The Spectacle Blog

Give Peace a Chance

By on 2.8.12 | 10:01AM

Allllllllllllllll we are sayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyying….is give peace a chance!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

First, there is no need for an apology from Quin Hillyer to Jeff Lord. None.

Conservatives are the ones who make a big deal about "character." My friend Quin has it, has always had it, and I know it. (He can occasionally be a character too, but that's another issue altogether!)

But I confess I was baffled at first when seeing his missive, and after hearing from a number of people, more irritated than mad. I was inclined to just not respond, then, grudgingly I confess, I decided it had to be done. As someone who is always advising friends in the public eye on the importance, in the age of the eternal Internet, to respond to unfair accusations because the original charge can and will sit in cyberspace unanswered for eternity as we know it, I felt I should take my own advice.

It's my job -- Quin's job -- to observe, investigate, report, opine. This is the very heart of the existence of The American Spectator, Bob Tyrrell's great creation that will be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary a mere five years distant in 2017.

What Quin and I are here to do, and in fact what the entire conservative movement is about -- is to provide sharp, insightful, hopefully always clear conservative thought on the issues of the day. In the doing of this there is bound to be disagreement sharply expressed. Is Newt a conservative? I say yes, Quin says no. Bob Tyrrell himself is no Newt fan and has, in his typical and now famous style, said so. Is Christine O'Donnell the right choice in Delaware? I said yes, Quin passed out. I'm a fan of Rush, Sean and Mark and the work they do every day. I'm not a fan of Ron Paul on foreign policy. Hundreds and hundreds of Dr. Paul's legions regularly disagree and tell me what an idiot I am.

All of this is to the good.

In other words, disagreement between and among conservatives is the coin of the realm here. While it understandably can get lost in dust-ups like the one Quin and I had, in fact it is a sign of intellectual vitality. If everyone agreed we could all sit at home eating, drinking and making merry knowing our only job is to pull the lever for Obama in November. Fat chance!

This, to me at least, is an important thing to understand. In his wonderful Reagan book The Age of Reagan 1980-1989, Steven F. Hayward writes this:

In a manner that eludes many historians, political scientists, and reporters, the most successful presidencies tend to be those that have factional disagreements within their inner councils, whereas sycophantic administrations tend to get in the most trouble. Fractiousness in an administration is a sign of health: the Jefferson-Hamilton feud in Washington's administration, the rivalry within Lincoln's cabinet, and the odd combination of fervent New Dealers and conventional Democrats in FDR's White House provided a dynamic tension that contributed to successful governance. Though the partisans of the distinct camps in the Reagan White House would be loath to admit it, their feuding probably contributed to better policy in many cases. An attempted Reaganite purge, of either the party or his own staff, might well have backfired and snuffed out the spontaneous slow-motion revolution within the party that was already under way, and which gained new momentum in the 1990's under the spur of figures such as Newt Gingrich.

Steve Hayward, I believe, has it right. And I for one believe this thought applies not just to presidencies but conservative magazines and the conservative movement as a whole. This sentiment was also expressed by General George Patton's remark to the effect that if everyone in the room was thinking the same thing, someone isn't thinking. Not for nothing did I title my post (OK my "rambling" post in Quin's view) about Rich Lowry and Jennifer Rubin "The Fractious Rich Lowry and Jennifer Rubin." While I know many of our conservative compadres, I don't know Rich or Jennifer. But most certainly I have great respect for them individually and in their respective roles at National Review and the Washington Post. Perhaps it's not obvious, so let me say it: if what they wrote was not worth commenting on, I wouldn't. It is. And in the fractiousness that is the conservative movement -- a movement not a club (ahem!) -- this is a sign of health, not a sign of Ins versus Outs.

So when I give Jennifer Rubin grief, or take on our friends at National Review (and make no mistake, they are our friends) or chastise Elliott Abrams, someone who, in fact, I really do like -- I do so here out of genuine intellectual disagreement. Knowing full well that no one, least of all myself, has all the answers. And that the best way to move forward always is to keep our collective intellectual blades and political sensibilities sharp.

Otherwise, what lies ahead is dismal. Conservatives will lose -- and we will deserve to lose.

So Quin, my friend. There is no need for an apology. Period. I've never met Jennifer Rubin, doubtless she's a wonderful person. My task is to simply challenge her thinking, as is hers to challenge the thinking of those she disagrees with.

You and I disagree over the Abrams issue. You see no proof that Elliott wrote his National Review take down of Newt as a bid for a job in a Romney administration. I see the very writing of the piece as evidence of exactly that. There's nothing wrong with that, as I've said. It's standard procedure. Jeane Kirkpatrick, after all, became Ronald Reagan's Ambassador to the United Nations because Reagan read a piece she wrote in Commentary titled "Dictatorship and Double Standards."Intellectuals and policy wonks as a rule are not wealthy people, they can't fund Super PACS. What they bring to the political table is their policy wonk brains, and one of the ways to do that is do exactly what Elliott did with Newt, the rival of the moment to Romney. And do it in a magazine that, for better or worse, has chosen to self-identify as RomneyLand.

As to Jennifer Rubin, it seems pretty clear to me that there is some type of relationship between Rubin and both Rachel and Elliott Abrams. Namely, friendship. Indeed, based on her own statement to the Ombudsman of the Washington Post on Rachel Abrams, and Caroline Glick's description in the Jerusalem Post of Jennifer as having Elliott as her "mentor," this seems very clear. Again, I like Abrams, and have great respect for his wife. But if one is going to write a column criticizing the criticizer of Elliott's piece -- and not reveal a relationship of whatever kind it may be in the process -- then, yes. I think that's both unfair and a mistake.

So there you go. I suspect between the hot-blooded Southerner and the native reserve of the New Englander-turned Pennsylvanian (that would be you and me) the intensity of our reactions to whatever can be wildly different. My piece made you "so angry." I managed puzzled bemusement and finally mustered pale indignation at your reply. To wax conservative, this is a good thing. I can't be you, you can't be me, and our mutual objective is to make sure that our fellow Americans continue to have the shot at being themselves.

Otherwise known as "individual liberty."

Now. Tell me the truth old pal. 

At least one person in the Hillyer household loves me. When Tresy saw that piece… what sized antique frying pan did she hit you with?

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