My friend Martin Morse Wooster should work in that agency from “3 Days of the Condor” becuase he literally reads everything. Every now and then, he’s kind enough to send me items I wouldn’t otherwise see. Anyway, a few times a year, for the last few years, I get an envelope from Martin with a little note saying “Check out page this or that” to find an article in Liberty magazine denouncing me. The articles are usually pretty funny in their self-importance and earnestness (New readers may not know that there are legions of hardboiled libertarians of a certain stripe who think I’m the devil).
Anyway, I just got a new one. It’s an article buried in the back (Liberty is arguably the worst laid-out magazine outside of a junior high school) by some guy named Clark Stooksbury. He says “In the age of Bush, the label ‘conservatism’ means little more than bloated deficits, perpetual war and boot-licking obeisance to the president. For a good hard look at the modern conservative movement check out its flagship, National Review, in either the online version, or the print magazine, cloyingly called ‘on dead tree.’”
Then there’s more about me owing my career to Monica Lewinsky, how I quote the Simpsons a lot, how Limbaugh and Coulter are even more immature than me (a low blow!) blah, blah, blah. He finally gets around to mentioning that he’s actually supposed to be writing a review of a re-released book by the late, great, Robert Nisbet. Nisbet is “conservatism for grown-ups” he writes, because Nisbet criticized the Reagan adminsitration. “While the Goldberg crowd equates all criticism of Bush II with treason.” There are a few more whines and snarks and then it ends.
Now, I don’t bring this up to defend myself. I’ve long stopped caring what folks like this guy and Liberty magazine think of me. Indeed, it’s particularly easy when they just make stuff up. Which gets me to the real point, all across the web — and in other three dimensional backwaters — there are people who call themselves conservatives who’ve convinced themselves they are rebels for challenging what they perceive to be National Review’s style conservatism. That’s fine. Indeed, it was probably ever thus. But they almost never actually use facts. They just say things like the above without even bothering to demonstrate it (much like all of the NR endorses gay marriage nonsense). For example, both in print and online, the magazine has criticized president Bush many times — just not that much on the war on terror, because we think he’s doing pretty good there. But on steel protectionism, the farm bill and big government conservatism generally, we’ve hit him hard and often. If we’ve ever used the word “treason” about a critic of Bush’s, I’d like to know about it. And as for Robert Nisbet, he’s among my favorite authors — something I must have said a zillion times. Indeed, type “Robert Nisbet” into NRO’s search engine and see what you’ll find.
I don’t mind criticism, even from the fever swamps. What I do object to is mindless and fact-less assertion without evidence. These people always get their dresses over their heads whenever I say I don’t take them seriously. Well, I will when they start acting serious.