President Bush’s former chief speechwriter, Michael Gerson, advises John McCain to take a few lessons from a party that has been out of power for over a decade, Britain’s Conservative Party. Ok, he admits, the Tories have lost three elections in a row, a modern record for them, and their leader, the “impossibly young” David Cameron (he’s 41), “tends to avoid foreign policy issues,” takes positions on moral issues that “most American conservatives would find … troubling,” and holds economic views that are hard to distinguish from those of his Labour opponents. Never mind–Gerson sees all that as to the good: Cameron is “ideologically flexible.” Or, translated from Gersonspeak, he’s totally unprincipled. Gerson likes that, but what he really likes about the utterly limp Cameron is that he sounds like a “compassionate conservative” — gee, maybe he’s in the market for an American speechwriter — and he places a lot of trust in the most neoconservative of British politicians, Iain Duncan Smith, who is himself a failed Tory leader.
Gerson’s whole pointless column, which never does show how McCain could benefit from taking a few hints from Cameron — what is he supposed to do, get Iain Duncan Smith to come over to the United States? — seems to be written just to boost his British neocon friend. Just look:
[Cameron] has been wise enough to turn for ideas to an exceptional politician named Iain Duncan Smith. As a former leader of the conservative opposition, Smith was largely discredited by his close identification with the Iraq war. But since losing his leadership post, he has dedicated himself to the cause of social justice within the conservative fold, gaining broad respect in the process. As chair of a policy think tank called the Center for Social Justice, Smith has gathered a group of bright young policy researchers who have published thick volumes of proposals on issues from prison reform and education to crime and family stability.
The Center for Social Justice isn’t just a think-tank with a pinko name — no, it’s a soup kitchen as well: “It invites members of Parliament to spend a week working in anti-poverty programs — on the condition that they leave their BlackBerrys behind.” Gerson is the maestro of fleecing taxpayers while congratulating himself on his own moralism, but even he ought to be able to see that sending M.P.s to take part in anti-poverty programs isn’t compassionate at all. It’s cruel to the poor, who shouldn’t have to put up with sanctimonious balderdash from politicians just to get a bowl of soup.