March 04, 2009
Last week, while CPAC was winding down its annual conference, one of its stellar speakers, Jonathan Krohn, was honored with an interview on FOX news. This much-touted interviewee, who is now being compared to Joe the Plumber, is only 14 years old, and he bears a striking resemblance to my 13 year-old grandson Joshua. For about a moment, my wife thought my diminutive grandson had just come onto the screen when Jonathan appeared on FOX news, a mistake that was entirely understandable, given the soft, tentative voice in which both of these young people speak. Moreover, Jonathan’s family name stuck in my mind for a very good reason. As a young adult I had suffered from a debilitating intestinal ailment Krohns Disease, from the ravages of which (thank God!) I eventually recovered. It might well have been a relative of the tiny adolescent addressing CPAC who first diagnosed the illness that afflicted me thirty years ago.
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What Jonathan had to say on TV, and what he had stressed in his earlier speech, which Richard Spencer has dealt with magnificently, was how heavenly it is to be a “conservative.” That is because “conservatives,” as exemplified by such moral titans as Rush Limbaugh and Mitt Romney, stand for “principles and not politics.” It seems that Jonathan was sick of “those who only care about politics” and that’s why he became what he now proudly calls himself, a real-live “conservative.” That’s also why Jonathan was so ecstatic about speaking to CPAC, whose members, he thought, were as pure as the driven snow.
Clearly Jonathan has never read my book on American conservatism; nor is there any reason to believe that CPAC and its affiliated organizations would ever want to distribute it. What I document there ad nauseam is the utter moral bankruptcy of the establishment American Right, evidenced by the fact that it has changed its values and heroes with greater indifference to consistency than the Soviet Union under Stalin. It has also engaged in Soviet-like vilifications against those who have failed to move with its changing “permanent values.”
Not to put too fine a point on it, radio loudmouth Rush Limbaugh is a predictable shill for the GOP, and someone whose fame and fortune hinge on his capacity to manage the Dittoheads and to get them on board for anyone whom the Republicans nominate for high office. By the way, I was puzzled by how Rush in his “national address” at CPAC referred to the U.S. as “the greatest country on this planet” and to our population as “the greatest people ever” but then turned around on a dime and attacked our president as demonic and our country as going to hell in a hand-basket. Unless Rush knows something I don”t, the world’s “greatest people” voted for the joker now in the White House, and the country that Rush praised in one run-on sentence was depicted as a total wreck two sentences later. As for Jonathan’s praise of “conservative” principle, there was one litmus test obviously at work at the CPAC gathering. With the exception of Ron Paul, the speakers were all four-square in favor of liberal internationalism of the kind pushed by the neocons and exemplified by the war of choice that W launched against Iraq.
The “movement” esteemed by Jonathan is already on board for the next neocon adventure, a preemptive attack on Iran to promote global democracy, help preserve Israeli democracy, combat Islamofascism or any combination of the above justifications for aggression. Jonathan’s preferred presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, was on the social left, in favor of gay marriage, amnesty for illegals, and liberal abortion laws, until he underwent a sea change, just in time for the 2008 presidential primaries. My friend John Haskins has collected evidence going through the ceiling underscoring the extent of Romney’s rank opportunism. If there are principled members of the Right, it is hard to find any link between this rare species and CPAC. And if one is looking for people of principle, Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, and Henry Waxman come more readily to mind than the collected tools of the GOP and the neoconservative power brokers in New York and Washington.
What struck me as much as what Jonathan said is that he himself exemplifies the growing infantilization of the movement he identifies with It is not enough that onetime literate and informative magazines like National Review and Commentary have been put into the hands of those who often sound prepubescent. One thinks here about the shocking train of events that have allowed magazines that once featured Elie Kedourie, Russell Kirk, James Burnham, and the best of Bill Buckley to become the special preserves of perpetually adolescent talents, producing endless blah-blah about wars to expand the empire of democracy or celebrating the opportunely discovered “conservative” virtues of Martin Luther King, Harry Truman, and other onetime American conservative villains. A movement that has become intellectually pubescent as well as unprincipled now features the very young as guarantors of what it possesses least of all, to wit, principles.
Needless to say, the conservative movement has interests albeit not principles, and a short list of these interests would include the Council on Foreign Relations, AIPAC, Australian press magnate Rupert Murdoch, that part of big business that has not yet defected to the Democrats, and remaining on very good terms with the New York liberal establishment. Perhaps Jonathan will notice this fact before his 15th birthday. It took me thirty years to wake up to the truth about American “conservatism,” but Jonathan (who pace Richard looks much better than the young Frum) may be a faster learner.