No, what made him a public figure is what drove him to leap into battle day after day. Andrew had profound contempt for those on the left who claimed a birthright to a monopoly on virtue and tolerance.
He rejected in the marrow of his bones the idea that conservatives needed to apologize for being conservative or that liberals had any special authority to pronounce on the political decency and honesty of others.
Indeed, when liberals called him (or his heroes) racist, Andrew paid them the compliment of taking them seriously. He truly felt that to call someone a racist was as profound an insult as could be leveled. To do so without evidence or logic was a sin.
He believed, rightly, that much of establishment liberalism hurls such charges as a way to bully opponents into silence, and he would not be bullied. That was why, for instance, he offered a reward of $100,000 (payable to the United Negro College Fund) to anybody who could prove tea partiers hurled racial epithets over and over at black congressmen walking past them to vote on Obamacare, as several alleged. No one got paid because the charge — recycled over and over by the media — was a lie.
The Internet was a boon to Andrew because it exposed liberalism’s undeserved monopoly on the “narrative” — one of his favorite words.
60 Minutes won awards for hidden cameras, but when he used the same technique to embarrass liberals, such tactics were suddenly proclaimed ethically beyond the pale. The joke was on the scolds because they had to cover the stories anyway. And the stories got results. Congress defunded ACORN. Heads rolled at NPR. Andrew understood that news and arguments change politics if you can get the news and arguments to the people — and if you don’t let those who don’t like what you say define you.
Whatever his faults, that was my friend’s great and remarkable strength: He never let the bastards get him down. That took away his enemies’ greatest power, and they hated him all the more for it.
— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can write to him by e-mail at [email protected], or via Twitter @JonahNRO.