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Friday, January 22, 2016

The 22 "who"?

Social media is all aflutter about this today. The Republicans called up National Review and fired them from co-hosting the February 26 debate among the GOPOTUScritters.

This election, if you're a Republican, firing is what you do. The GOP has already fired NBC from co-hosting the same debate, after one last October, on its sister network, CNBC, irritated the candidates.

Not to be left out, ABC fired the Manchester Union-Leader newspaper as a debate co-host earlier this month, for being critical of Donald Trump.

So now NR is touting its termination as a badge of honor after it assembled 22 conservative "thinkers" to diss The Donald.

The menu gives the association of "thinker" and "conservative" a risible air. NR has simply assembled a grab-bag of its regulars: hacks, gadflies, failed pols, ex-GOP speechwriters, and media addicts begging Roger Ailes for more face time on Fox News.

Of the 22, all are regulars in the Fox orbit. 95% are white; 86% are male. 64% are over fifty; of those, 40% are over sixty. There's a wunderkind woman journo; a young plagiarist who, outed, switched to pay to play journalism; a Buckley cousin whose staff have said everything published under his name is ghosted; an elderly former attorney general who attacks cronyism and corruption and was forced out of office by his fondness for both.

There's a gaggle of neocons from the Kristol/Podhoretz orbit. A full ten percent got their leg up in conservative circles working for another great thinker, the former vice president, Dan Quayle. Two are creationists.

Few are considered truly important. In a 2010 ranking of America's 100 most influential conservatives, four of the sixteen NR thinkers then active made the list. Glenn Beck, then ascendant at Fox, was #6. The rest were distinctively back-benchers: Bill Kristol (58); Erick Erickson (69) and Thomas Sowell (84).

Nor are the manifestos of The Twenty-Two much to write home about. Many are only two or three paragraphs long. There is general agreement Trump hasn't been a conservative long enough, except among those who say he has never been one and isn't now. Some fault his bluster as being bad for the Republican brand, revealing them for what they truly believe. A couple of them fret that Trump will stand, not athwart history, but athwart their hobbies: regulating reproduction and legalizing discrimination. A number- every bit as much the racist jingo as Trump- object on grounds of style.

I read the whole, tired mess, curious to see what is thought, and who thinks it.

Here's a summary of both:

1. Glenn Beck: There was a silver lining, however. Rising out of the ashes of that [2008] electoral defeat came the Tea Party. The media struggled to explain it away as racist, xenophobic, and jingoistic. But the truth is, the Tea Party did not arise because Barack Obama defeated his opposition. It arose because there was no opposition.

-Beck, 52, hosted increasingly bizarre talk shows on HLN, CNN and Fox News before starting his own media network in 2012.  He is noted for having rubbed Mentholatum under this eyes to assist him in crying for the fate of America, and an obsession with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson as the root of all evil. Beck’s political/ideological influences are led by Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society, and W. Cleon Skousen, a Mormon theologian, political activist, and one-time chief of police in Salt Lake City who thought the Birchers soft on some issues. Skousen's book, The Naked Communist, carries Ben Carson’s endorsement on its current edition; Skousen is also much-revered by the Malheur Wildlife Refuge School of Political Thought, and by 2008 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who studied under Skousen at BYU. In 2007, conservative writer Mark Hemingway described Skousen as “an all-round nutjob” in an article published in- yes- National Review.

Beck has described himself as “a borderline schizophrenic” who suffers from “macular dystrophy” and severe neurological disorders diagnosed by a “chiropractic neurologist.” Beck has also claimed that President Obama harbors “ a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.” In February 2015 he left the Republican Party for its mistreatment of Senators Mike Lee and Ted Cruz. He is also the employer of Dana Loesch, No. 15, below.

2. David Boaz: A lot of Americans think it would be better to have a businessman than a politician as president, and I sympathize with them. Alas, the only businessmen crazy enough to run for president seem to be, well, crazy. At least Ross Perot kept his craziness confined mostly to private matters, such as the looming disruption of his daughter’s wedding. Donald Trump puts it front and center.

-Boaz, 62, is president of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank founded by the Koch Brothers, who sued it a few years ago to tighten their control over it. Its mission statement declares, “‘Conservative’ smacks of an unwillingness to change, of a desire to preserve the status quo.”

3. Brent Bozell: A real conservative walks with us. Ronald Reagan read National Review and Human Events for intellectual sustenance; spoke annually to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Young Americans for Freedom, and other organizations to rally the troops; supported Barry Goldwater when the GOP mainstream turned its back on him; raised money for countless conservative groups; wrote hundreds of op-eds; and delivered even more speeches, everywhere championing our cause. Until he decided to run for the GOP nomination a few months ago, Trump had done none of these things, perhaps because he was too distracted publicly raising money for liberals such as the Clintons; championing Planned Parenthood, tax increases, and single-payer health coverage; and demonstrating his allegiance to the Democratic party.

-Bozell, 60, is William F. Buckley, Jr’s nephew. He took over NCPAC, the scorched-earth right-wing political committee of the 1980s, after its founder, the raucously antigay Terry Dolan, died of AIDS. Since then Bozell has focused on censorship of television. In 2011 he said President Obama looked like “ a skinny ghetto crackhead.” He has also accused GOP operative Karl Rove of waging “gang warfare” on the Tea Party Movement. Bozell says he is not a Republican. Past employees have claimed everything published under his name is ghostwritten.

4. Mona Charen: Trump has made a career out of egotism, while conservatism implies a certain modesty about government. The two cannot mix.

-Charen, 58, has spent most of her career with National Review, first joining it in 1985. She did time as a speechwriter for Nancy Reagan and Jack Kemp in his 1988 presidential run, and has a syndicated newspaper column. She is a fellow of the Ethics & Public Policy Center, which advocates Catholic social positions in the vein of Rick Santorum, a former fellow there.

5. Ben Domenech: In order to build a governing majority, conservatives do not need Trump’s message or agenda, but they urgently need his supporters.

-Domenech, 34, has apparently been forgiven by National Review. A few days after The Washington Post hired him as a political blogger, Domenech resigned after being called out for plagiarizing material from a variety of authors and publications, including National Review Online. He is also a cofounder of the conservative blog Red State- which launched Erick Erickson, No. 6, below- and a onetime speechwriter for Bush 2 HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and Texas Senator John Cornyn. He writes for, or edits, a variety of publications, including the conservative Washington Examiner, where he was recently found to have accepted $36,000 from a lobbyist to write nice articles about the government of Malaysia. Domenech has also called the late Coretta Scott King, widow of the Nobel Peace Prize winner, a communist.

6. Erick Erickson: But we should not put a new conservative in charge of conservatism or the country, so that he does not become puffed up with conceit and fall into condemnation. Republicans have wandered in the wilderness already by letting leaders define conservatism in their own image. Donald Trump needs more time and more testing of his new conservative convictions.

-Erickson, 38, has been a radio and TV talking head for a decade. He rose to editor in chief at Red State, the blog founded by Ben Domenech, No. 5, above. In 2010 he became a CNN commentator, jumping to Fox News in 2013. Last month he posted a copy of The New York Times’ front page editorial on gun control, full of bullet holes he said he shot it in it. He later claimed his family refused to eat Asian food on Pearl Harbor Day when he was a boy. His mother said that wasn’t true; he said she is old and her memory is poor.

Erickson has also accused the president of “shagging hookers” behind the back of his “harpy Marxist wife”; called the administration’s health care spokeswoman “the Joseph Goebbels of the health care shop”; and declared Supreme Court justice David Souter “the only goat-fucking child molester to ever serve” on the court. When the Washington legislature was considering a ban on phosphates in detergents, Erickson asked, “when will people march down to their legislator's house, pull him aside, and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot?’

He has also told an interviewer, “I’m a local legislator myself.” His mostly absentee term on the city council of Macon, Georgia was notable for  his call to dissolve the police department in response to a unionization drive.

7. Steven F. Hayward: the conservative president we desperately need requires a paradoxical combination of boldness and restraint. The president will need to be bold in challenging the runaway power and reach of his own branch, against the fury of the bureaucracy itself, its client groups, and the media. This boldness is necessary to restore the restraint that a republican executive should have in our constitutional order.

-Professor Hayward is a former friend of mine. His record can speak for itself.

8. Mark Helprin: All such things, except (maybe) his hair, are disqualifications for high office, but two fundamental portents of disaster usually pass unnoticed: Like Obama, he is astoundingly ignorant of everything that to govern a powerful, complex, influential, and exceptional nation such as ours he would have to know.

-Helprin, 68, is a brilliant novelist who believes copyright should be eternal, and sits on the Council on Foreign Relations. Since his apostasy, serving as speechwriter to Senator Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign, he has moved further and further rightward.

9. William Kristol: In a letter to National Review, Leo Strauss wrote that “a conservative, I take it, is a man who despises vulgarity; but the argument which is concerned exclusively with calculations of success, and is based on blindness to the nobility of the effort, is vulgar.” Isn’t Donald Trump the very epitome of vulgarity?

-Kristol, 63, is the son of Irving Kristol, a leading neoconservative. He edits The Weekly Standard and is ubiquitous TV talk show guest. As chief of staff to the Vice President of the United States, 1989-993, he was known as “Dan Quayle’s Brain.” This may explain how he came to force Senator John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin- described by Trevor Noah this week as “sounding like a malfunctioning robot...a bag of Scrabble tiles that grew a body and came to life”- as the 2008 GOP nominee for vice president. Kristol is also a fellow of the Center for Ethics & Public Policy, along with Mona Charen, No. 4, above, and Yuval Levin, No. 10, below. He also founded the magazine National Affairs, which Levin edits.

10. Yuval Levin: A shortage of such skepticism is how we ended up with the problems Trump so bluntly laments. Repeating that mistake is no way to solve these problems. To address them, we need to begin by rejecting what Trump stands for, as much as what he stands against.

-Levin, 38, edits National Affairs, founded by William Kristol, No, 9, above, and served as a fellow at the Center for Ethics and Public policy with Kristol, and Mona Charen, No. 4, above.Widely considered the intellectual heir of Irving Kristol, he says the difference is that he is all-Republican, all the time.

11. Dana Loesch: I’ve fought progressivism for a long time. Before 2008, I crashed progressive protests using “Protest Warrior” signs. After 2008, I was on that fateful inaugural call to organize the first modern-day tea parties around the country. I stood on sidewalks with placards, phone-banked, went door to door, and traveled at my own expense to evangelize liberty and fire people up. For disagreeing about matters of public policy, we were called racists and bigots, and conservative women were accused of betraying their sex. Dissent used to be “patriotic” — until the Obama administration used its alphabet agencies to persecute groups such as True the Vote and deny conservative organizations nonprofit status.

Lately, dissent on the right is regarded as treasonous.  I know Donald Trump. He’s been a frequent guest on my radio and television programs, and I introduced him at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2015. He has always been amiable and complimentary. I genuinely like him. But not as my presidential pick.

I love conversion stories. I have my own, from when I became a conservative 15 years ago. But I’m not running for president.

-Loesch, 37, hosts a TV show on The Blaze, owned by Glenn Beck, No. 1, above. A St Louis-area writer, she earned first fame as a mommy-blogger and 9/11 convert to conservatism. In 2009 she cofounded the St Louis Tea Party. She joined Breitbart, the fact-free media empire, in 2010, later suing them for subjecting her to indentured servitude and a hostile work environment. In 2011 she jumped to CNN as a political analyst, then to The Blaze in 2012. She pioneered the antigay wedding service martyrdoms of 2015, championing Barronelle Stutzman, the florist of Richland, Washington; and the O’Connors of Indiana’s Memories Pizza, kicking off their campaigns and lining them up with financial advisors.

12. Andrew C. McCarthy: The threat against us has metastasized in our eighth year under a president who quite consciously appeases the enemy. But the remedy is not a president oblivious of the enemy.

-McCarthy, 56, is a contributing editor at NR and fellow at a national security think tank. He was a prosecutor in the 1993 World Trade Center and African Embassy bombing cases. At NR he has called for the disqualification of President Obama as a candidate, for his association with “radical, America-hating leftists”; declined an invitation to a discussion with the President on security issues; called Medicare a Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, and has acted as attorney for Rudy Giuliani.

13. David McIntosh: My old boss, Ronald Reagan, once said, “The Founding Fathers knew a government can’t control the economy without controlling people.” Reagan fought for economic freedom, for reining in government so the private sector could thrive. That’s economic conservatism. It is not Donald Trump.

-David McIntosh, 57, is president of the Club for Growth, which describes itself as the tax cut enforcer of the GOP. After heading a council on gutting business regulations for Vice President Dan Quayle (see also William Kristol, No. 10, above), he served in Congress, 1995-2001; ran unsuccessfully for governor of Indiana and Congress, 2004, 2008, 2012), and practiced law in Washington.

14. Michael Medved: Worst of all, Trump’s brawling, blustery, mean-spirited public persona serves to associate conservatives with all the negative stereotypes that liberals have for decades attached to their opponents on the right. According to conventional caricature, conservatives are selfish, greedy, materialistic, bullying, misogynistic, angry, and intolerant. They are, we’re told, privileged and pampered elitists who revel in the advantages of inherited wealth while displaying only cruel contempt for the less fortunate and the less powerful. The Left tried to smear Ronald Reagan in such terms but failed miserably because he displayed none of the stereotypical traits. In contrast, Trump is the living, breathing, bellowing personification of all the nasty characteristics Democrats routinely ascribe to Republicans.

-Medved, 67, started as an aide to black Congressman Ron Dellums, then worked as an affirmative action advocate for the police departments of San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley, California. He segued into writing Hollywood screenplays and pop history; after he interviewed Dick Cheney for a 1976 book on White House aides, he became a Republican. Through the 1980s and ‘90s he was a film critic, morphing into a critic of film as part of the liberal corruption of America. He became a radio protege of Rush Limbaugh’s, then got his own show, syndicated out of Seattle, where he holds forth on social issues. He also sits on the board of Seattle’s Discovery Institute, which advocates the theory of intelligent design over that of evolution.

15. Edwin Meese III: Questionable assertions that an opponent is not eligible to run, or that another cannot be elected, or that still another lacks enthusiasm or energy, are a poor substitute for addressing the real issues that should be the basis for a positive campaign: restoring economic growth, strengthening national security, eliminating cronyism and corruption, and improving the lives of all Americans.

-Meese, 84, spent twenty years at Ronald Reagan’s side, rising to favor for his ability to explain complex ideas to the then-California governor in ways he could understand. He was a key figure in the Reagan White House. He has a first-hand knowledge of “cronyism and corruption”, having left fingerprints on the Iran-Contra scandal, and as the subject of two federal investigations for improprieties as Attorney General- the second of which forced him from office.

Meese won fame for claiming, in the 1980s, that there were really no hungry people in America, and that he had proof that many who ate at soup kitchens did so because the food was free. He took a particular interest in regulating pornography; was Reagan’s outreach to evangelicals; and pushed for the appointment of “originalists” like Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court. He sits on a variety of conservative groups’ boards, including that of the Discovery Institute (see Michael Medved, No. 14, above, and the Hoover Institution (see Thomas Sowell, No. 21, below).

16. Russell Moore: In 2009, the Manhattan Declaration, led by Chuck Colson and Robert P. George, reaffirmed the three primary goals of religious conservatives: to protect all human life, including that of the unborn; to reinforce the sanctity of marriage and the family; and to conserve the religious freedom of all persons. All three goals would be in jeopardy under a Trump presidency.

-Moore, 44, is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He views Trump as a sort of antiChrist. Though he takes positions on social issues fellow Baptists think heterodox, his baseline is the abortion- and gay-marriage obsessed Manhattan Declaration, which advocates people taking the law into their own hands if they don’t like it.

17. Michael Mukasey: We have already suffered seven years of feckless leadership that has invited the contempt of our enemies and the distrust of our friends. We remain the world’s strongest power and can recover; but to inspire the respect that creates fear and trust when and where each is necessary, we will need a president who summons our strength with a reality-based strategic vision, not one who summons applause with tantrums and homicidal fantasies.

-Mukasey, 74, is a friend and colleague of Rudy Giuliani going back to the 1970s. He swore in the mayor twice, and was an advisor to his presidential campaign. As a federal judge, he presided over the World Trade Center bombing case prosecuting, in part, by Andrew McCarthy, No. 12, above. Attorney General to President Bush in 2007-09, he was an enthusiast of torture in interrogation and other improvisations on human rights, commenting that not all violations of law are crimes.

18. Katie Pavlich: Conservatives have a serious decision. Do we truly believe in our long-held principles and insist that politicians have records demonstrating fealty to them? Or are we willing to throw these principles away because an entertainer who has been a liberal Democrat for decades simply says some of the right things?

-Pavlich, 27, is editor of, and has been a National Review writer. A Fox News regular, she told Bill O’Reilly, "Confronting my white privilege is going to the tanning salon". One wonders how she would square her question with the record of Ronald Reagan.

19. John Podhoretz: In any integrated personality, the id is supposed to be balanced by an ego and a superego—by a sense of self that gravitates toward behaving in a mature and responsible way when it comes to serious matters, and, failing that, has a sense of shame about transgressing norms and common decencies. Trump is an unbalanced force.

-Podhoretz, 54, is editor of Commentary, once edited by his father, Norman. His mother, the writer and neocon activist Midge Decter, is legendary for a splenetic 1980 Commentary article complaining about how The Gays made it impossible for her and her friends to enjoy their weekend houses on Fire Island any more.

Young Podhoretz, a Jeopardy champion at 17, was a Reagan-Bush speechwriter and an aide to William Bennett. He has cycled through National Review and The Weekly Standard, and the usual conservative TV trajectory of CNN to Fox News. He has been loathed by his colleagues everywhere he worked for arrogance, juvenilism, egotism, and aggrievement at the general lack of recognition of his brilliance.

20. R. R. Reno: I suppose we should have known better. The Republican party has become home to a growing number of Americans who want to burn down our political and economic systems and hang our cultural elites. They’re tired of being policed by political correctness, often with the complicity of supposed conservatives. They don’t like Republican candidates who denounce them as “takers” with no future in the global economy. And they suspect, rightly, that the Chamber of Commerce will sell them down the river if it adds to the bottom line.

-Reno edits First Things, a magazine for ex-Episcopalians who changed trains for Rome and love showing off their vocabularies and knowledge of ancient Catholic heresies.

21. Thomas Sowell: No national leader ever aroused more fervent emotions than Adolf Hitler did in the 1930s. Watch some old newsreels of German crowds delirious with joy at the sight of him. The only things at all comparable in more recent times were the ecstatic crowds that greeted Barack Obama when he burst upon the political scene in 2008. Elections, however, have far more lasting and far more serious—or even grim—consequences than emotional venting. The actual track record of crowd pleasers, whether Juan Perón in Argentina, Obama in America, or Hitler in Germany, is very sobering, if not painfully depressing.

-Sowell, 85, is a black conservative and fellow at the Hoover Institution. An economist and protege of Milton Friedman, he has been a Hoover Fellow for 35 years, turning out scores of books and articles conservatives adore and liberals ignore. He was a regular on Firing Line and has been in National Review for decades. He opposes all the things white conservatives do.

22. Cal Thomas: I wanted to like Donald Trump, much as I wanted to like Richard Nixon’s vice president, Spiro Agnew. Both men have said many things with which I agree. Agnew attacked media bias, and Trump attacks the establishment’s failure to “make America great,” as he nonspecifically puts it.

But a proper diagnosis does not equal competence in administering a cure. If I developed a brain tumor, I would want Ben Carson to operate on me, but do I want Donald Trump “operating” on America?

-Thomas, 74, is a syndicated columnist and Fox News talking head.

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