is pro-Israel, could serve their Middle Eastern policies. Christian Zionists have been steady allies. Meanwhile neoconservatives have played on the instinctive patriotism of Republican voters, who have eagerly seconded their interventionist policies.
In return the neoconservatives have gotten behind the social positions of the Evangelicals and traditional Catholics. They’ve thrown money at foundations and magazines that are open to their interests but also represent “family values.” Such enterprises typically combine neoconservative foreign policy with traditional moral stands on marriage and abortion. This combination has worked well for Heritage Foundation, AEI, and FOX, all of which bring together religious traditionalists and free market advocates with conventional neoconservatives.
The problem is that the neoconservatives, who hold the purse strings with their access to corporate wealth, have never cared much for those socially conservative positions they’ve pay-rolled. And now the support for them is drying up. Journals and foundations associated with the Religious Right are losing their neoconservative funding, and the editors are sending desperate pleas to subscribers that they’re in danger of going broke.
Even more significantly, the neoconservatives and their dependents are making a U-turn on gay issues. Conservative personalities, such as Jonah Goldberg, Dick Cheney, David Brooks, and John Podhoretz, have become impassioned advocates of gay marriage. The New York Post went after Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, after he criticized a Gay Pride parade in the City. The Post’s editorial staff swerved behind gay advocate Andrew Cuomo, who was running against Paladino as a liberal Democrat.
A journalist, Lawrence Auster, has noted that movement conservatives have been conspicuously silent on having openly gay soldiers serve in the military or else, like FOX commentators, have been ardently behind the change. Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol were so unreservedly positive on FOX that their fellow-news commentator Juan Williams, a black Democrat, stared at them in disbelief. Williams asked them whether the change they wanted could be carried out as easily as they suggested.
Such opinion-shapers are doing more than accepting the inevitable. They may be fitting in with the journalistic community and their own urban society. Again and again GOP journalists define Democratic spending as the only significant domestic issue. Obamacare, according to Morris and Michael Barone, should be the big and perhaps only thing for Republicans on the home front. These “conservatives” clearly wish to have us forget what they consider unwelcome controversies. And I don’t feel sorry for those they’ve abandoned. Their gullibility never ceases to astonish me.