(Roughly) Daily

Special Edition: Exquisite Ironies…

In it’s entirety, a blog post from The New Yorker’s Hendrk Hertzberg:

Hart in Right Place
Hendrik Hertzberg

In the fall of 1980, I debated the issues of the day with Jeffrey Hart at Rockland Community College in Suffern, New York, a mile or two from the house I grew up in. I was the surrogate for my then boss, President Jimmy Carter. Hart was the surrogate for his old friend, conservative-movement comrade, and speechwriting customer, Ronald Reagan.

Hart bested me that day, as his candidate was to best mine a month or so later. But he did it—to use a favorite word of his editor and colleague at National Review, Wm. F. Buckley, Jr.—cordially. He did not humiliate me more than was necessary, for which I remain grateful. Although he looked like a stereotypical liberal academic of the 1950s (bow tie, sweater vest, leather elbow patches, pipe and matches), there was nothing noticeably liberal about the ideological and political content of what he was saying.

Hart has been an important paternal presence in conservative circles for half a century. Now 78, he is a professor emeritus at Dartmouth. The Dartmouth Review, the first and hardiest of the “underground” conservative student papers, held its earliest editorial meetings in his living room. He mentored several future stars of conservative opinion-mongering, including Dinesh D’Souza, Gregory Fossedal, and Laura Ingraham.

Hart is a Burkean. His disenchantment with the anti-intellectual, Christianist, and imperial-triumphalist strains of the conservative movement has been growing for some time. This year he is an Obamacon. Thus, for the moment, we find ourselves on the same side, albeit for different (though sometimes overlapping) reasons.

Here’s Hart in today’s Daily Beast:

Republican President George W. Bush has not been a conservative at all, either in domestic policy or in foreign policy. He invaded Iraq on the basis of abstract theory, the very thing Burke warned against. Bush aimed to turn Iraq into a democracy, “a beacon of liberty in the Middle East,” as he explained in a radio address in April 2006.

I do not recall any “conservative” publication mentioning those now memorable words “Sunni,” “Shia,” or “Kurds.” Burke would have been appalled at the blindness to history and to social facts that characterized the writing of those so-called conservatives.

Obama did understand. In his now famous 2002 speech, while he was still a state senator in Illinois, he said: “I know that a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, of undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without international support will fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than the best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al Qaeda. I’m not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.”

Burke would have agreed entirely, and admired the cogency of so few words. And one thing I know is that both Nixon and Reagan would have agreed. Both were prudential and successful conservatives. But all the organs of the conservative movement followed Bush over the cliff—as did John McCain.

Hart concludes his essay with some observations on embryonic stem-cell research, to which, as he notes, “the conservative movement publications, following Bush, have been fiercely opposed.”

Such opposition required a belief that a cluster of cells (the embryo) the size of the period at the end of this sentence is as important (more important?) than a seriously ill human being.

I myself cannot fathom such a mentality…

Recently, Harvard announced a program that will be part of a multi-billion dollar science center to be established south of the Charles River, and will be able to supply stem cells to other laboratories. I call that Pro-Life.

This analysis could be extended, but it seems clear to me that Obama is the conservative in the 2008 election.

The astonishing thing is that Obama is also the liberal in the 2008 election.

The truth is that Obama is the only candidate in the 2008 election who thinks seriously enough and analytically enough to be considered either a conservative or a liberal.

As for Hart, he’s not opposed to all conservatives. He’s opposed to dumb conservatives. Substituting “liberals” for “conservatives,” I concur. Perhaps this could be the basis for an Unpopular Front.

Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 2, 2008 at 5:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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