Most Influential American Conservatives
The London Telegraph has been rolling out its list of the 100 Most Influential American Conservatives, twenty at a time, all week. The exercise has been somewhat dubious, clearly seeming to be aimed (successfully) at attracting attention from American bloggers, and I’ve refrained from commenting on it until now. They’ve now released the final installment, #1-20, and I must says it’s one poorly conceived list. Or, mere precisely, it’s a pretty good list but a simply bizarre ranking.
Rudy Giuliani tops it, followed by David Petraeus, Matt Drudge, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, Bob Gates, John Roberts, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee.
Now, most obviously, how does George W. Bush, the sitting president, not top the list? One could argue, as many have, that he’s not really a conservative. But, then again, it would be rather easy to make that argument about Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. Bush actually comes in at #21. The explanation?
Bush fails to make our top 20 list because of his failure to shape conservatism or the Republican party despite an historic opportunity to do so after 2002. When he leaves office, his political influence looks likely to all but disappear.
Oh, he’s certainly shaped conservatism and the party. And his influence will certainly be around once he’s out of office: He’s committed us to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that will be ongoing, has two Supreme Court Justices who will long survive him, and has set all sorts of policies into motion that will be difficult to undo.
How in the world can Giuliani, a mere candidate for president, be ranked ahead of the people actually charged with administering American policy? And, really, Huckabee is more powerful than, say, Arnold Schwarzenegger?
How does Mike Pence (#19) get ranked ahead of all other Members of Congress? Not only are there many senior to him, many serving as ranking members of important committees, but there are some, notably Tom Coburn, who are more actively shaping the conservative movement.
Whether David Petraeus and some of the other military officers on the list (the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs comes in 98 places behind Petraeus) should be considered “conservatives” is itself questionable. Surely, if that’s the case, the country is in trouble if a Democrat should succeed Bush as president.
Surely, Christopher Hitchens, who comes in at #27, has to be mortified. First, he would likely consider the label “conservative” a grave insult. Second, if he’s a conservative, he’s certainly more influential than several of the people listed ahead of him.
I suppose the main point of these lists is to generate discussion and this one has achieved that. But, surely, they could have at least made some effort at coming up with a good ranking.