The Washington Free Beacon is the neoconservative answer to the Daily Caller, and it made its dubious mark earlier this year with a sustained stream of attacks against Chuck Hagel’s nomination as secretary of defense. Why the Free Beacon would devote so much attention to Hagel is no secret: Hagel was a somewhat late but nonetheless prominent critic of the Iraq War and America’s foreign policy in the Middle East.

The Free Beacon is now giving the same treatment to Jack Hunter, who has written for The American Conservative and today serves as Sen. Rand Paul’s director of new media. Coincidentally or not, Hunter has also been an eloquent critic of the foreign policy supported by the Free Beacon’s ideological family.

The "Southern Avenger"

The “Southern Avenger”

Free Beacon’s attack on Hunter involves cherry-picking quotes, many over a decade old, and referencing his career as the “Southern Avenger,” a pro-wrestling persona, complete with luchador mask, that Hunter adopted as an on-air radio personality and as a columnist for the Charleston City Paper. Did a left-leaning alternative newspaper think they were employing a hate-fueled neo-Confederate? Not hardly: Hunter’s columns were provocative and conservative, but anyone who reads them, while finding plenty to disagree with—he’s an independent thinker—will not find hate. Naïveté, yes, and a certain obtuseness about minorities that’s long been characteristic of the right. Over the five years that I’ve known him, however, Jack has re-examined his thinking and confronted questions of fairness that the right has too often avoided. He’s done this while remaining devoted to the canons of Russell Kirk’s conservatism.

Want proof? Read The American Conservative’s Jack Hunter archive. Read this piece, in which Jack, who supports same-sex marriage, respectfully disagrees with its comparison to the Civil Rights struggle, whose magnitude and sacrifices exceed anything else in the past century. As ever with a good columnist, not everyone is going to agree with the argument, but the respect and good-faith that characterize it will be obvious. The luchador mask was a lark while Jack was in his 20s; today he’s tackling the right’s, and the country’s, most difficult questions in a serious and open way. More conservatives should be like him—not media personalities or provocateurs, but thinkers who apply conservatism to uniting a country riven by ideological, economic, and yes racial divides. Jack Hunter has grown, where too many others have only stagnated.