Well, of course they’re going to smack me.
The other day I looked into a post at National Review on Newt Gingrich by the estimable Elliot Abrams.
In short, after reading the Gingrich Special Order cited by Abrams I found his post to be grossly misleading. And reporting what I found, so too did others who took a look at the same Special Order from start to finish. Mark Levin read it and agreed completely. He’s a Santorum fan… but he was incensed at the misrepresentation of Newt’s ties to the Reagan-era. He was there in the day, as was I. I heard from others as well, and not all Newt Gingrich people. Yes, Rush was so amazed he read a good bit of the piece on air, doubtless adding to the heat. Sean Hannity discussed, Mr. Levin was furious — and Mr. Hannity was more than kind to go on the Levin show moments before his own TV show to defend me. A personal and public thanks to all of them for not shying away from the issue and giving the piece and the news therein attention.
Doubtless Elliott Abrams, whom I in fact genuinely like and respect, is not thrilled. I’m sorry about that. But, as is now evident from people like Ed Rollins (who was there), Mrs. Reagan, and Michael Reagan — those best in a position to know totally disagree with the picture the Abrams post tried to present.
My point here, though, is to answer Rich Lowry, who posted “Jeffrey Lord’s Distortion” in response to all the heat. And to answer Jennifer Rubin, who cited me not to the good in her Washington Post column, “Gingrich: The Most Persecuted Man in America?”
First, let’s rebut the key points.
• Lowry says: ” Jeffrey Lord manages a two-fer in this piece: he slyly smears Elliott Abrams for allegedly prostituting himself for a job in a Romney administration on the basis of no evidence whatsoever.”
Response: Well aside from the fact that I had just had that suggested to me after the column posted — by someone who knows Elliott Abrams — Rich seems charmingly unaware of how this particular Washington game is played. Now and, doubtless, probably all the way back to George Washington’s first administration. It works like this.
X, who desires a role in a presumed/possible administration of presidential Candidate Y, needs to jockey a bit on the perpetually crowded race track that is teeming with Washington job seekers. How to do this? If Outside the Beltway, there are obvious ways — campaign contributions, volunteering for the campaign, etc. etc. But Inside the Beltway? What to do?
The time tested answer is to take to the pages of some venerable publication with a thumb-sucker opining on issue Z — positioned just so — to get Candidate Y’s attention, either directly or at least through a staff member. There is nothing either immoral or wrong here — it’s a decidedly well within the norm done-all-the-time kind of thing. In this case, of note, back on October 6, 2011 the Romney campaign announced their man’s foreign policy team. Whose name was not listed? Correct: Elliott Abrams’. It is entirely possible Mr. Abrams is sick of government and is done. Or maybe not. In my opinion, the most grievous result of his treatment by liberals and their special prosecutor enthusiasms (which distinctly waned after this weapon was turned on their own Bill Clinton) is that Abrams was on track to someday be Secretary of State. He was, in my humble opinion, deeply wronged. But he has fought back… serving with distinction in the Bush 43 era. Bravo! That’s great. The only point here is that his post simply was not accurate as all manner of Reaganites other than myself quickly verified. Was he writing to say, “Hey…Romney…I’m over here”? If so, no sin. But the piece itself well fits the oldest profile in the world of Washington job seeking. Elliott Abrams is the ultimate Washington veteran. He knows this game well, he can play it with the best. Rich Lowry may not have recognized the meaning of the Abrams piece, but one has to believe Elliott Abrams knew exactly what he was doing in a piece that could only be seen as an attempt to curry favor with front-running Team Romney.
• Lowry says: “But as Elliott said in his piece, this speech was an attack on the Reagan administration, at a time when it was involved in a brawl with Democrats over Latin America policy.”
Response: Again, those of us who spent 24/7 looking after President Reagan’s political welfare never saw Newt Gingrich in this light — ever. Ed Rollins, The Boss in this regard, says this quite plainly. What was true of Newt in 1986 — taking issue with the President over this or that — was in fact true with all manner of conservatives quite aside from Newt. William F. Buckley thought Reagan was caving to the Soviets because he hosted Warren Beatty for a White House showing of Reds, Beatty’s Oscar-winning tribute to American John Reed and the Communist Revolution. Richard Viguerie and the late Paul Weyrich for a time quite openly pondered the thought Reagan was a failure as a conservative. George Shultz wanted to quit. Al Haig was finally fired after he threatened to quit so many times. Jack Kemp got into it with Reagan over TEFRA, with Reagan, at that point mistakenly taken-in by Bob Dole’s Establishment mentality on Democrat budget promises, telling Kemp bluntly he was “unreasonable.” Kemp left the White House, returned to Capitol Hill and promptly and quite publicly ginned up GOP House members to oppose Reagan and Dole. Jack Kemp disloyal to Ronald Reagan? Never. Ever.
On and on and on this kind of thing went. It’s hard, I guess, for Rich to get the deal here as he wasn’t there. But this kind of thing from our own side was every day and normal. Dan Riehl makes the point that Rich Lowry was 12 in 1980 when Reagan was elected, which makes him 18 in 1986 when this kerfuffle about Newt was ongoing. Not so with Elliott, very much a player. But for whatever reason, Elliott went out there and, as per Mrs. Reagan herself, Mike Reagan and Ed Rollins…not to mention people like Mark Levin and myself…he is just flat wrong as to how the rest of us saw Newt Gingrich.
Last but not least, Jennifer Rubin. Ms. Rubin…she too nowhere in sight in 1986…is a devoted Establishment Romneyite. The Washington Post‘s designated conservative. Good for her.
• Rubin says: “Gingrich’s defenders are as careless with the truth as he is. Rich Lowry eviscerates one such attempt to smear a Gingrich critic:” Then she quotes Lowry as above, I being the “defender” who is “careless with the truth” about a “Gingrich critic” — meaning Elliott Abrams.
Response: I’ve answered Lowry, which answers Rubin on this. And Rubin herself has, not surprisingly, exposed her own vulnerabilities in becoming the officially designated conservative spokesperson as designated by The Washington Post. Something the inimitable Mark Levin discusses here. She manages in her column to seemingly cheer for Lowry without managing any effort whatsoever to examine in any serious fashion what he said. An attempt, as it were, to sniff the Establishment sniff at a topic not deigned worthy of discussion. By the Establishment.
There is one thing I would add about Ms. Rubin. To say that I was “careless with the truth” and that I smeared “a Gingrich critic” — implies that the person making the charge is open with the grounds for her criticism. That would be, in this case, Jennifer Rubin herself. But there was something missing from Rubin’s column, an interesting something well beside her standard defense of Establishment favorite Romney.
Notice that Rubin does not use Elliott Abrams’ name in her column. She refers to him simply as a “Gingrich critic.” Curious, no? Not unlike criticizing the Obama Administration without mentioning the name “Obama.” Why would Jennifer Rubin do such a curious thing?
Yes, I believe there is a reason.
A while back there was one of those eternally ongoing media kerfuffles when Rubin, in her post at the Post, re-tweeted a hotly controversial tweet from a blogger. The subject was the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held hostage for five years by Hamas. Critics jumped all over the blogger in a dispute not relevant here. Then they jumped all over Rubin and the Washington Post for printing the tweet. The identity of that blogger may well be directly relevant to Rubin’s going after me. Why?
The name of the blogger in question who caused such outrage out there was…Rachel Abrams. That’s right. As in Mrs. Elliott Abrams. In the course of this dust-up over Ms. Abrams and Rubin’s re-tweeting of Abrams’ views, the Washington Post itself received the predictable left-wing furies. Which in turn had the Post‘s Ombudsman, Patrick Pexton, answering for the paper. Deep in his reply, he reported:
Rubin said that she admires Abrams, has quoted her a lot, thinks she’s an excellent writer and endorsed the sentiment behind the Abrams blog post.
Hmmm. There’s something else. Ms. Rubin came to the Post from Commentary, edited by the great John Podhoretz. A decided fan of Ms. Rubin’s, John wrote this nice tribute to Rubin when she departed.
The something else? John’s half-sister is….Rachel Abrams. All of which — the Rubin re-tweeting Abrams controversy, the Rubin stint at Commentary run by Rachel Abrams’ half-brother, the warm feeling from John about Rubin and Rubin’s admiration for Rachel hints at… gasp… actual friendship between Rubin and Rachel Abrams. If not a tie to Elliott Abrams himself.
Is there anything wrong here? No. Life is short. And if Ms. Rubin is great friends with Mrs. Elliott Abrams or Elliott Abrams himself, God Bless.
The point is a simple one. There is that little slug line that reads something like this: “(Full disclosure….)” In this case, perhaps it should have read, “(Full Disclosure: the subject of this controversy is the husband of my friend Rachel Abrams.)” Or whatever. But for Ms. Rubin to be taking offense under the guise of Romneyism about a column involving Elliott Abrams — without letting readers know precisely what her relationship is with Rachel Abrams, or even Elliott Abrams himself is, well…Jennifer Rubin said it best:
Being “careless with the truth.”
Last but importantly not least.
Conservatives are fractious — this is part of what gives the conservative movement its intellectual and political energy, and what made the Reagan administration so historic.
Make no mistake. We wish Mr. Lowry and National Review well. Ditto Ms. Rubin. And certainly Elliott Abrams. And also Rachel Abrams….who years ago captured my heart when she wrote a priceless reply to the Clintons as Washington witnessed an epic case of people being hoist on their own petard — a special prosecutor.
But neither Lowry or Rubin — nor I — should shimmy in matters of this sort. Being thin-skinned in the conservative cause is never advisable. It dulls the intellectual blade. So in this corner, having others smack at me is just part of the job. Smack away. I understand and relish the debate and can read the stitches on a fastball. But accuracy — the facts — are important.
Hence, our disagreement on Newt Gingrich and Ronald Reagan.
That’s all, folks.