The Corner

Conservative in Which Sense?

This “senior moment” and “Fred Thompson-is-lazy” stuff is really starting to irk. I remember hearing the same comments about Ronald Reagan in every campaign in which I participated — 1976 and 1980. And this tactic was especially used against him in 1984. I have spent some time with Thompson. He is intellectually curious and sharp. He is engaging and vigorous. Yes, he chooses his words carefully. He speaks in a southern accent. But the attacks on him appear to have a Northeastern-liberal-style feel to them, emanating largely from the NewYork-Washington, D.C axis. This is a man, after all, who worked sixteen hours a day in both television and radio. (By the way, have any of those who promote the “lazy” argument actually analyzed his campaign activities compared to the other candidates? If so, I’ve not seen any such thing.)

And let me also observe that Rudy is no conservative, despite George Will’s pronouncement (the same Will who once said we under-taxed and who advocated spreading democracy throughout the globe). Yes, Rudy takes some conservative positions. And he has taken more conservative positions since seeking the Republican nomination. But he has a record that goes beyond law enforcement and tax-cutting that should cause any conservative some pause. What is his governing philosophy? I am thrilled that as mayor he rid Times Square of hookers and squeegee bums. But he also brought lawsuits against gun manufacturers and to enforce a commuter tax, he was weak on illegal immigration (my opinion), and was wrong on virtually every social issue. Moreover, I know, from my private conversations with some who post here in his defense, that they have some hesitation about the man but, for personal reasons or because of their assessment of the rest of the field, they support him. That’s fine, but must we redefine conservatism to accommodate his candidacy? And that’s what is troubling me, frankly.

I think it is essential that all these candidates be examined for what they’ve done and where they want go. We are all concerned that there is a level of superficiality with many of their positions given their records. And I believe, based on the callers to my program, this is a widespread concern among conservatives. All the more reason to reconsider the wisdom of regurgitating cheap shots and keep the focus where it belongs.

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