William K. Wolfrum's picture

    Dead people talking politics

    While they were busy writing endless columns on such things as Obama’s manliness, whether or not Americans should wear jeans or whether or not Monica Lewinsky would bring down the nation, America’s famed band of “conservative intellectuals” failed to notice that the GOP was going insane.

    They’re noticing now.

    David Brooks:

    All across the nation, there are mainstream Republicans lamenting how the party has grown more and more insular, more and more rigid. This year, they have an excellent chance to defeat President Obama, yet the wingers have trashed the party’s reputation by swinging from one embarrassing and unelectable option to the next: Bachmann, Trump, Cain, Perry, Gingrich, Santorum.

    George Will:

    “Newt Gingrich said the American people have a right to demand two dollar and fifty cent gas prices. They have a right to demand lobsters grow on trees. This is economic nonsense.”

    Maureen Dowd:

    Once elected, those presidents curbed the id with the ego, common sense and reason. But now the G.O.P.’s id is unbridled. The horse has thrown the rider; the dark forces are bubbling. Moderates, women, gays, Hispanics and blacks — even the president — are being hunted in this most dangerous game.

    David Frum:

    But the remark also illustrates the Tea Party’s disconnect from reality. Except in the rarest cases, to work with one’s hands in modern America is to face a lifetime of very low-wage work. (And the exceptions do things that I suspect Tea Party activists would dislike almost as much as they dislike college: artisanal cheese-making, restoration of antiques, high-end floral arrangement, etc.—and anyway people who do those things typically have at least some higher education and often quite a lot.)

    Yes, while the so-called moderate Republican columnists were sleeping, their party left them. More than that, their party is blaming them for their woes. So while people like Brooks, Dowd, Will & Frum will continue to spout what they consider conservative intellectualism, the simple fact is that they no longer have an audience. And their shrill criticism of the GOP is coming far too late for it to have any effect on political discourse.


    Crossposted at William K. Wolfrum Chronicles



    Brooks' full-throated critique is the real news here, but his conservative creds have always been skimpy. Frum has been denouncing the right since 2008. Will has been (gently) chiding the wingers since 1978. And Dowd is neither a conservative nor an intellectual.

    When Bill Kristol comes over, then we'll talk.

    Yes, and I'll take your criticism further and say I am puzzled by Wolfrum's post; it makes no sense. If he's trying to make a funny by calling these four "conservative intellectuals," I don't get the joke. George Will is the only one who could remotely qualify in that category. Maureen Dowd would easily qualify for the category of "long time enemy of conservative intellectuals," a "liberal media" princess. Frum has been in the enemy camp for quite some time, and mushy middle Brooks has never managed to attain conservative certification status.

    Edit to add: Wolfrum cites Dowd being critical of Obama and Clinton. In conservative world, that kind of commentary by her was always advertised as "even liberal Maureen Dowd thinks...." You are correct that she does not fit in the "intellectual" category, and I'm pretty sure she would agree. She has always specialized in pop culture politics, starting out as a campaign trail reporter who quickly stood out for her pithy culturally-oriented reports from the road. The folly of politicians, no matter their placement on the ideological spectrum, is really her specialization. Since right wingers offer more material in that vein, she has made them targets more often than others. Furthermore, Dowd has often self-identified as "not conservative" in her columns by querying her conservative brother for opinions when she needs to give an example of "what regular conservatives are thinking." She does that in a tongue-in-cheek manner, along the lines of "I just don't get conservatives."

    This post really makes me question whether to take any of Wolfrum's criticism of US media/pundit world seriously; it makes him look like he doesn't have minimal working knowledge in the area.

    Dowd's an odd case that I didn't even want to get into.  I think if you ask any bonafide right winger they will say she's a lefty.  If you ask any lefty, they will say she's a "mean girl," or, at best, the kind of liberal that you give a column to who does a terrible job making the liberal case for anything, to the extent that she even tries.

    Brooks, on the other hand, is essential reading with the Weekly Standard crowd though, as I surmised below, I think he's still more on the page to entertain liberal readers and make them feel more broad minded.  "See?  I read the other side.  I even bought his uber-boring novel."

    Frum is a legitimate conservative, but he's on the outs.  Yes, he seems moderate now but even Karl Rove is trying to act as a moderating force these days. I'd put Frum in the "Bruce Bartlett" camp.  They are actual conservatives but they don't much like their contemporaries.

    George Will qualifies in the post-Buckley world.  Though he relies on Charles Krauthammer to make him seem sane by comparison.


    Yup. I have been getting this sense of things from frum and brooks for some time as well as Avlon and McKinna? over at Beast.

    Santorum was literally dancing yesterday begging the journalists in the back of the room to attempt to castigate him for bring up 'social issues'.

    Mitt says: Oh I do not think it proper for presidential candidates to get into contraception and the relationship between husband and wife.

    One hour later his 'spokesman' sends out notice that Mitt misunderstood the question and of course he is for the Blunt Amendment to the highway bill.

    Too many condoms in the road I would guess!

    Sadly, these people do have an audience (particularly Brooks) but it's on what we call "the left."  They appeal to the reader who clicked for the Krugman but wants to have "read both sides."  What's dangerous is that they come away with the impression that the other side really isn't all that radical, even though it is.

    The point I got from Wolfy was the columnists were asleep at the wheel including a left leaning one. I don't read any of them and only watch Brooks on PBS because he is there on Friday. I liked the title because they are more dead then a lot of political junkies realize.

    Lets not forget what Jeb Bush recently said in an interview:

    “I used to be a conservative and I watch these debates and I’m wondering, I don’t think I’ve changed, but it’s a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people’s fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective and that’s kind of where we are. I think it changes when we get to the general election. I hope.”

    The other morning, Joe Scarborough was saying the current crisis with the GOP was best summed up by fact that Jeb Bush, a conservative's conservative, was wondering if he was conservative.

    I think we need to all acknowledge a political truism: if one continues to throw red meat to the base of one's party, over the years that red meat will actually become part of the party's ideology. 

    Santorum was made possible because those who did and do not believe in his extremism were willing to pontificate that extremism in their speeches. 

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