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Questioning Their Motives II

Yesterday morning, I noted a meme of Questioning Their Motives, i.e., charging that conservative (or is that “so-called conservative”?) critics of John McCain and/or Sarah Palin with trying to curry favor with the Establishment Elite.   David Frum has noticed the same thing, albeit in a more personal manner, getting attacked even by his fellow contributors to NRO’s The Corner.

Let’s develop this thought a little. Suppose it were true? Suppose I were indeed a venal, light-minded chaser after television appearances and social invitations. What difference would it make?

Do my correspondents (and now my Corner colleagues) truly believe that – but for my pitiful media and social ambitions – nobody in America would have noticeed that Sarah Palin cannot speak three coherent consecutive words about finance or economics?

In the past month, Sarah Palin’s unfavorability ratings have risen by 12 points. She briefly boosted the McCain ticket, but that effect subsided by the end of September. Blue-collar white women (!) now reject Palin as unqualified for the presidency 48-43, according to the Wall-Street Journal/NBC poll.

[...]

Perhaps it is our job at NRO is tell our readers only what they want to hear, without much regard to whether it is true. Perhaps it is our duty just to keep smiling and to insist that everything is dandy – that John McCain’s economic policies make sense, that his selection of Sarah Palin was an act of statesmanship, that she herself is the second coming of Anna Schwartz, and that nobody but an over-educated snob would ever suggest otherwise.

Who knows? Perhaps if I do that enthusiastically enough, somebody somewhere might even pour me a free drink or invite me onto the airwaves for a 3 minute Monday morning sunrise interview.  And after all: What else could I possibly want?

What more, indeed?

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Anderson says:

    Over at the Volokh blog, I was trying to think of a mainstream-right blog other than OTB, and the Corner was the closest thing to come to mind … and they didn’t really fit the bill.

    When it’s a serious topic of discussion as to whether Obama is a Maoist or a Stalinist, reality has left the building.

    Frum, as you correctly note, has been one of the saner voices over there. I really think that NRO needs a new editor who will kick Jonah Goldberg, K-Lo and similar nuts to the curb, and recruit some believable conservatives (Ross Douthat over at the Atlantic comes to mind).

    America badly needs real conservatives, at the very least as a check upon liberal excesses. The Corner is not filling that need.

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  2. It certainly would be nice to have a more intellectual approach to these matters from the center-right (which is how I used to view NR).

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  3. Billy says:

    This was my point on the earlier post. It’s not an own-goal to admit that which is painfully obvious. Denial in the face of the undeniable more closely fits that bill.

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  4. Michael says:

    It certainly would be nice to have a more intellectual approach to these matters from the center-right (which is how I used to view NR).

    This is the predictable consequence of blaming everything on the “Liberal Media”. Once conservatives stop paying attention to mainstream channels, their audience composition takes a dramatic shift left, and so too does their coverage.

    NPR may be an exception because it is not ad-supported, but it is partially listener supported, and if conservatives are no longer listeners then they can’t vote with their wallets.

    To complete the failure, since anti-media conservatives still want to get their news from somewhere, they concentrate on conservative-focused channels like Fox. Because Fox’s audience ranges from right to far-right, coverage that is neutral or even center-right won’t appeal to their audience, so their coverage takes a dramatic shift right.

    The end result is that you have “mainstream media” that is center-left to left, and “conservative media” that is right to far-right. There is no market for center-right as you lament, nor for far-left (note the failure of AirAmerica).

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  5. Steve Plunk says:

    It’s always amusing when liberals offer advise to conservatives in the form of “move to the center”.

    It’s also amusing when someone disagrees with particular viewpoints that the opposition becomes less intellectual about the topics.

    I think Frum may have something as far as his cohorts at NRO but many of us see less in the motives and more in the elitist argument with the critics. East coast, beltway, academic, country club, the list of different elites types covers a wide swath of conservatives who dislike McCain and especially dislike Palin.

    Readers do like to hear the facts even when they aren’t pleasant but readers don’t want talking points and strategy given to the opposition campaign. The criticism should be constructive but I see an awful lot of criticism that is not.

    Any election is a lesser of evils contest. Knowing both candidates are flawed we should make our choice and support that candidate. We should not demoralize our fellow conservatives by picking apart our candidate. Let the opposing campaign do that.

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  6. [...] notice James Joyner and, via him, David Frum complaining about a certain attack that gets leveled against conservatives who are [...]

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  7. Michael says:

    It’s always amusing when liberals offer advise to conservatives in the form of “move to the center”.

    Was I giving advice? I certainly didn’t think so. Maybe you’re not replying to me.

    The criticism should be constructive but I see an awful lot of criticism that is not.

    Okay, now I’m curious, what would “constructive criticism” of Palin look like? None of her faults are things that she can change just by wanting to. You can’t exactly recommend that next week she should try having more foreign policy experience.

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  8. tom p says:

    Any election is a lesser of evils contest. Knowing both candidates are flawed we should make our choice and support that candidate. We should not demoralize our fellow conservatives by picking apart our candidate. Let the opposing campaign do that.

    Steve, whlie this explains the emotional reaction of what is now happening on the conservative side of American politics, it is also self-defeating. By consistently voting for the “lesser” of 2 evils one is unable to check the worst excesses of one’s own party (or as in this case, idealogy, because I have a harder and harder time seeing a true home for conservatives).

    As a “center/left” individual I try to get “center/right” points of views, not least of all because from time to time, I find the better idea is on that side of a debate. I agree with so many others that this is getting harder and harder to do. Without the self-correcting mechanism of honest and open debate, the right will lurch further and further away from the center, just as the left has in the past.

    I used to read the Corner, but how can I take Jonah Goldberg serious when he equates todays Democratic Party with Mussolini’s Fascists? This is serious conservative dialogue?

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  9. Jamie says:

    What I find bemusing is how unsatisfied–whiny, even–conservative pundits are about their standard bearers.

    McCain is not conservative enough. he is a wishy washy, liberally prone grmupy old man who adds Hillary Clinton’s policy ideas to his campaign. ooh, we don’t like him.

    Palin is solidly conservative, but cannot fake it ’til you make like conservative icon and B-movie actor Ronald Reagan could. my gosh, she probably doesn’t stick her pinky out with sipping Earl Grey and probably would request spam on a Ritz at white House functions.

    Egads. who would want a conservative Veep like that even if she has a had executive experience than everyone else on all party tickets combined?

    I don’t know what these conservative intellectuals actually want, or if they even know, for that matter, but one thing is for sure–there is going to be a lot fewer conservatives to choose from for leadership positions for the foreseeable future thanks in no small part to their own tearing down of conservative candidates.

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  10. Bithead says:

    I don’t know what these conservative intellectuals actually want, or if they even know, for that matter, but one thing is for sure–there is going to be a lot fewer conservatives to choose from for leadership positions for the foreseeable future thanks in no small part to their own tearing down of conservative candidates.

    I wonder from which side of the fence you’re viewing this, Jamie.

    In answer to your question of what we want…. actual conservatives would be nice. What we’ve ended up with is leftover liberalism.

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  11. Michael says:

    In answer to your question of what we want…. actual conservatives would be nice. What we’ve ended up with is leftover liberalism.

    Only because your party has been using multiple, mutually exclusive, definitions for the word “conservative” since at least 2000. You can take any person in the country, and they will fail to meet the definition of “conservative” for some significant portion of your party.

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  12. Jamie says:

    Bithead,

    We are not all that different then. I am a conservative who has yet to be terribly enthusiastic about any GOP national ticket, but like most voters, I vote the lesser of two evils, which to me is the GOP ticket.

    I am much more a Jeffersonian about politics. Change comes from the bottom up, so I pay more attention to state and local government. Being from conservative, Bible Belt South Carolina, I think much more fondly of someone like Sarah Palin than most commentators with a national focus do. so at lot of what she is criticized for, i see as a virtue.

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  13. Alex says:

    “Do my correspondents (and now my Corner colleagues) truly believe that – but for my pitiful media and social ambitions – nobody in America would have noticeed that Sarah Palin cannot speak three coherent consecutive words about finance or economics?

    In the past month, Sarah Palin’s unfavorability ratings have risen by 12 points.”

    Yes, Palin’s unfavorability ratings have risen precisely because people like Frum (Joyner, etc.) have attacked her so harshly and unfairly. Her unfavoribility ratings didn’t change because a few people saw the Katie Couric interview – so few people watch that type of thing that it could never make a dent in her unfavoribility ratings. The fora in which Palin WAS watched by large numbers of people – her convention speech and the debate – she did just fine.

    So, why did her unfavoribility ratings drop? Because the Mainstream Media attacked her, and was able to find quislings like Frum to validate their attacks. People would surely keep an open mind about her – despite the MSM pileon – if the MSM’s attacks were not validated by people who find it important to go on the CBS Morning Show to attack her, like Frum did.

    It’s amazing to see the disparity between how left and right intellectuals/writers approach the election. I defy you to find a single liberal intellectual or writer who went on TV to complain that Jos Biden is a moron as a result of his lack of knowledge of the Constitution (which Article governs the Executive Branch, Joe? The Article on the Legislative Branch says what about the VP’s role?). Heck, I’ll bet you can’t even find a prominent left-wing blog that complains about that kind of thing. The left was all on board with their guy, no matter how much of a moron he is. If they harbor any doubts about Obama, their not lining up to go on TV to tell about it.

    For the right, on the other hand, you have people like Frum – or Joyner – who are all too happy to tell you how much of a moron Palin is. Why do they do that, when the counterparts on the left don’t do the same? Beat me, but seems to me that keeping in good standing with one’s community is a likely cause. Frum runs with the crowd that shows up on the CBS Morning Show – he doesn’t want to disappoint them. Joyner is an academic – imagine what his (primarily left-wing) colleagues would say if Joyner showed up to defend Palin. He’d be thought of as a rube or a fool. College professors want to be thought well of in academic circles, simple as that – it’s OK to be thought of as wrong on an issue or two (after all, academics differ among themselves all the time), but to be thought of as a Palin-loving rube, now that would be a problem.

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  14. Bithead says:

    Only because your party has been using multiple, mutually exclusive, definitions for the word “conservative” since at least 2000. You can take any person in the country, and they will fail to meet the definition of “conservative” for some significant portion of your party.

    If I were to take your statement at face value I’d suggest that at least part of that is due to the greater amount of diversity of thought in the Repubican party.

    Still, when I see the “Bush = Hitler” meme, and other effotrs to cast Bush as an extreme right winger, his poliices which mark him as at best a centrist notwithstanding, I have to at least consider the idea that who is defining ‘conservative’ for the most part, are not themselves, conservative.

    Jamie; I would submit that in this case, it’s a matter of not having a conservative candidate to tear down.

    I’d submit further, that the strong, lightning rod reaction to Palin is a testimony to the degree of hunger there is out there for pols to reflect conservative values. I for one, wouldn’t mind seeing Palin in the top spot of the ticket… a position she may well hold in future.

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  15. Michael says:

    If I were to take your statement at face value I’d suggest that at least part of that is due to the greater amount of diversity of thought in the Repubican party.

    There’s plenty of diverse thinking in the Democratic party, we just don’t label all of it “liberal”. The GOP is actually partly responsible for that, by making the label a negative, the different voices chose labels specific to them. The GOP also made “conservative” a coveted label, so every voice within the party used it to describe their views.

    Still, when I see the “Bush = Hitler” meme, and other effotrs to cast Bush as an extreme right winger, his poliices which mark him as at best a centrist notwithstanding, I have to at least consider the idea that who is defining ‘conservative’ for the most part, are not themselves, conservative.

    And yet there are people within your own party, who highly approve of Bush, call him and themselves “conservatives”. You’re proving my point exactly.

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  16. Bithead says:

    And yet there are people within your own party, who highly approve of Bush, call him and themselves “conservatives”. You’re proving my point exactly.

    First, it’s not ‘my party’; I’m a registered independant.

    Secondly, no, I’m not proving your point, really, because I view this as a measure of how far to the left the basline has been pushed. In large part, I view that as the result of years of the ‘big tent’ nonsense espoused by republican leadership… exactly, BTW, why I’m not a Republican.

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  17. Michael says:

    First, it’s not ‘my party’; I’m a registered independant.

    Since when does that stop you?

    Secondly, no, I’m not proving your point, really, because I view this as a measure of how far to the left the basline has been pushed.

    Give me an example of the GOP moving “to the left” in your opinion, and I believe you will just prove my point again.

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  18. tom p says:

    So, why did her unfavoribility ratings drop? Because the Mainstream Media attacked her,

    Can we please cut the “mainstream media” bogeyman crap? I have been listening to how the MSM is out to get the GOP/conservatives Nixon’s days. If one counts only the presidential elections, they have not been very successful, and their record is not much better with congress in the past 16. And in case anyone has not noticed, Fox is now MSM.

    When it comes to Frum, Joyner, et al…

    “Kill the messenger!” At that point you become your own worst enemy.

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  19. Floyd says:

    “”In the past month, Sarah Palin’s unfavorability ratings have risen by 12 points.””
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    Well….FREAKIN’ DUUHH!!
    The surprise must be on the minds of the character assassins who controlled the propaganda, the polls AND the reporting for that thirty days.
    We have everything from children’s cartoon shows, to movies, to sitcoms, to dramas to “news” shows, to talk shows, to “news” papers siding with Obama 24/7 on scores of channels, and ALL they can do is 12 points??? How pathetic![lol]

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  20. Bithead says:

    Give me an example of the GOP moving “to the left” in your opinion

    McCain’s nomination, and as a bonus answer, Bush before him. Bush is at best a centrist, and McCain lost the nomination in 2000, because he came down to Bush’s left on most issues. In this, at least, he’s not changed.

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