Saturday, January 14, 2012

In Defense of National Review Against the Right's Daily Kos

We’re currently witnessing the death throes of Rick Perry’s campaign. He finished fifth in Iowa, sixth in New Hampshire, and is currently polling fifth in South Carolina, where his fans have placed their hope for a turnaround. He’s in sixth in Florida, and fifth place nationally.

In a final, desperate search for something that can turn his fortunes around, Perry has decided to join Newt Gingrich's leftist attack on Mitt Romney’s time at Bain Capital. It backfired. Badly.

Perry and Gingrich’s demagoguery has been fiercely condemned by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Jim DeMint, the American Spectator, National Review, Reason, the Weekly Standard, Human Events, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Examiner, the Washington Times, Commentary, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Michelle Malkin, Charles Krauthammer, Power Line's John Hindraker, Ace of Spades, American Enterprise Institute, the Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, ex-Perry financial supporter Barry Wynn, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and PJ Media head Roger Simon, who very candidly apologized for having ever backed Perry, calling him “less qualified, it turns out, to be president than my dead grandmother.”

In other words, Rick Perry (and Newt Gingrich) has offended just about every corner of the Right—traditional and libertarian, moderate and hardcore, establishment and grassroots, commentator and activist, blogosphere and radio, Mitt fans, competitors, and haters alike.

Everyone, that is, except for RedState. Erick Erickson first said he didn’t mind the attacks (with Perry’s version “a bit more carefully nuanced” than Newt’s), then revised his argument to, yeah, but why did Romney support TARP? (Maybe for the same reason Perry did too, Erick?), and later wrote a post conceding the attack “has gotten out of hand”—while falsely claiming Bain got government bailouts and lying about what Perry’s critics were saying: “the sudden decision that it is verboten to level any attack at Romney because of Bain […] corporations should not be immune from criticism.”

The other front-pagers have rationalized the attack, mildly criticized it amidst teeth-gnashing about Romney’s general awfulness, and complained that it was distracting us from bashing Romney on healthcare. The strategy is simple: maintain the single-minded focus on taking down Romney at all costs, while discussing Perry as little as possible, refusing to give a moment’s consideration as to how Perry’s own words just might undermine RedState’s increasingly-hysterical insistence of Perry’s unique conservative authenticity. 

The shameless Perry-whoring is pathetic enough, but recently the site jumped the shark past “pathetic” straight to “obscene” with Thomas Crown's attack on National Review. After assuring us what a good friend he is to everyone at NR, he tells the magazine “you have lost your way” for no discernable sin other than preferring Romney to Perry:
You have alienated yourself from your readership and your movement […] You have forgotten that one of the founding creeds of the modern conservative movement is A Choice, Not An Echo […] You are supposed to be a beacon of what is best in us, not a reminder that some days, you just can’t win […] It’s a shame, and we’re all poorer for it. We’ll miss you, and hope you come back to us some day.
Nearly 2,000 words, and yet Crown can’t squeeze in the most important part of any argument: the facts to substantiate his thesis. All he has is a handful of lazy mischaracterizations of both the candidates and NR’sWinnowing the Field” editorial:
Consider that in one fell swoop the publication managed to dismiss the longest-serving governor in the nation, with a record of conservative governance unmatched by any governor current or recent past [if you ignore the liberal parts of his governorship and his flip-flop record…oh, and how many of those Texas jobs went to illegals?], linking him unsubtly to a crank known for conspiracy theories and Ron Paul [nowhere in NR's passage on Perry & Paul do the even remotely link the two, though since Crown raises the subject, Perry has praised Paul more than once]; praise Mitt Romney, who while apparently a model conservative (the sort who helps get abortion funding in state-run mandatory health insurance) [not true]  has failed to seal the deal with conservatives for some unknowable reason; praise Jon Huntsman, whose entire campaign was a John Weaver special from tip to tail (this is not a compliment) [fair enough, but hypocritical: RedState’s had plenty of praise for Huntsman, too]; and praise Rick Santorum, one of the greatest (if dimmest) champions the pro-life movement has had, and who was so conservative he went to war for massive increases in federal spending almost every day, [that’s exaggerating a blemish on an otherwise-excellent conservative record] and whose greatest knock is not his loss to an anodyne nobody by a margin that made even the rest of 2006 look like a joke [also oversimplifying], but rather a lack of executive experience [Fair enough, but still hardly indicative of any problem at NR].
Crown’s fantasy of Perry support being some sort of conservative litmus test doesn’t hold up, and neither does the idea that National Review has sold out to Romney (a smear that RedState has peddled before). In fact, since Erick Erickson and Thomas Crown are so interested in which publications have put personality above principle, let’s do a little comparison:  

At National Review, I can read Ramesh Ponnuru endorse Mitt Romney and Kathryn Lopez vouch for his pro-life sincerity, but I can also read Michael Walsh argue he’s "plainly not" the "candidate the hour calls for" and Katrina Trinko report on jobs lost due to Romneycare. I can read the Editors disqualify Newt Gingrich from consideration, but I can also read Thomas Sowell endorse Gingrich (twice) and Jonah Goldberg credit him as “the only candidate to actually move government rightward." I can read Shannen Coffin criticize Rick Perry's Gardasil mandate, but I can also read Henry Miller and John Graham defend it, as well as Christian Schnieder defend Perry on in-state tuition for illegals. I can read Quin Hillyer defend Rick Santorum’s small-government credentials, but I can also read Michael Tanner and Jonathan Adler blast his “big government conservatism.”     

Can I read substantive defenses of Mitt Romney, or substantive criticisms of Rick Perry, at RedState? Only from the occasional diarist who hasn’t been driven away by the thought police. From Erickson or the team writers? Don’t count on it. As John Scotus documents, Erickson’s been shilling for Perry since Day 1. The RedState narrative is that Perry’s the only candidate who “authentically represents smaller government,” “by far, the greatest alpha male conservative in a generation,” and supporting anyone else would be settling. The dark side of Perry’s record was almost completely ignored. Romney, however, is routinely characterized as the worst thing to happen to the GOP since John Wilkes Booth. Why, nominating him would kill conservatism! Perry critics and Romney sympathizers are routinely harassed. Erickson repeated Perry’s dishonest attacks on Romney over education and imposing Romneycare nationally, and even calls Romney a bad Mormon

National Review has an editorial leaning toward Romney; RedState toward Perry. There’s no shame in either, but while the former publication is a place where dissent thrives and every candidate is given equal fairness and scrutiny, the latter has dedicated itself fully to a biased image of their guy and their designated anti-Perry.

And yet, Thomas Crown has the nerve to lecture National Review about being unfair to candidates? RedState is the only major conservative venue not disgusted with Perry’s “vulture capitalism” smears, and yet National Review is the one somehow out of step with conservatism?

Which publication lost its way again?

We shouldn’t be surprised that the website that smeared Michelle Malkin for criticizing Rick Perry would conduct itself so dishonorably throughout this campaign. Until Eagle Publishing realizes how far one of their publications has fallen and replaces Erickson Erickson with someone committed to cleaning it up, whatever use RedState once was to the conservative movement will continue to be outweighed by the stench Erickson has allowed to permeate it.

In the meantime, I’m sticking with National Review.

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