The Corner

Not So Keene

Fresh from his endorsement of liberal Republican Arlen Specter, David Keene, head of the American Conservative Union, has written a column on what he calls “[t]he current warfare being waged on the right among conservatives of different stripes.” The column is remarkably obtuse. (It’s also sloppy: It was Russell Kirk whose retort to the John Birch Society was that President Eisenhower was a golfer, not a communist; Keene attributes the line to William F. Buckley Jr.) He says that “the current fight [is] between folks who like to characterize themselves as ‘neo-conservatives’ and the rest of the conservative community.” But very few people characterize themselves as neoconservatives, and I am not aware of anyone who so characterizes himself—or even anyone who is widely characterized as such by others—who is engaged in a fight with non-neos on the Right. At no point does Keene specify what the heck he is talking about.

He concludes, “[T]here are some in the conservative ranks who seem to believe that if one doesn’t share their view of the relative importance of various issues, one ought to be sent packing. A political movement that cannot tolerate differences among people who agree on main principles is a movement in trouble.” Who are these sectarians? Has someone said that no good conservative could oppose the Iraq war? That all conservatives have to support Pat Toomey? I haven’t said either of these things. I do think that the leaders of conservative organizations should not have lobbying interests that conflict with conservatism. I also think that it is odd for The Hill to run a regular column by a lobbyist, especially when the columnist in question turns out material as poor as this.

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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