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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Four Conservative Talking Heads Who Are Not Wingnut Robots

Who cares that 4 in 10 Democrat and Republican voters consider themselve Independent? What are facts in the face of such grand passions?

For a while there, in the thick of the "Freakshow," the wingnuts reigned supreme on both the right and the left. Those shrill, squeaky wingnuts more often than not got the (media) oil. They were a cable booker's dream; they aroused the base with the skill of a Casanova; they were in the zeitgeist.

The pendulum swings. The excesses of the teabaggers in their failure to stand athwart history yelling stop to health care reform has led way to some principled and decent conservatives turning a critical eye on some of their "fellow travellers." Civility, curiously enough, is a large reason why nearly all of these pundits are showing some independence.

John H. McWhorter's beef, however, is not so much a matter of civility as it is one of intellectual competence (or lack thereof). John McWhorter is the latest in a distinguished line of conservatives who cannot, in good conscience, stand side-by-side with Sarah Palin ("political bullshit!" is how former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan put it). Conservatives George Will, David Brooks, Senator David Frum (more on him later), Kathleen Parker and Charles Krauthammer all expressed reservations at the time of Palin selection as McCain's running mate in 2008.

For his labors in the Augean stables in the muck, deciphering Palin's surreal linguistics, McWhorter can expect a crisp beating in the conservative blogosphere. Your welcome.

The son of William F. Buckley -- the intellectual godfather of the American political movement -- was the first mover in this crowd of non-lock step Republican thinkers. After penning "Sorry, Dad, I'm Voting for Obama" for Tina Brown's Daily Beast, the good-natured biological heir of WFB was promptly fired (or "resigned" depending on whether or not you believe him or his rivalrous sibling Rick Lowry, WFB's intellectual heir). Buckley, who has worked at that significant capitalist tool Forbes, was chief speechwriter for then-Vice President George H.W. Bush.

David Frum, an intellectually feisty neoconservative and former George W. Bush speechwriter, was fired from American Enterprise Institute for his sharp criticism of the Republican party's health-care strategy. Frum's father-in-law, Peter Worthington, summed it up nicely in The Toronto Sun:

What got David bounced was basically his belief that the Republican party is not adapting to the times, and that their opposition to President Obama’s health care reform and refusal to compromise, was a sort of “Waterloo” for the party.

A lot of Republicans may agree, but by mentioning the unmentionable seems the trigger that got David canned. Well, if not exactly “canned,” at least forced to resign — a somewhat cowardly ploy, but not uncommon.

The AEI, after The Heritage Foundation, is considered the gold standard in conservative think tanks. The Wall Street Journal's editorial page -- at least as influential within the movement -- also brutally attacked him. "Mr. Frum now makes his living as the media's go-to basher of fellow Republicans, which is a stock Beltway role." So far as I've been able to find, Health Care (and that brief critique of Palin) is the only difference between David Frum and his former ideological soul mates. The whole resignation thing over a single issue after years of philosophical fellow travelling is quite puzzling. But that's what happens when you don't tow the line in the new Republican party, presently led by the wingnuts.

"Morning Joe's" Joe Scarborough, who now lives in Manhattan, has been outspoken about some of the more outre fellow travellers in the American political right. The argument against him from the right is that he has been blinded by the Chardonnay and the rich cheeses and stoneground crackers he now consumes at the dinner parties he presently frequents on the Upper West Side. He has come a long way from the 104th Congress of Newt Gingrich -- a long way down, they would argue.

Scarborough has drawn fire particularly from Rush Limbaugh ("I guess Joe wants to sell another couple of books to go with the 1,000 he already sold by pitching it to Democrats and moderates.") and the choleric, pinkish Brent Bozell (" (Joe) bashes everyone, and then whines when anyone complains"). Though Scarborough is still -- like all the other talking head mentioned in this post -- conservative and decent, his argument with the wingnuts appears to be a matter of manners in discourse. "Lets pray for the day when being polite to a political opponent is not news," Scarborough Twittered earlier today. "I think a little more distance can help everybody do a better job of keeping their temper," said David Frum at the time he was drawing fire for criticizing the choice of Sarah Palin on the ticket. And thus we come back around to the issue of civility, which curiously looms large in all of the disputes between the "errant' conservatives and THE MOVEMENT writ large. Independents, Scarborough has consistently argued, do not like shrill, negative discourse. And looking backwards at then-Senator Barack "No Drama" Obama's handling of his opponents in 2008, Scarborough may just have a point.

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