This Is My Life (and Death?)

The New York Times warns that blogging can kill you. Tell me about it. And I’m not even very prolific.


Goldwater II

Following on my post from the other day, here is the Book TV video (real media) of a Sean Wilentz-moderated panel discussion on the first two offerings from Princeton UP’s James Madison Library series. John Patrick Diggins (author of That Reagan Book, among other things), RFK Jr., Sam Tanenhaus discuss Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative.  Other panelists discuss a book by John Kenneth Galbraith; I skipped right over those segments, to tell the truth.

Goldwater turns into Nelson Rockefeller in RFK Jr.’s telling, which noticeably irks Tanenhaus, who actually knows a thing or two about the history of the conservative movement. The panel is worth a look for three takes on who Goldwater was and what he stood for.

More Schlafly, Less Coulter

The blogosphere is in a lather over Ann Coulter’s use of the word “faggot” at CPAC. The American Spectator and National Review are both supporting calls to have her banned from CPAC forevermore for that affront to homosexual-Americans.

The whole episode is a good illustration of the Coulter method. She knows where the fault lines lie between the New York-Washington, D.C. conservative movement and the red-state conservative grassroots. She’s so popular in part because she says the kinds of inflammatory things that the punters want to hear, things that conservatism’s own Eastern establishment dare not say for fear of offending polite, liberal opinion.

But Coulter is only with the grassroots against the movement’s own East Coast elites when it comes to the most trivial, Neaderthal rhetoric. In that same CPAC speech, she endorsed Mitt Romney, the blandest, safest “conservative” candidate. If she’s really such a hard right-winger, why didn’t she endorse someone like Tom Tancredo? Ironically, if she had done that, she might have single-handedly boosted a marginal candidate to the top tier; instead, she jumped on the Mitt Romney bandwagon and caused him embarrassment, since he later had to disassociate himself from her language.

For all that she needles the girly-boys of the movement, she is not actually any kind of grassroots firebrand herself. She’s strictly conventional when it comes to any issue that matters. She has the effect of co-opting and neutering whatever populist discontent there is with the Right’s establishment. She’s like a Barbie dolls that’s been reprogrammed to say “faggot” instead of “math is hard”: offensive but harmless.

Coulter has many times paid homage to Phyllis Schlafly. The two women couldn’t be more different: Mrs. Schlafly doesn’t use inflammatory language, and she actually organized the grassroots rather than simply titillating them. And unlike Coulter, Phyllis Schlafly is willing (up to a point) to call the Republican Party and the conservative establishment on the carpet, as she does in these quotes reported from

Bush has “made so many mistakes,” said the Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly. “The war is a disaster and he flubbed the [immigration] issue.”

And the leading GOP contenders to succeed Bush? “They’re all equally unacceptable,” Schlafly said.

Ann Coulter would never say anything like that. It’s what she doesn’t say, much more than what she does, that really indicts her.

Black Mischief

The Times runs an excerpt of Tom Bower’s tabloid take on the life of Conrad Black. There’s pathos:

“Do you think you can get a group of people together if the need arises,” he asked one billionaire, “and get me some funds secured against my property?” “How much do you want from everyone, Conrad?” asked the businessman.

“About $1m each,” said Black.

There was a pause. “You’re my best friend,” continued Black. “Surely you can lend me $1m?”

“Well, Conrad,” said the man, “what’s my private telephone number?”

“I don’t know,” replied Black. “Why?”

“Well, if I were your best friend, you’d have it.”

Inveterate pessimist that I am, I sympathize with the dying George Black’s words to Conrad:

“Life is hell,” he told his son as they awaited the doctor. “Most people are bastards, and everything is bullshit.”

Jesse Walker Answers the Call…

…of book-blogging inanity that I issued a while back. See his selections here.

In other news, I’ve added the University Bookman to the website links. Both Jesse and University Bookman editor Gerald Russello have pieces in the forthcoming issue of The American Conservative, as it happens. Gerald asks whether Russell Kirk and Robert Nisbet would sign on to the latest incarnation of the national-security state and (in case you can’t guess the answer to that one) offers their alternative. Jesse reviews Robert Greenfield’s recent biography of Timothy Leary and sheds some light on the acid guru’s appearance in National Review once upon a time…

Skepticism About Islamo-Democracy Gets Mark Helprin Fired

From Kelly Jane Torrance’s fascinating interview with Mark Helprin (be sure to read the whole thing here):

MH: …I gave a speech that lasted 45 minutes or an hour, followed by a long question period. And one of the questions was about the democracy initiative, about changing Iraq into a democracy, and I am on record as saying—I don’t quite remember exactly, but I said more or less—I think it’s insane. I emphasize it like that, because among other things, if you count intensive language courses I took there in the summer as preparation, I spent almost three years in graduate school at Harvard in Middle Eastern Studies learning about Middle Eastern history, Arabic. And it was very clear to me, from the very beginning, that it’s impossible. If you know anything about Islamic civilization, or about the contemporary Middle East, about the sociology and the anthropology of the people who live there, and their recent history, and their religion, and their motivation and everything, then you realize that it’s not going to happen.

Even if it could be done, I don’t think it’s a desirable goal. Particularly as a Jew, I don’t like missionary work. I’ve had it focused on me, and I don’t like it. Let people be what they want to be. Now that doesn’t mean that we can’t explain what our point of view is. I would never back down from the American ideals, and we should make them known, whatever way we can, but the idea of actually embarking upon—and a crusade is a perfect word for it—a crusade to transform a culture, another culture . . . well, has it ever ended up in anything other than war? When we did it with Japan and Germany, it was after the war. They made on war on us, we hit them, and then we said, Okay, this is what we’re going to do. But the object of the war was not to—even though the propaganda may have said so—was not to change Japan and Germany into democracies. They both were democracies, to a large extent, already, but the object was to check them. My positions on this are complicated, but simple—and they’re all available.

DT: Have you found that your colleagues at places like the Wall Street Journal are unhappy with your criticism?

MH: Yes, I no longer am with the Journal.

DT: Is it because of this? Your thoughts on these issues?

MH: Pretty much, yes…

U.S. Soldiers Ask Rumsfeld If They Could Get a Surprise Visit From Loved Ones Instead

Once again, the Onion gets at truths the non-satirical press can’t.

BAGHDAD—Although U.S. troops in Iraq said they appreciated President Bush’s recent surprise visit, thousands of them have petitioned the White House to arrange surprise visits from relatives and spouses as well. … An estimated two-thirds of American military personnel in Iraq have signed the petition, with the other third saying that Iraq is still far too dangerous a place for anyone’s loved ones to spend any time.

Neocons: Bush Isn’t Belligerent Enough

When I saw the Washington Post headline “Conservative Anger Grows Over Bush’s Foreign Policy,” I foolishly assumed that the article might have to something to do with the chorus of realists and antiwar conservatives who have long been critical of the president. No, no — the conservatives that the Washington Post cares about are the ones who don’t think Bush is aggressive enough in trying to democratize the world. This is what Paul Gottfried means when he says that for all the hostility the mainstream media shower upon neoconservatives, they still prefer to make them the spokespersons for conservatism rather than anyone of an older strain. (The article does, fleetingly, mention William F. Buckley’s and George Will’s reservations about the administration’s bellicose utopianism.)

How Dare Anyone Criticize Lieberman?

Steve Sailer takes note of the punditocracy’s shock that Joe Lieberman should be in such a hard-fought primary race:

…to pundits like Jonah [Goldberg], the idea that somebody important could lose his job for making the wrong decision about a little trifle like war or peace is, or at least ought to be, unthinkable.

If supporting an unconstitutional, unprovoked, and disastrous war isn’t grounds for tossing out a pol, what is? Why, toasting an ex-segregationist on his 100th birthday, of course. That’s what really matters. Per Goldberg, circa 2002:

I think he’s got to go. First, if he leaves we’ll be spared the whole Lott of Lott-puns — senator in a Lott of trouble, GOP casts its Lott, etc. It does make you wonder how hilarious this whole thing would be if former congressman Dick Swett had somehow gotten into similar trouble.

Sure, Lott’s resignation as Majority Leader might seem or actually be unfair — but that’s how politics works.

There’s a useful illustration of Beltway mentality and its essentially conformist nature here. Controversies from 40 years ago — settled ones, in other words — may be used to castigate anyone who steps out of line. (Goldberg triangulates: he says he doesn’t agree with the brouhaha over Lott, but Lott still must go. Notice, though, that the Lott blow-up was entirely a pundit-generated event. No one in Mississippi or anywhere else cared. By contrast, the war kills few neocon journalists or politicians’ sons; its costs are paid by ordinary people known to Goldberg only by their caricatures on The Simpsons.) Current disputes, however, can’t be given that kind of importance, no matter how many Americans or Iraqis they kill, simply because that would require acknowledging the incompetence of the reigning political class — Republicans, Democrats, and lickspittle op-ed columnists alike. If both parties support a policy, it must be respectable, even if things don’t turn out as well as forecast. Right?