The Corner

Intellectual Standards

Is it too much to ask that a writer bemoaning their decline on the Right get his facts straight? Here’s Mark Lilla:

As Jane Mayer reported recently in the New Yorker (“The Insiders,” Oct. 27, 2008), John McCain’s choice was not a fluke, or a senior moment, or an act of desperation. It was the result of a long campaign by influential conservative intellectuals to find a young, populist leader to whom they might hitch their wagons in the future.

And not just any intellectuals. It was the editors of National Review and the Weekly Standard, magazines that present themselves as heirs to the sophisticated conservatism of William F. Buckley and the bookish seriousness of the New York neoconservatives. After the campaign for Sarah Palin, those intellectual traditions may now be pronounced officially dead.

Please. The editors of National Review embarked on no such “long campaign,” and Mayer’s article does not attempt to document that we did. Mayer establishes that some of us met Palin in Alaska, some of us were impressed, and one of us wrote a favorable note about her in his web column. No doubt some NR-niks would like to be able to take credit for the Palin nomination, but we all know it’s not true. In between lectures on intellectual rigor, Lilla should learn to read more carefully.

The rest of Lilla’s column abounds with gross generalizations–”younger conservative intellectuals” apparently all, without exception, “mock the advice of Nobel Prize-winning economists and praise the financial acumen of plumbers and builders.” This from a guy complaining about a lack of intellectual rigor. Physician heal thyself.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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