First, I owe Jeffrey Lord a bit of an apology. But it will come in roundabout fashion, because I must digress to say that his opening line in his post below is absolutely classic, hysterically funny, and well aimed. Injecting some levity into the situation was very much needed, and is appreciated. Nobody has called me an “ignorant slut” before, but it does sound sort of fun! And I certainly could do worse than to have my own spot on Saturday Night Live.
Now, as to the apology: Jeffrey Lord is a gentleman and a good guy. In retrospect, my opening line in the post in which I castigated him was overkill. I was trying for a clean, hard takedown, but it ended up being too hard and appearing not fully clean. I was writing fast, as I often do with blog posts rather than formal columns, and I already was trying to catch up from losing two solid hours that morning to computer problems, so I didn’t do the final read-through I usually do in order to catch anything that didn’t come out quite right. I had started to write that Jeff had not shown intellectual consistency, but that wasn’t quite right. So I changed it to a lack of “intellectual integrity,” in the sense of “integrity” meaning “wholeness” and “coherence” — as in structural integrity of a building. (I.e., to distinguish it from personal or professional integrity, which is a measure of character rather than just the fullness and fully realized fairness of thought processes.) But, having then — and all of this was very quick, mind you, far quicker than it takes to explain it — having then come up with the term “intellectual integrity,” I then looked for the metaphor and came up with what I thought was a good strong comparison: Bill Clinton. Big mistake. Clinton’s character is so low that any use of the word “integrity” in conjunction with Clinton automatically calls to mind a character issue, not just an issue of coherence, etc. In short, by quickly trying to make a good, strong, hard statement, I went too far — and didn’t realize it until several professional friends and colleagues emailed me to say as much, one of whom understood my point but said the overall effect was “shi***y.”
The criticism was right, and I apologize to my once and future friend Jeff.
NOW, that said….. I do NOT withdraw the substance of my post, but instead wish to soberly elaborate on it — not to belabor the dispute with Jeff, but to make the bigger point I tried to make in my original post, which is that there is far too much questioning of motives and far too much use of perjorative labels (RINO, etcetera) on the right these days — far too much of the assumption that somebody opposing one’s own candidate is therefore deliberately trying to help another one, even if they don’t say so or indeed say just the opposite, and far too much assumption that a difference of opinion on a particular candidate’s bona fides, or of a particular tactical consideration, is evidence of some deep-seated lack of true conservatism. Criticizing or praising candidates, ideas, policies, etcetera, is what we opinion journalists do; but attacking or carelessly and perjoratively labeling their supporters en masse, or individual supporters without relying on actual evidence, is what I object to. I hope even Jeff notes that these are things I never do — that I can write very strongly in defense of conservatives I think have been unustly attacked, but that I never do the original attacking (except, of course, in criticizing candidates or policies, etcetera, which of course is part of my job).
To dispose of his most recent complaints: I don’t give two figs what others have said about Jennifer Rubin being a shill for Romney. I just care what she has actually written, and I was angry because Jeff wouldn’t even acknowledge the simple facts — again, FACTS — that she has consistently written favorably about Rick Santorum. Much of her reputation for being pro-Romney comes not from her praising Romney, which in truth she has done only a little of, but because she has so strongly criticized other conservatives challenging Romney — which really has nothing to do with Romney unless one buys into the absurd notion that this contest is a two-person race, which it never has been. If I can very quickly produce 21 examples of what I am talking about, and Jeff won’t even look at them, then I would say the facts are on my side. If I played Jeff’s game of citing OTHERS who have adjudged Rubin’s leanings, I could just as easily produce examples of those (such as the Village Voice) who just as strongly have accused her of an unseemly bias in favor of Santorum.
Meanwhile, I never objected (although I strongly disagree with his tendentious analysis of the Gingrich speech in question) to Jeff defending Newt Gingrich from Elliott Abrams’ column against Gingrich. Instead, I thoroughly object to JEff alleging, without a shred of evidence, that Abrams was somehow trying to prostitute himself out to Romney for a job. THAT, yes THAT, is a scurrilous attack. Wrote Jeff Lord:
In fact, I’m sorry to say, what appears to be going on here is that Elliott Abrams, a considerably admirable public servant and a very smart guy, has been swept up in the GOP Establishment’s Romney frothings over the rise of Newt Gingrich in the Republican primaries. He is even being accused of trolling for a job in a Romney administration. No way!!!! Really???? What else can possibly explain a piece like the one Abrams penned on a day when Gingrich was being of a mysterious sudden targeted in one hit piece after another for his ties to Reagan?
Jeff repeated the accusation in a subsequent post. That is why I was already so angry when he further took up the cudgel in much the same way against Jennifer Rubin.
I could go on, but I’ll stop. The point is not to rehash every bit of the dispute. THe point is to ask that conservatives stop accusing each other of bad motives, especially without proof, and that we keep it as civil as possible. My first sentence the other day about Jeff came out, unintentionally, as not just a strong dispute, but positively uncivil. I was wrong. That’s why, again, I apologize.
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