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Clearing the Air

By From the February 2013 issue

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These are head-scratching times. Last I checked, the Republican Party controls the House, yet from all appearances and expectations its leaders there act as if they were in charge of a minority, happily deferring to the Democratic Senate to settle a major budget dispute on which constitutionally the lower house of Congress should be in the lead. The question then becomes not so much whether they have the courage of their convictions but whether they still have convictions and what efforts if any they’ll make to articulate them, to advance them, to defend them.

It gets worse. What passionate intensity we do see on the right is disproportionately directed at others on the right. When Jim DeMint announced he was leaving the Senate to head the Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative blogger’s reaction read, “Good riddance, Mr. DeMint.” She didn’t want to see him go to Heritage, and she didn’t want him to stay in the Senate. Our senior editor Quin Hillyer is rather alarmed by such displays, but also by rancor from the right directed at political deal-making of any sort. If we were liberals we’d probably have to invoke Rodney King. Luckily, we still have Reagan (p. 14).

We can get along, in other words, if we remember that there are characters out there like the cat-loving Paul Krugman serving as major influences on our re-inaugurated president’s economic policies and, more disturbingly, on the coldly intolerant tone he adopts toward anyone who deigns to disagree with them. The excellent Ira Stoll has both men figured out (see p. 18), though to be fair to Mr. Krugman at times in his career he has made sense. And his Nobel came for economics, not celebrity. With any luck, he’ll be outed as a deviationist.

Already ultra-liberal New York magazine has dissed Krug’s professorial abilities, highlighting this sample of Princeton student opinion: “He routinely came to class unprepared, clearly had thought little about what he was to teach that day (much less how) and broadcast the impression that he was showing up only to justify his professor’s salary.”

As many on the right continue to lick their Obama-inflicted wounds and point fingers at their confreres, some are finding solace in throwing in the towel on issues that once appalled them. Are conservatives really becoming tolerant of something as seedy and demeaning as marijuana smoking and legalization? I’m afraid so, and in Peter Hitchens they will have more than met their civilizational match (see p. 28). If he can’t clear their heads, they might as well move on to LSD.

Not that I’m not an optimist. If not Mr. Hitchens perhaps they’ll at least heed the guidance of Mr. Cliff May, whose experience in covering the Troubles in Northern Ireland continues to pay huge dividends (see p. 34). There’s nothing like a good Saloon Series offering to put the world in the right perspective.

You see, we’ve learned something from our own experience in presenting The American Spectator. With this issue, we begin our 46th year of publication in a tastefully redesigned format, sharpening ourselves for the serious work ahead but also drawing on our past in order to remain well grounded and unbudgeable on all the things that matter. Trendiness we will always have with us, but we also know it never lasts.

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About the Author
Wlady Pleszczynski is editorial director of The American Spectator and the editor of AmSpec Online.