The Corner

“Respectable Conservatives”

First of all, what gives? I leave for like five minutes and Laura Ingraham is sitting in my cubicle with her feet on the desk and with my action figures and authentic Klingon cutlery in a box underneath it.

Regardless, here’s a short rule of thumb for how to tell who is a “respectable” conservative in the eyes of liberals: any conservative out of power or not seen as supportive of those in power. An even shorter rule of thumb would be: conservatives are respectable if they are useful to liberals. Pat Buchanan became respectable, even adorable, among a loose coalition of liberals leftists, from MSNBC’s Chris Matthews to Ralph Nader, when he turned on the GOP establishment. Kevin Phillips, David Gergen and John Dean have been “real” Republicans — though rarely conservatives — for decades because they are willing to confirm the assumptions of liberals. An even more telling example would be the “neocons.” Before the Iraq war, neocons were the nice conservatives, the good conservatives, the idealistic conservatives the un-racist conservatives, according to academics, The New York Times and others. This is not to say that they aren’t nice, good, idealistic and un-racist. Rather, it’s to point up the way in which conservatives become evil as they become influential, relevant, or otherwise inconvenient to liberals. John McCain was touted as a good choice for president by The New Republic and other liberal voices. Today, McCain is increasingly villified by many of these same voices because, it turns out, he’s actually a Republican.

Similarly, William F. Buckley is suddenly the voice of humane and decent conservatism, according to liberals. A more humane and decent man, you’ll never meet. But it’s doubtlessly true that if WFB had the president’s ear, the same voices cheering him would once again be calling him a fascist. And, needless to say, if Bush governed on Pat Buchanan’s playbook, Chris Matthews would lose his crush on him awfully fast.

Update: From a reader:

Don’t forget the greatest example of your point – Barry Goldwater.  A lunatic extremist in 1964, but when he strongly criticized Nixon, he became a conservative elder statesman.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

Most Popular

White House

What Is Hillary Clinton Thinking?

When Homer Simpson looks in the mirror, he sees ripped chest muscles and arms like the trunks of beech trees. When Hillary Clinton looks in the mirror, she sees America’s sweetheart. She thinks: America adores me. She thinks: America already chose me to be president once! She thinks: Everyone is comparing me ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Rod Rosenstein’s Resistance

Rod Rosenstein is even a weasel when repudiating his weasel moves. Here (with my italics) is the deputy attorney general’s non-denial denial of a New York Times report Friday that he brainstormed about ousting President Trump in May 2017: The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect. . . ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Fight for Kavanaugh 

The cynics — or, perhaps more precisely, the realists — believed that the Democrats were playing for time in the hopes of finding another accusation against Brett Kavanaugh. The cynics were right. The New Yorker stooped to publish a shoddy story alleging that Kavanaugh exposed himself to a woman while he ... Read More
White House

Trump Stands By ‘Fantastic’ Kavanaugh

President Trump was supportive of his nominee to the Supreme Court during a radio interview set to be broadcast on Monday morning, in which he characterized Brett Kavanaugh as a “fantastic, fantastic man” and called into question allegations of sexual assault. In the interview — recorded on Sunday, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Grassley’s Kangaroo Court

So now it looks like next Thursday. On Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s manifestly meritorious nomination to the Supreme Court, what was supposed to be the vote out of the Senate Judiciary Committee this past Thursday now appears to be sliding into a hearing to be held next Thursday. Or, who knows, maybe a Thursday ... Read More