Patrick Ruffini has an extremely thoughtful and almost entirely on-the-mark essay at The Next Right about how the right needs to stop “wearing scorn as a badge of honor” and stop treating all intellectualism as if it is the equivalent of a lack of conservatism. To be sure, there is a lot of pseudo-intellectuallizing that goes on that treats either social conservatism or, less often, limited-government conservatism as if it is the province only of gap-toothed rubes (think Kathleen Parker and Mike Gerson, respectively). As a conservative on all thre levels — fiscal, social, and defense — I reject that pseudo-intellectualizing. But Ruffini does have a point in saying that far too many people on the right have such huge cultural chips on their shoulders that they see ANY attempt to apply formal logic and reason and learning as if it as an attack on conservatism itself and all they hold dear — even if the attempt is itself in defense of conservatism. In short, Ruffini rightly says that we need to be open to new Buckleys, and he is right.
That said, I must offer one mild corrective to Patrick. He writes parenthetically that “It’s true that Ronald Reagan was not a book learner…” No, it is not true. Not true at all. He was a tremendous book learner, an unbelievably avid reader. Bob Novak noted that fact in his memoir; I’ll get the citation in a little while. Many,many others have attested to Reagan’s voracious reading appetite. Not only that, but Reagan almost always was a straight-A student as well, except for one semester at college when he was struggling financially. IT does us no good to keep alive the myth that Reagan wasn’t book smart. He was, and he was learned, and he was not at all an anti-intellectual.