Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Shticks and Shtones

Oh, well, the bigger the tent, the better the food fights. Rod Dreher attacked Mark Levin for jokingly suggesting a female caller's husband should off himself. He could have just given his opinion that Levin was way out of line and left it at that. But he called him a creep and a cretin and that got all the Levinian's riled up. So far the incident has provided some pretty funny material, which I'll link to in a moment.

But first I have to state my opinion on the original material that started this. Rod's mistake is that he doesn't realize that this is all about taste in humor. Yelling at callers and at the world in general is Levin's shtick. It's hyperbolic, it's vitriolic and it's jarring when you here it for the first time. Granted, it's not always funny, but IMHO Sam Kinison isn't always funny either. Of course someone might disagree and think that Kinison is hilarious 100% of the time, and that would serve to prove my point. There's no accounting for taste. Take, for example, one of Rod's blog entries from last summer. Here's an excerpt:

Later, I said goodnight to Julie and the kids and went downtown to meet and have dinner with my Beliefnet colleague, Beltway man of mystery David Kuo. I've thought about this, and I believe I can say confidently that if our wives ever tired of us, I would gay-marry that David Kuo. He had me at "cassoulet." We started our conversation talking about our shared love of cooking, and I asked him what he liked to cook. He said autumnal dishes, like cassoulet. He didn't know that I'm such a cassoulet fanatic that I once stopped in Paris on a trip back from the Middle East, just to eat good cassoulet. David and I had a great time over dinner, talking about food, travel, conservative politics and Jesus. We also had a fantastic bottle of Italian wine, a 2004 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, which was really one of the more memorable bottles I've ever enjoyed.

This is an example of Rod's sense of humor, at least I'm pretty sure it is. If someone suggested that this represented a statement of intention to commit an immoral act, I would tell him to lighten up, he's obviously joking. I've been reading Rod's stuff for years and I know the contextual landscape. I know the pretextual landscape as well, but that's another story.

But if you don't find his hyperbole about marrying David funny then I'm with you. I just don't get his sense of humor. Another case in point. In an earlier paragraph in that piece he muses aloud about how if Erin Manning got her own blog she wouldn't be able to fill in for him. But Manning does have her own blog. The punchline seems to be delivered in an ultra-serious tone; maybe it's just really dry humor—I can't hear the wink, I guess. Or maybe it's an inside joke? Perhaps he means a blog on Beliefnet where they'd force her to generate hits for their media factory farm.

OK, on to the links which my friend J-Carp was good enough to email me. Here's the Robert McCain "letter". Excerpt:

Chief among the choirboys of niceness is Rod Dreher, the former National Review staffer, Dallas Morning News columnist and BeliefNet blogger. In his 2006 book Crunchy Cons, Dreher accused the "conservative mainstream" of believing that "accumulating wealth and power is…the point of life," and further declared, "The tragic flaw of Western economics is that it is based on exploiting and encouraging greed and envy."

Lately, Dreher has endlessly whined about talk-radio personalities he considers uncouth lowbrows. In March, Dreher said that Limbaugh's speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference "made clear that the GOP and the conservative movement are stuck on stupid." In April, Dreher said Glenn Beck was "giving crackpots a bad name." Then Friday, Dreher called Mark Levin a "cretin," a "creep" and a "trashmouth."

McCain—who blogs here, BTW—goes on to list Levin's impressive credentials. But here's the meat of it:

"Turn the other cheek" is an excellent moral principle, but it doesn't work in politics any better than it works in saloon brawls. When Democrats were encouraging their friends at MSNBC to describe conservatives attending Tea Party rallies as "teabaggers" — a term borrowed from gay-porn vernacular — where were Dreher's complaints about incivility? And if Dreher considers "trashmouth" to be a mortal sin, why isn't he throwing stones at Rahm Emanuel, who unloads f-bomb barrages as remorselessly as the RAF pounded Dresden?

I'll explain this one to McCain regarding the Tea Parties. Rod doesn't like this kind of thing because all it pertains to is money and greed in his mind.

Well I hope you don't think Robert S. McCain was rough on ol' Rod because we're about to look at Dan Riehl's stuff. First one.

I've known many brilliant men. Mark is one. Amazingly, he is also gifted with the ability to entertain a large and growing audience, as witnessed by his ratings. And his and other radio talk shows are, after all, infotainment, in a very real sense. Post-Howard Stern, should society determine that anything Mark Levin has ever said on the air should be out of bounds? Really?

But given Mark's long list of significant accomplishments Dreher seems to want to ignore, only some of which are listed above, and Mark's well-known contributions to the conservative movement ... I'm simply left asking myself, who is this fellow Rod Dreher? What is it, really, that he has done, accomplished, or contributed, which gives him license to take some few comments he, or others might not like, and dismiss Levin as just some virulent gasbag the Right should shun?

When Dreher can answer that question to my satisfaction, perhaps I'll consider viewing his grousing as something more than a small fish with an even smaller stickleback up his butt carping up a food chain I doubt he'll ever climb.

Finally, having read at least a bit of Dreher over the years, how his regular readers keep from putting guns to their temples, I'll never know.

It is a good point. Of course, in order for Rod to make a substantive contribution to the conservative movement he'll probably have to recognize that it's bigger than his quirky tastes and preferences. Then he won't pick out the specks in the eyes of the Levin's of the world.

Here's Riehl's next piece, in which he answers Dreher and Conor-with-one-N Dorf. Excerpt:

Moving on to Mark's humorous comment that a woman's husband put a pistol to his head, Conor shows himself as capable of extreme prudishness, as is Dreher.

As I wrote before, “That isn’t merely beneath a gentleman. It is the kind of thing that a decent man doesn’t say to a woman, under any circumstances. Awful as it is on the page, it came across even worse on the air, hearing the hateful, angry inflections. Forget the fact that this isn’t the way forward for the conservative movement — this just isn’t the way any person should behave.”

That Mark is somehow laying out the way forward for the conservative movement in this entertainment-based shtick, or portion of his show Conor references is an absurdity. That's especially so given that Mark has repeatedly offered so much substance and insight to the conservative movement going forward, both in the many substantive portions of his show, as well as in his books and other writings. It appears as though Conor is reduced to looking for a straw-man here to attack by suggesting it.

BTW, read the comments for these posts. Riehl's commenters are among the best in the blogosphere.

As to how a person should behave, especially in the context of entertainment today, I wonder if Conor doesn't need to get out a bit more, out of the salon, anyway. Recently Obama was caught cackling as a D-list comedienne joked about Rush Limbaugh's kidneys shutting down, also finding humor in Limbaugh's previous addiction issue, from which he has since recovered.

That event was hosted by the White House Press Corp. Conor might want to consider an occupation other than journalism given what association with such types of people might do to his reputation.

The standard reply to this is "Oh, so other people do it; that makes it all right?" But that's what journalism is, guys, giving as fair and equal coverage to all sides. Journalistic bias, simply put, is covering the sins and foibles of one side more than the other. If you want to portray someone badly you don't have to lie, just be very selective and take quotes out of context.

Here's the third installment, featuring Levin's reply which is highly readable and funny. Levin is a much better writer than a talker, IMHO, and I'm sorry, but it's too entertaining.

Every now and then I have to lower myself to deal with the undeveloped minds of kooks like Rod Dreher. I don't know Dreher and as best I can tell, most nobody does. He has a column for a Dallas newspaper and created his own blog site, from where he writes love letters to himself and wonders why his brilliance is lost on the multitudes (while, of course, claiming to represent them and speak for them).

Rod learned of me, he says, from his friend Conor Friedersdorf. Honestly, who is Conor Friedersdorf? Well, after about 90 seconds of googling, I found out that Conor is (or was) a journalist and is (or was) a student and he blogs too. So, it appears that Rod and Connor are cyberspace pen pals of a sort.

Love letters to himself, LOL. Next, Levin tackles Rod's famous "Benedict option".

I think "the Benedict Option" would be good for Rod. Will he be blogging from Drehertown? Will Drehertown segregate itself from the Internet and talk radio, so as not to be polluted by the rest of us? Now, this will have broad appeal with the American people, don't you think? This is the way back for the GOP and conservatism -- "the Benedict Option." Rod is a self-deluded kook. He is also thin-skinned, like so many of the kooks with God-complexes and a keyboard.

As I study the genius that is Rod and the wisdom of his words in his post about me, I am stunned that a leader of our party and our movement such as Rod would lower himself to use such shock-jock language as "shrill crackpot," a "cretin," and a "creep." Come now, Rod, we need to raise the level of debate if we are to take back power.

That's good meat, baby. Throw it into the cassoulet, will ya, honey?

And while Rod represents the future of conservatism (just ask him), he doesn't understand my appeal. I mean, he listened to 15 minutes of my radio show and he just doesn't get it. No, Rod doesn't get it and he never will. He's just not that smart or interesting. Rod says he knows I have a "huge best selling book" but he doesn't know why. Of course, he gives no indication of ever having read it. Rod is supposedly unaware that for many years we posted articles and comments on the same website ( So, a geek who spends most of his days and nights on the Internet doesn't know I am a contributing editor to National Review? Oh the pain of it all.

Now, if I might, on to David Frum. What does Frum have to do with any of this, you ask? David has never recovered from my drubbing him on my radio show, or should I say the drubbing he gave himself. He immediately went crying to Newsweek, MSNBC, various broadcast networks, etc., to complain about the low state of conservatism. If only the rest of us would embrace the "true reformers" (you know, in addition to Frum, David Brooks and Ross Douthat, among others), we would be so much the better. Dare I say if they were intellectually coherent and consistent, not to mention principled, it might be easier to understand them. But they are, with a few exceptions, ineffective lightweights who shoot spitballs at conservatives from the backbenches. This is precisely why the media promote them during their little hissy fits.

Well, David happened upon Rod's post about me and, of course, he was deeply disturbed by my exchange with the caller. Now, this would be the same David Frum who hawks himself and his irrelevant books (yes, another unsuccessful author by another of our leader wanna-bes) on Bill Maher's show and the Daily Show. Somehow David has a high tolerance level for the endless vulgarity and ridicule these hosts viciously and personally unleash against prominent conservatives and Republicans. So, too, do liberals and Democrats. With Maher's and Stewart's "f" bombs falling all around him, David enjoys the attention he so craves but does not get from conservatives. And this character flaw is only part of the reason why David is so contemptible. He is a self-serving hypocrite who seeks not the advancement of conservatism but himself.

Levin chimes in later in the comments along with Conor-with-one-N and basically takes him to the woodshed.

One of my readers, it is worth noting, sent me Levin's take down of Frum on his show in an email. The subject of the email was "Is David Frum a Crunchy Con?" Insightful. It's also worth noting that in that discussion, Levin was calm and collected and Frum sounded hysterical and unable to get his point across.

Here's Riehl's final post, so far, where he brings up that incident which had us shaking our heads awhile back.

Conor. What's worse? A silly joke at the expense of a caller into a radio show, or trading on a friendship that brings serious disappointment from said friend and attempting to exploit the dead? I can hardly wait to read your disposition on Dreher for such repulsive behavior. Clearly we can't have people like that as leaders of some new Conservative way, with or without granola, now can we?

The second consists of Rod Dreher's postings over at Beliefnet. Again, if you're interested and want to read a reasonable response, Alan Jacobs has taken on the burden. My own reaction is much like Alan's: The duties we owe to the dead are different from the duties we owe to the living; if you're going to attack someone with a personal story, you need to do it while they are alive. I made a parallel point about parents last year, in a long essay called "The Judgment of Memory," which may be worth quoting....

Rod and I were friends, I thought, or, at least, we spent some fun days together in Rome once. But then, a while ago, he used me as an occasion for an unpleasant column he wrote attacking Scooter Libby. I guess I should have understood, and, no doubt, he felt it all strongly. But, in truth, that cashing in of a friendship for the sake of scoring a transient political point was as painful an experience as I've had in public life, and Rod Dreher's eagerness to do it weakened my ability to trust the kind of points he now wants to score by cashing in on his acquaintance with Fr. Neuhaus.

This is probably going to on for some time—I just noticed that there's a new Levin Guest post on Riehl Word View pwning Frum again—and I don't claim to be able to judge how healthy it is for conservatism. However I know why they are doing it: it's easy! And pretty funny too. If you have time to kill, go through the comments. There are some real gems in there.


  1. I think it is a rare person that can pull of both the role of entertainer and political leader. I don't think Mark Levin is among them.

  2. John just provided us with an example of how to make a substantive criticism of someone without using the words "cretin", "creep" or "mongoloid".

  3. the NRO/corner needs to take some ownership for giving dreher any platform whatsoever. The fact they ignore stuff like this really ticks me off (is frum still over there too?).

  4. Great were posting it just as I was telling you about this in the comments of the previous post. As usual, I'm a day late and a dollar short. ;-)

    This whole dust-up shows why I support the "Outlaw!" philosophy proposed over at Protein Wisdom. Conservative need to quit following the rules of what can and can't be said that are laid out by the left. The left don't follow their own rules, so neither should we.

    I'll explain this one to McCain regarding the Tea Parties. Rod doesn't like this kind of thing because all it pertains to is money and greed in his mind.You see, this is what annoys me the most about Dreher. He brags about loving expensive wine and food. Of course, to enjoy these things, you need to have the money to buy them. But if people with simpler tastes than Rod get concerned about taxes and financial issues, they are "greedy". Never mind that these so-called greedy people are concerned with such things as paying bills rather than dining at expensive restaurants.

  5. It's amazing to me that with what's happening with the Obama administration, the Frumites and Dreherites are still spending so much of their time fretting over the particular ways that certain conservative talk show hosts choose to speak their mind. On the air I don't think Levin is as effective a communicator as Rush or Laura Ingraham, but he still makes of a lot more sense and is much more useful to the conservative cause than Dreher or Frum.

    But what do I know? I'm just a crazy . . .


  6. kathy shaidle links to fox mocking david frum -- too funny

  7. This made me LOL and then think:

    Finally, having read at least a bit of Dreher over the years, how his regular readers keep from putting guns to their temples, I'll never know.How have I survived, indeed? (I live in Dallas, so I of course get Rod's fine work in hard copy on my doorstep.) I've stopped reading it, that's how. My life is happier.

    Of course, then Pauli reminds me of "barf-net" (Har!) or posts something like this, and all those ugly memories re-surface.

    Another comment: Mark Levin vs. Rod Dreher is like Mike Tyson boxing Perez Hilton.

    P.S. I'll have to look into that "Benedict Option" (What?) business when I have the stomach for it. I'm guessing that it has something to do with dropping out and joining something so small that it can't possibly have any impact on anything whatsoever, so one can remain pure while avoiding doing anything important. IOW, the usual Dreher strategy.

  8. Reading Dreher is actually pretty funny these days. His recent obsession is "distance healing". Seems (unknown to rod) his wife was on the phone with their healer-man. Rod who was in an afternoon funk suddenly jumped out of bed full of energy.

    Proof conclusive it seems in the quantum physics of his healer man. For back-up, he cites a "study" by the rich kooks at the Institute of Noetic Studies of Marin County. He wanted to explore these subjects during his Templeton-paid sabbatical in Cambridge but he doesn't have the math.

    This guy is really becoming a nut.

  9. i agree about reading dreher, it's fairly amusing. it's like reading a cringeworthy gossip site, but one with intellectual pretensions.

  10. I'm listening currently to Levin here. A regular kook caller, George, just got on using a fake name and Levin banned him... then he said "Furthermore I ban you from even listening to this show... so turn off the radio right now." That was funny.

    Steve, your comment just cracked me up! This is why I have to do "Dreher posts", it's just plain hilarious to get a taste of it.

    (BTW, I'm sending you all out some real good healing Pauli mojo juice right now. I'm waving my hands around... Oh, man, can you feel it baby? Whewwww!! Let me know if you need more of that and we'll set up a paypal link.)

    To the larger point, all the conservative infighting is counter-productive which is why it's so ironic that Dreher and Frum are baiting Levin to perpetuate it. Frum even got his 15 year old son to call Levin--that's messed up. And Dreher's language has as much vitriol as Levin's. His latest post about Levin starts off with a bunch of homosexual allusions... what's new, really.

    If I had to compare this to a movie it would probably be Plan 9 from Outer Space.

  11. It's like reading a cringeworthy gossip site, but one with intellectual pretensions."Sad that it's all to some degree an exploitation of religious belief.

  12. Yipes! Is this healer-man a New Agey kinda guy? Or an Orthodox monk who just prays for healing? If it's the former, then Rod really is going around the bend. If it's the latter, it's OK, I guess, unless it verges into that Reiki stuff.

    Wow. Just wow. I had no idea. (I don't read the guy myself, anymore.)

  13. Come now, the distance healing math is child's play. You can sketch the basic healing range equation on the back of a French linen napkin. Estimating the cranial gain and effective palm aperture is more an art than a science, but first order approximations will get you about as far as you can get without detailed knowledge of the healer's diet.

    I thought everybody knew this.

  14. Yes, it's embarrassing that I don't know these equations or else I'd have been able to heal people and animals for miles around by channeling my immense psychic energy.

    But Tom, I just want you to know that I'm sending you and your little kitty-cat a whole bunch of LOVE right now, man. I don't even need mathematics for that.

    (Or is it a dog?)

  15. Oh my gosh! I googled "distance healing." It is seriously whacked.

    And, as the Catholic bishops recently obzseved WRT Reiki, it's hard to see how this stuff squares with orthodox Christianity. At all.

    Very weird!!!

  16. Oh my gosh, guys, it just keeps getting better.

    Who is Paul Zummo, BTW? The name sounds familiar. He posted this at McCain's blog:

    "Awww, is poooow widdle Rob jeaowous?

    People listen to Levin because, while Dreher's trying to develop a political movement based on the food one eats, Levin's actually addressing issues people give two craps about. Maybe if Dreher spent less time discussing the sacramental elements of his free range roasted turkey dinner he might get people to bother paying attention to him as well."

    LOL!! More here:

    This is delicious. Almost as yummy as free-range organic turkey. :)

  17. Diane:

    Yeah, that paul zummo kid is a genius. People should read his blog and stuff. ;)

  18. LOL, Paul!!! Cranky, we hardly knew ye! Sorry 'bout that. :)

    Did y'all see that Mark Shea's bashing Levin and defending Dreher's attack? Helloooooo, since when is Rod a model of civil, courteous discourse? Mark asks whether we care enough about Levin's immortal soul to chide him for his outrageous comment, yet he fails to ask whether we care enough about Dreher's immortal soul to chide *him* for calling people creeps and cretins. I guess "creep" and "cretin" = the height of Christian charity. Who knew??

  19. No worries, Diane. Sometimes I myself get confused as to my identity.

    As for Shea's take on Levin, Rod is one of the good guys who is not a member of the Rubber Hose Right (TM), so therefore it's perfectly acceptable for him to insult others. Mark Levin, on the other hand, as someone who no doubts has a stash of Muslim men stored in his basement for daily waterboarding, is an evil cretin who should be shunned by polite society. He must be tarred, feathered, and then made to wear a scarlet BD (Big Dope) on his chest for the rest of eternity.

  20. It amazes me how scurvily Shea treats those who are not members of his little apologetics clique. Ordinary schlemiels who cannot in any way further his career, or whatever, receive the full force of his nasty, insulting snark. If that were my only exposure to Christianity, I'd say to hell with it. Seriously.

  21. That is true, Diane. The good part many people are starting to see Dreher for the fraud he is.

  22. Quiz. What horrible violent cretin said the following:

    "Whenever I hear someone say life is not worth living, I pull out the gun and offer to shoot them; always with the most satisfactory result."

    Honestly, can't these guys let a minor hyperbole go? It's like saying Ralph Kramden was a terrible sadist for threatening to send his poor wife Alice to the moon. I mean, isn't it completely provable that even a bus driver in the mid-1950's should have realized that the moon did not have an atmosphere which could have supported human life? So in playing this role, Gleason harmed the cause of bus-drivers everywhere... and this explains why they don't get paid very much. Seriously.

  23. Honestly, can't these guys let a minor hyperbole go?I am wondering the same thing. It's as if they realize, deep down, what utter maroons they're being, so, in order to save face, they have to keep going on and on and on...just digging themselves in deeper and deeper.

    It was one frickin' comment, guys! Get a grip. And a life.

    And boy, that Conor guy is so out of his depth. He needs to go away and not come back until he's finished developing facial hair.

  24. Haven't given much thought to Dreher in months, in part because it seems like no one in the blogosphere really gives two flips about what he has to say.

    I think it almost goes without saying that Dreher has no credibility in calling for civil discourse, as he has proven to be capable of some really, really loathsome behavior.

    Even supposing that what Levin said is out of line, I'm not sure that it does more good than harm to the movement for another mainstream conservative to criticize him in public about it, but that's not the situation we're dealing with, since people like Dreher and Frum aren't stalwart defenders of mainstream conservatism.

    To whatever extent it is more than mere narcissism, Rod Dreher's political philosophy is probably best described as a paleoconservatism that can easily be exploited by the radical collectivism of the left: he shares the left's fundamental distrust of individual economic freedom, he repeats their slander against Bush's foreign policy, and he has even shown a willingness to abandon traditional values as a lost cause. He doesn't have the credibilty within conservative circles to criticize Levin or anyone else for the ostensible purpose of advancing conservatism.

    David Frum seems to belong more with the "centrist" Rockefeller Republicans, who can be equally useful to the statist left even if their stated philosophies differ dramatically from the paleocons. The way he bashed Palin for being inexperienced was obscene, especially in light of Obama's thin resume.

    To answer Kathleen's question, I believe Frum hasn't been at NR/NRO since his "new majority" site started in January, but the way he announced his departure sent up red flags about his beliefs, at least for me.

    "Over the past three years, I have been engaged in some intense rethinking of my own conservatism. My fundamental political principles remain the same as ever: free markets, American leadership in the world, and intense attachment to inherited moral and cultural traditions. Yet I cannot be blind to the evidence that we have seen free markets produce some damaging and dangerous results in recent years. Or that the foreign policy I supported has not yielded the success I would have wished to see. Or that traditions must evolve if they are to endure. There are new principes too that must be included in a majority conservatism: environmental protection as a core value and an unwavering insistence upon competence and integrity in government."

    Frum says he stands by the big three legs of Buckleyite/Reaganite/fusion conservatism, but there is that "yet" where he undermines all three, and he augments these principles with things like environmental protection and political competence, with which no one would disagree -- as goals even if there are strong disagreements about means. When push comes to shove, Frum will almost certainly abandon the core principles in favor of things like cap-and-trade; this one comment laid the foundations for just such a betrayal.

    Since it's almost certain that neither Dreher nor Frum are interested in advancing the sort of conservatism that Limbaugh and Levin advocate, their comments cannot be taken as helpful advice in the service of shared goals.

  25. It amazes me how scurvily Shea treats those who are not members of his little apologetics clique. Ordinary schlemiels who cannot in any way further his career, or whatever, receive the full force of his nasty, insulting snark.
    This hypocritical double standard, among other things, is why I no longer read Shea's blog. When someone preaches about charity, but only practices it when it comes to "his sort of people"...well, I have a hard time taking them seriously.

  26. I saw that R.S. McCain recommends that conservatives "question the timing" of these complaints.

    "Republicans lose an election, after nominating John McCain as their candidate over the objections of both Levin and Limbaugh, and yet the blame falls not on the failed candidate, but on the successful radio stars."

    Why? RSM's theory is, "The market for the printed word is evaporating, and Republican opinion-mongers are a dime a dozen nowadays."

    So, "a Republican political journalist hustling a book has got to find an angle, and both Dreher and Frum have figured that trashing the only famous Republicans who still have any meaningful influence—guys like Limbaugh and Levin—is the way to go. They want to join the ranks of The Republicans Who Really Matter."

    Considering how often guys like Frum question the motives of other conservatives, I don't think it's beyond the pale to question their motives.

    More than that, I think the theory fits the evidence. No one -- almost literally no one -- links to or discusses Dreher's blog or Frum's site unless they're attacking people like Rush Limbaugh.

    Their pet theories are getting no real traction from anyone, so it's hard not to suspect that they're doing precisely what it takes to get noticed.

  27. Pauli,

    I was curious who that quote was from, so I Googled it. I should have known it was G.K. Chesterton!

    BTW, Dreher and company would really think Winston Churchill was a "cretin". After all, isn't he the one famous for this exchange:

    Woman: If you were my husband, I'd poison your tea!

    Churchill: If you were my wife, I'd drink it!

    Seriously, these people need to pull this sticks out of their nether regions.

  28. But it's such an organic, crunchy stick! :)

  29. Bubba, thanks for commenting. You are as insightful as always. Good to hear from you. I was thinking of you earlier and this billiant post from days of yore.

    Speaking of Chesterton, I commented over at RSM's blog earlier, mentioning and linking to the famous "tossed-off jibe" remark of Rod's. But I guess you have to be crunchy to do jibe-talking, and so Levin's comment, while most definitely a jab on the job, is not a jibe.

  30. Also, for a guy often talking about civility, Frum doesn't seem to mind appearing on the Bill Maher show. Because nothing screams civility and intelligent discourse like Bill Maher.

  31. When Frum was on Medved's show talking to a pro-life caller he was saying that Repubs need to turn down the pro-life message because "that was all anyone heard" during the election campaign. I thought that was a remarkably inaccurate statement.

  32. I thought that was a remarkably inaccurate statement.LOL, I take it that's an example of your dry, understated wit. :)

  33. No, we're all on Twitter following Britain's Got Talent, LOL!!!

  34. It's been a while, Pauli, and I do hope all y'all have been doing well.

    A couple random thoughts on all this...

    First, I think it goes without saying that less-than-trustworthy self-described conservative pundits can still write things that are worthwhile. I need to read the whole thing someday, but what I've read from Christopher Buckley's Thank You For Smoking is hilarious.

    David Frum's book The 70's: How We Got Here is an entertaining and fairly comprehensive record of how the 1970's were the decade when the American culture really changed, even if I don't agree entirely with his assessment of what changes were for the better, and my thoughts about their causes differ from his.

    Some of the responses to Frum's recent stunts re: Limbaugh and Levin have come from conservatives who oppose the Iraq war (and who frequently write against neo-conservatism), and they invoke Frum's NRO article, "Unpatriotic Conservatives," from just before the Iraq war began. R.S. McCain did in the article I cited earlier.

    Their point is that his attack fits Frum's m.o. As the American Conservative put it last year, David Frum "built his career on denouncing anyone to his right."

    Here's the thing: there's at least a grain of truth in Frum's article about anti-war paleocons, even if I knew enough about the writers he discussed to dismiss most of it as chaff.

    Since that article, Pat Buchanan wrote a book arguing that WWII was an "unnecessary war" that was more the result of a war-mongering Churchill than a reasonable Hitler.

    As I noted way back when, Rod's friend Daniel Larison argued that the real conservatives in American history were the Loyalists during the Revolution and the Confederates during the Civil War.

    One's theoretical claim to support the strong defense of the United States loses a lot of credibility when one actually finds significant reasons to gripe, not only about Iraq and the Cold War, but WWII and the Civil War and even the Revolutionary War.

    No matter how over-the-top Frum was in that NRO essay, I think there really are at least some paleocons and socially conservative traditionalists whose love of country cannot be taken for granted.

    (The three legs of Buckleyite/Reaganite "fusion" conservatism have been individual liberty, traditional values, and strong national defense. I do wonder if dropping either of the first two makes it easier to diminish the third: I've seen some libertarians who sound a lot like social conservatives in their opposition to American foreign policy, even though the two groups hate each other. I wonder if libertarians and traditionalists tend to be quick to oppose America in war for opposite but similar reasons. Their philosophical purity allows them to look down from the mountain and see us as Sodom for entirely different reasons -- as debauched from the traditionalists' perspective, and tyrannical in the libertarians' eyes -- but the attitude's the same. Murray Rothbard's 1969 essay to Buckley's YAF is as unhinged as anything you'd see from the paleocon right, for entirely different reasons.)

  35. Second, while fringe self-described conservatives sometimes write things that are worthwhile, there are some within the mainstream of conservatism to whom one criticism of Frum and Dreher also applies: their motives may be less than honorable.

    I think that conservative political philosophy is inherently offensive to the radical statism that so many take for granted, and trying to make it inoffensive misses the point, but I also don't think we should go out of our way pissing people off when it's not necessary.

    (It's a position I also take, though much more seriously, with my faith. The Incarnation and Resurrection and especially the Atonement are offensive to many, but they're essential to Christian faith. It's wrong to minimize the "offense of the cross" as Paul put it in Gal 5:11, but it's also wrong to heap additional, unnecessarily offensive claims to a belief system that already challenges human pride.)

    But I can grant that different conservatives are going to disagree on what biting rhetoric is necessary and what's counter-productive -- just as there's room to disagree on when to compromise in politics and when to stand as a hard-liner.

    I say all that to say this: as much as I like Ann Coulter's writing, I sometimes believe she goes way, way overboard, and sometimes I suspect that she cares more about her own ego than about the movement for which she writes, often eloquently.

    What sticks with me is a Jonah Goldberg article about what transpired when Ann and NR's professional relationship came to an abrupt end shortly after 9/11.

    Basically, Ann Coulter did pretty much exactly what Christopher Buckley did to National Review seven years later: she slandered NR to the mainstream press for her own benefit.

    Ann Coulter's niche is mainstream conservatism, while I believe Frum and the rest pander to liberals in an effort to be considered important or (in Dreher's word) "honorable" conservatives. In both cases, I suspect the mix between ego and commitment to the movement is a bit out of whack.

    To paraphrase Frank Pentangeli, I can do business with Ann Coulter and respect Ann Coulter, but I don't trust Ann Coulter.

  36. Third, and (possibly) finally for now, just as I think backstabbing NR is a sign of less-than-pure motives, I think there's one really good indication of whether a conservative is trying to get a "strange new respect" from liberals: claims that have no plausible correlation to reality.

    Pauli, I can't imagine that Frum really believes that abortion has been too prominent an issue, but he simply has to make the claim in order to advance his narrative.

    It's the same thing Dreher did repeatedly insinuating that conservatives were partisan yes-men who never criticized Bush until very recently: the claim fits his narrative but doesn't resemble reality in the least, but the narrative's more important.

    On that subject, a recent article at Taki's takes Rod down a peg or two...

    "Dreher seems to have passed through three Christian denominations, evangelical Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox, in the past decade, but then ended up at a political consciousness that (excepting the abortion issue) is basically indistinguishable from that of my 'respectable hipster' neighbors here in Park Slope, most all of whom agree that capitalism inspires wicked greed and that it’d be best if one day we all got back in touch with the land. Dreher’s version of 'traditional conservatism' -— which, by the way, has little in common with traditional American conservatism -— essentially means being a pro-life welfare-statist."

    ...and the writer links to another article that goes into more detail.

    Apparently in March a new site was launched called Front Porch Republic. This is the first time I've heard about it, which doesn't bode well for its having a high profile, and its list of contributors includes the usual suspects of Caleb Stegall and Daniel Larison.

    One of the very first articles is a brief comment by Dreher in early March, attacking (surprise!) Rush Limbaugh. The writer at Taki's took Dreher apart, including for his ignorant invocation of Rousseau when the crunchies are more likely to embrace primitivism, but it missed one key point.

    Rod Dreher's dredging up an old slander, which I addressed over two years ago: the implausible claim that Rush Limbaugh doesn't believe in the fallen state of man.

    These guys really aren't interested in dealing with reality, possibly because it's too inconvenient to whatever bizarre but personally useful points they want to make.

  37. Bubba, all good points, thanks.

    I've found it sort of amusing that in recent times the ultra-trad paleo-cons and the libertarians--who in many ways loathe each other--have sort of teamed up recently. Ideologically what they have in common I suppose is opposing the Iraq War and government spending & regulatory particulars. But as I see it their main commonality is that both of these groups feel neglected and hate at least one of those coalition legs you mention so they are trying to put together their own, even stranger, coalition which I've decided to jokingly call "Neo-paleoism".

    These people have some good ideas. What they should do instead of trying to bash "mainstreamers" or coalesce into a 3rd party is to find better ways of arguing their points and influencing Americans in general. David Brooks, for example, doesn't merely have large readership because he's a moderate conservative. He's insightful and a darned good writer. I also like to listen to David Frum when he's advancing some of his more sensible ideas. He sounded idiotic when he got into an argument with Levin, but I've heard him on NPR advancing strong conservative ideas in the past. He's an AEI guy and I don't doubt his cred. But he's best when he selects his best topics and is allowed to respond politely, not when he goes tête-à-tête in a talk/debate forum.

  38. If the trads and libertarians are opposed to the particulars of Obama's spending, I'm not sure how their jointly created alternative proposals would be significantly different than the fusionists, and I don't see how they can avoid the problem that Reaganites have, reconciling the libertarian desire for a strictly limited government and the traditionalist tendency to use big government to advance socially conservative ends.

    The big problem for many who have broken from the mainstream is Iraq, but at this point the decision to invade is water under the bridge, a decision made by the previous administration before it was elected to a second term.

    Serious conservatives of all stripes should be able to get on board the idea, which Mark Steyn has made clear, that we cannot afford to lose in Iraq. Anyone who can't do that, we shouldn't try to work with.

    If the concern of the Dreher's of the world is that the U.S. might use military force against Iran or North Korea, just as it did against Iraq, well: the American people elected the presidential candidate most likely to do nothing substantial as North Korea continues to test nukes and as Iran continues to work to acquire nukes.

    If they wanted a 180 from Bush's "interventionism", they got it.

    Pauli, I definitely agree that those outside the Reaganite mainstream -- the traditionalists, the libertarians, and the centrists -- often write things that are very worthwhile, but I've quite literally never seen anything commendable from Dreher and his friends.

    It's a funny thing, when even broken clocks are right twice a day.

    On the subject, I glanced around the "front porch" site, and Caleb Stegall gave a commencement address to what appears to be his old high school, and Stegall's beliefs are as bizarre as ever.

    About "practicing the discipline of place" he makes some unbelievable theological claims.

    "To practice this discipline is to believe that to suffer one’s place and one’s people in the particularity of its and their needs is the primary basis for finding love, friendship, and an authentic, meaningful life. This is nothing less, I would argue, than the key to the pursuit of Christian holiness, which is the whole of the Christian adventure: to live in love with the frailty and limits of one’s existence, suffering the places, customs, rites, joys, and sorrows of the people who are in close relation to you by family, friendship, and community—all in service of the truth, goodness, and beauty that is best experienced directly."

    This discipline of place, he says, is the "primary basis" for finding love, friendship, and a meaningful life. It's nothing less than "the key to the pursuit of Christian holiness," but nothing of it can be found in the New Testament.

    In fact, it is not only contradicted by the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul -- who not only travelled, but did so to evangelize and thereby disrupt existing religious practices -- it's contradicted by Christ Himself, who revolutionized existing Jewish tradition by discarding the focus on dietary regulations and transforming the Passover meal from a remembrance of the exodus to a memorial for His own death.

    It's weird stuff.

    (And, I haven't looked, but I sincerely doubt that Rod Dreher has ever called Caleb Stegall to task for his really bizarre religious beliefs. But he can smear Rush Limbaugh by accusing him of not believing in man's fallen nature.)

  39. Bubba, I read Stegall's commencement address already. It was actually brought to my attention by a friend who is trying to marry this "know-your-place" stuff with libertarianism. This marriage is ostensibly a teen elopement and it will last exactly as long as the honeymoon, of course.

    There is a successful fusion between traditionalism and small-l libertarianism--it's the Buckleyite/Reaganite conservatism which we're talking about. It's as if to create the fusion a lot of stuff from both sides gets left on the cutting room floor. From the trad side you see protective tariffs lying there along with blue laws; from the libertarian side you see open borders, legalized marijuana and wind-mill jousts such as abolishing the income tax. This stuff had to be trimmed to make the fusion work. Admittedly the fusion is pragmatic and not emotional and individual components sacrifice purity for widespread appeal of the whole.

    When I wrote "spending particulars", I'm thinking about certain particulars like the government spending huge amounts to pass out condoms and the like, or funneling big funding to ACORN troublemakers. The libertarians don't like it on the principle of spending and the trads don't like it because it's immoral and encourages bad behavior. Neither group seems to notice that "mainstream" conservatives are against this kind of thing for both reasons; they continue to reinvent the wheel because (fill in the emotional blank)--a common answer is something like "Bush is an OIL-MAN!" Whatever that means.

    Also: mainstream conservatives are able to compartmentalize. I voted for McCain even though he's divorced and remarried, which my religion is against. This is because I look at the process of an election as being more like a job interview than The Final Judgment.

    I agree with you about Dreher and most of his friends being fairly useless and not adding much light to the conversation and lots of heat. Dreher's big new thing is that he wants to be an "elite" since popular conservatives like Mark Levin, Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber are a bunch of disgusting mongoloids and cretins. The reason I think that Dreher's crunchy fusionism has even less chance than Neopaleoism is that it is comprised of many elements pertaining to the personal taste in food and interior decorting that have no real significance. And of course many self-contradictory elements which we've duly noted. Maybe the true moniker for crunchiness should be "Neonarcissopessimism". Works for me. Only 9 syllables; practice saying it and I'll give you a free distance healing.

  40. Bubba, you simply must write more often. Have you ever considered blogging? :)

    I think it's just useful to keep in mind - and I think this just echoes what Bubba was saying - that people like Frum AND people like Buchanan can still offer useful insights. Paleocons and Neocons are not all wrong all the time. As long as we can distinguish the wheat from the chaff, we'll be okay.

  41. I have, Cranky. At the moment my life is too chaotic -- and my online writing too haphazard -- for me to create a public blog on my own, but if that ever changes, I'll be sure to let everyone here know about it.

  42. Oh, nice slam at me, Bubba. My life is far too chaotic to be blogging as well, but I do anyway. ;-)