As a conservative, I’m used to the left mis-representing and even being deliberately misleading about the principals and beliefs most of us on the right hold. Hence, we’re tarred with the epithet “racist” because we disagree with the special pleaders in the civil rights lobby who advocate quotas and other “remedies” that are at odds with the very idea of equality. For the sin of disagreeing with the racialists on public policy matters, we’re called Kluxers and worse.
And let’s not forget the casual use of the terms “Nazi” and “fascist” to describe any number of imagined transgressions by conservatives against the liberal credo, despite the fact it is laughingly apparent that those who use those pejoratives wouldn’t know a Nazi if Hitler himself came up and kissed them full on the mouth. (I suppose now I will be branded a homophobe because I wouldn’t relish the idea).
That said, I was interested to read Glenn Greenwald’s latest effort to “explain” conservatism to the rest of us. Not that Mr. Greenwald ever has much original thinking in his diatribes. As Alexandra von Maltzan pointed out yesterday, Greenwald’s writing is little more than a tired echo of what conservatives can read on a daily basis at Kos or any other lock-step lefty blog where Bush Derangement Syndrome reigns supreme and, if you can believe their breathless rhetoric, the republic itself will fall by sometime tomorrow. Or is it next Thursday? Hard to keep track…
But what made this overly long and repetitive piece by Greenwald so fascinating was an almost slavish devotion to superficiality. Now, in defense of Greenwald, he makes an excellent point about blogging that should be a lesson to us all:
One of the principal benefits of the blogosphere—with its daily posting and unedited expressions of thought—is that it reveals oneâ€™s genuine underlying views in a much more honest and unadorned fashion than other venues of expression. For that reason, the true sentiments of bloggers often stand revealed for all to see.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to take back things I wrote in the heat of passion or that didn’t quite come out the way I intended. But blogging means feeding the beast. And the monster that resides on this website rarely allows for the kind of reflection that I give articles that appear at The American Thinker or other places.
But Greenwald’s piece would not, could not benefit from any kind of reflection or self-criticism due to it shallowness of thought and lazy logic. Perhaps it would have been better if Mr. Greenwald had consigned this piece to the dustbin of blog history and not hit the “publish” button at all.
There is so much jaw-dropping idiocy in this screed that while I was reading it my mandible hit the floor and began to dig. There is no way I could cover all of it so allow me to take some “highlights” and illustrate my thesis: that Greenwald’s critique of Bush supporters is so depthless, it’s in danger of sliding off the monitor and disappearing into the ether:
Now, in order to be considered a “liberal,” only one thing is required â€“ a failure to pledge blind loyalty to George W. Bush. The minute one criticizes him is the minute that one becomes a “liberal,” regardless of the ground on which the criticism is based. And the more one criticizes him, by definition, the more “liberal” one is. Whether one is a “liberal”—or, for that matter, a “conservative”—is now no longer a function of oneâ€™s actual political views, but is a function purely of oneâ€™s personal loyalty to George Bush.
Greenwald then goes on to cite the cases of Andrew Sullivan, Bob Barr, and Senator Voinovich who have come under heavy fire from conservatives for “straying.” The only trouble is, the people who want to kick these folks out of the Conservative Book Club and take away their memberships to Augusta National have about as much sway in the movement as Greenwald himself.
Brent Bozell (who fills the same role for conservatives that David Brock’s Media Matters does for liberals) comes in for special criticism for coming down on Andrew Sullivan’s supposed lack of conservatism. Andrew may be an hysteric about some things, but he’s certainly an independent cuss and is no one’s lap dog. Bozell’s criticism of Sullivan had much to do with Andrew’s apostasy in supporting John Kerry in “04 – something many conservatives who are as angry at George Bush as Andrew is will not forgive him for.
It is very hard for Mr. Sullivan to claim common cause with conservatives when he proclaims his support for someone who by any yardstick was considered one of the top three liberals in the United States Senate. Nevertheless, most criticism of Andrew that I’ve seen has been his comparing the stress techniques used against terrorists with the worst kinds of torture used by Hitler and Stalin. Andrew has been brave and correct in taking the US military and the Bush Administration to task for any number of transgressions against human rights committed against the detainees in our custody. But his hysterical denunciations of the mildest kinds of interrogation techniques were over the top and uncalled for.
Is Andrew Sullivan a conservative? As far as I’m concerned, he can define himself any way he chooses and we are free to agree or disagree. I look upon Andrew as our crazy conservative uncle whose rants show an independence of thought that is vital to any ideological movement. He will continue to be flayed by those whose shallowness matches Mr. Greenwald’s in seeing his disagreements with the Administration as something akin to treason. But for Greenwald to posit the notion that Sullivan is no longer considered a conservative because of gadflies like Bozell is loony.
Barr and Voinovich? To equate criticism for some positions taken by either of those two worthies with the desire to drum them out of the conservative ranks reveals more about liberals than it does conservatives. As “proof” that Barr is about to lose his Haliburton board membership. Greenwald links to a story where one man – ONE MAN - criticizes Barr for his damning the Bush Administration over the NSA intercept program.
But nobody said anything in the deathly quiet audience. Barr merited only polite applause when he finished, and one man, Richard Sorcinelli, booed him loudly. “I can’t believe I’m in a conservative hall listening to him say [Bush] is off course trying to defend the United States,” Sorcinelli fumed.
Bob Barr is about to handed his walking papers by…by…Richard Sorcinelli?
This isn’t shallow nor is it even disingenuous. It is a lie. Or out and out stupidity. Not even a high school essayist would dare take one example of something and then make a sweeping statement of fact using that example as its sole means of support.
More surface critiquing by Greenwald:
People who self-identify as “conservatives” and have always been considered to be conservatives become liberal heathens the moment they dissent, even on the most non-ideological grounds, from a Bush decree. Thatâ€™s because “conservatism” is now a term used to describe personal loyalty to the leader (just as “liberal” is used to describe disloyalty to that leader), and no longer refers to a set of beliefs about government
Greenwald offers nothing except the cage rattling of Bozell and that well known and influential conservative leader….(um, whassis name? Oh! Yeah…Richard Sorcinelli) as proof for the entire thesis of his article.
His critique of Bush’s conservatism is a little better. He correctly points out that Bush is a big spender (Welcome to the club, Glenn. Conservatives too numerous to mention have been saying that for 4 years). Beyond that, he seems to think that conservatives are not questioning Bush on his use of the power of the federal government.
I realize that when writing such long, interesting (?) pieces it is difficult to read much of anything else. But the fascinating thing about conservatism these days is in the vigorous debate that has gone on between Constitutional absolutists and war mongers; between those who advocate the forging of a true conservative governing class and those who want conservatism to remain at arms length from government. And the reason these and other vital debates are taking place between conservatives is because liberals refuse to engage at any level on any serious issues. It’s hate Bush all day, all the time, and may the devil take the rest.
Greenwald’s transference of his Bush hatred to Bush supporters is par for the course. Here’s another head shaker:
The blind faith placed in the Federal Government, and particularly in our Commander-in-Chief, by the contemporary “conservative” is the very opposite of all that which conservatism has stood for for the last four decades. The anti-government ethos espoused by Barry Goldwater and even Ronald Reagan is wholly unrecognizable in Bush followers, who â€“ at least thus far â€“ have discovered no limits on the powers that ought to be vested in George Bush to enable him to do good on behalf of all of us.
What planet is this guy from? Without one iota of proof, Greenwald tars Bush supporters with the blanket statement that there are “no limits on the powers that ought to be vested in George Bush to enable him to do good on behalf of all of us…” So silly. So shallow. Unsupported by any facts or even a whiff of fact. But it does seem to prove Alexandra’s main point against Greenwald; that there is no difference between Mr. Greenwald and the Koskids, DU’ers or any other lefty site where Bush is blamed for everything from Tsunamis to mine disasters.
But then, Greenwald always has hyperbole and contradiction to fall back on:
And as excessive as the Bush Administrationâ€™s measures have been thus far—they overtly advocate the right to use war powers against American citizens on American soil even if Congress bans such measures by law—I am quite certain that people like John Hinderaker, Jonah Goldberg and Jeff Goldstein, to name just a few, are prepared to support far, far more extreme measures than the ones which have been revealed thus far. And while I would not say this for Jeff or perhaps of Jonah (ed: didn’t you just now say it?), I believe quite firmly that there are no limits â€“ none â€“ that Hinderaker (or Malkin or Hewitt) would have in enthusiastically supporting George Bush no matter how extreme were the measures which he pursued.
Um…’kay. In the world that sane, rational people inhabit, one would expect just one, tiny shred of proof that the statement above is anything but the wild eyed rant of a maniacal Bush hater. And to say in one sentence that people like Hinderaker, Goldberg, and Goldstein are “prepared to support far, far more extreme measures” than any we’ve seen only to say in the very next sentence “while I would not say this for Jeff or perhaps of Jonah…” is a laughable example of the one side of Greenwald’s brain not knowing what the other is saying. At the very least, it shows slopping thinking.
Greenwald goes on to say that because Michelle Malkin wrote a book in defense of the internment of Japanese during World War II that she (and Hinderaker and Hewitt) would gladly start the round up of Muslims and march them off to camps today if given half a chance. Perhaps if Greenwald had offered one – just one example where any of those bloggers had advocated such a position, his rant would at least start a discussion. But he doesn’t so it’s impossible. It’s just more red meat for the denizens of the fever swamps who keep predicting the end of the republic but are continuously frustrated by the resilience of the old girl to the machinations of both liberal loonies like Greenwald as well as cuckoo conservatives.
I apologize for the length of this post. I could go on but I’m sure I’ve already lost most of you. The point of this is to show that liberals like Greenwald will always refuse to engage conservatives on any meaningful level because in the end, their arguments are so shallow that to get beyond the Bush Derangement Syndrome is impossible. I can’t think of a serious conservative who has not had major disagreements with Bush about a host of issues. Yes there are fawning acolytes. But there are far more serious conservatives who support the President generally but oppose him vehemently on issues ranging from the way the war has been prosecuted, to our policy on detainees, to our on again-off again liberation policy in the Middle East, to the power wielded by some social conservatives, to even some aspects of domestic security. If Greenwald would read something besides the “me too” screeds on Kos and Atrios, he might even educate himself about why conservatives keep winning elections.
Greenwald responds to his critics here. He takes me to task specifically for pooh-poohing the idea that Andrew Sullivan has had his Conservative Mastercard yanked by his many and vociferous critics.
With a perfect sense of timing (akin to my bitching about the boss as he walks into the room behind me), Sullivan makes Greenwald’s quote about him his “Quote of the Day” saying that the piece is “diagnosing the current situation accurately.”
No one likes to be criticized. And both Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Greenwald should know by now that the majority of people who read what we write are fierce partisans who see the political internet as a battlefield – take no prisoners and attack relentlessly. But I think Mr. Sullivan is being overly sensitive for this reason: The overwhelming number of conservative bloggers who read what he writes still consider him a man of the right. One would hardly call Gregory Djerejian, someone who has absolutely skewered the Administration over prosecution of the Iraq War, a liberal by any stretch of the imagination. Nor would too many people call John Cole a liberal for his sharp attacks on the Administration over torture.
I believe the point I made is valid; that conservative “apostates” may be criticized and called all sorts of names. But no one is seriously suggesting that they’ve changed their stripes and defected to the left. Those that do – a very small subset of loudmouthed yawpers – cannot and should not be confused with the vast majority of conservatives whose minds function above a 5th grade level.
Read the rest of Mr. Greenwald’s reply where he fleshes out a few of his thoughts from his original post that I still believe was an exercise in superficial and shallow thinking.