Conservatives jumping ship

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 4, 2009 9:57 AM

The raging debate over who should lead the Republican Party isn't the only passionate argument on the right.

While partisans argue about the relative virtues of Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, columnists, writers and bloggers have been slugging it out about the future of conservatism.

Such exchanges aren't unusual when one side's party is out of power, especially given the degree to which the GOP controls none of the levers of power these days except ye olde filibuster threat. Lefties argued over the future of liberalism for what seemed like a zillion years while the Democrats wandered in the wilderness, and afterward as well.

The split on the right first became apparent during the Bush years, especially in the second term, when some of those devoted to limited government were appalled by the burgeoning spending and some who had backed the Iraq invasion were disgusted by its bungling.

The divide deepened during last year's campaign when some of the right's most prominent writers and talkers revolted over John McCain's choice of Palin. A few intellectuals such as Christopher Buckley even announced they were voting for Barack Obama.

The dawn of the Obama era might have erased some of these fissures, but the arguments, at least in some quarters, seem to be getting louder. What might seem like a writerly squabble is, to some, a battle for the soul of a movement.

Andrew Sullivan, former New Republic editor, former Time and Washington Post columnist, now with the Atlantic, came to prominence a decade ago as one of the earliest conservative bloggers. But by 2008 he was an unabashed supporter of Obama. He addresses his evolution, and that of the GOP:

"There has to come a point at which a movement or party so abandons core principles or degenerates into such a rhetorical septic system that you have to take a stand. It seems to me that now is a critical time for more people whose principles lie broadly on the center-right to do so -- against the conservative degeneracy in front of us. Those who have taken such a stand -- to one degree or other -- demand respect. And this blog, while maintaining its resistance to cliquishness, has been glad to link to writers as varied as Bruce Bartlett or David Frum or David Brooks or Steve Chapman or Kathleen Parker or Conor Friedersdorf or Jim Manzi or Jeffrey Hart or Daniel Larison who have broken ranks in some way or other.

"I can't claim the same courage as these folks because I've always been fickle in partisan terms. To have supported Reagan and Bush and Clinton and Dole and Bush and Kerry and Obama suggests I never had a party to quit. I think that may be because I wasn't born here. I have no deep loyalty to either American party in my bones or family or background, and admire presidents from both parties. My partisanship remains solely British -- I'm a loyal Tory. . . .

"For these reasons, I found it intolerable after 2003 to support the movement that goes by the name 'conservative' in America. I still do, even though I am much more of a limited government type than almost any Democrat and cannot bring myself to call myself a liberal (because I'm not). . .

"I cannot support a movement that so abandoned government's minimal and vital role to police markets and address natural disasters that it gave us Katrina and the financial meltdown of 2008.

"I cannot support a movement that holds torture as a core value.

"I cannot support a movement that holds that purely religious doctrine should govern civil political decisions and that uses the sacredness of religious faith for the pursuit of worldly power.

"I cannot support a movement that is deeply homophobic, cynically deploys fear of homosexuals to win votes, and gives off such a racist vibe that its share of the minority vote remains pitiful. . . .

"I cannot support a movement that would back a vice-presidential candidate manifestly unqualified and duplicitous because of identity politics and electoral cynicism.

"I cannot support a movement that regards gay people as threats to their own families.

"I cannot support a movement that does not accept evolution as a fact.

"I cannot support a movement that sees climate change as a hoax and offers domestic oil exploration as the core plank of an energy policy.

"I cannot support a movement that refuses ever to raise taxes, while proposing no meaningful reductions in government spending.

"I cannot support a movement that refuses to distance itself from a demagogue like Rush Limbaugh or a nutjob like Glenn Beck."

I'd say he made his point, wouldn't you?

Sullivan was inspired by Charles Johnson, also an early conservative blogger with his site Little Green Footballs. He also announces his political divorce, citing:

"Support for bigotry, hatred, and white supremacism (see: Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Robert Stacy McCain, Lew Rockwell, etc.)

"Support for throwing women back into the Dark Ages, and general religious fanaticism (see: Operation Rescue, anti-abortion groups, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins, the entire religious right, etc.)

"Support for anti-science bad craziness (see: creationism, climate change denialism, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, James Inhofe, etc.)

"Support for homophobic bigotry (see: Sarah Palin, Dobson, the entire religious right, etc.)

"Support for anti-government lunacy (see: tea parties, militias, Fox News, Glenn Beck, etc.)

"Support for conspiracy theories and hate speech (see: Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Birthers, creationists, climate deniers, etc.)

"A right-wing blogosphere that is almost universally dominated by raging hate speech (see: Hot Air, Free Republic, Ace of Spades, etc.)"

By an interesting coincidence, some left-wingers are also disillusioned with their guy. Take the case of sixties liberal Tom Hayden, writing in the Nation:

"It's time to strip the Obama sticker off my car.

"Obama's escalation in Afghanistan is the last in a string of disappointments. His flip-flopping acceptance of the military coup in Honduras has squandered the trust of Latin America. His Wall Street bailout leaves the poor, the unemployed, minorities and college students on their own. And now comes the Afghanistan-Pakistan decision to escalate the stalemate, which risks his domestic agenda, his Democratic base, and possibly even his presidency.

"The expediency of his decision was transparent. Satisfy the generals by sending 30,000 more troops. Satisfy the public and peace movement with a timeline for beginning withdrawals of those same troops, with no timeline for completing a withdrawal."

In Salon, Alex Koppelman says the president hasn't really changed:

"It's one thing for liberals who've supported Obama to disagree with and criticize him over Afghanistan, for them to have been hoping he'd opt for a different direction. But arguments like the one Hayden's making -- and the one Michael Moore made in his recent open letter to the president -- just end up with those advancing them look foolish. It's like they dreamed up a list of policy positions for Obama, then convinced themselves that they actually were his positions.

"Agree or disagree with Obama's decision, one thing is clear: The course he chose is not, as both Hayden and Moore have implied, some radical shift in his thinking. It's certainly not, as they've also implied, a betrayal of his campaign. Maybe they bought in to the argument from the right that Obama is a super-liberal, but it's just not so -- what he's done now is completely consistent with the position he's always taken on Afghanistan."

Jobs, jobs, jobs

Did Obama get much out of Thursday's jobs summit, especially when, as the NYT reports, he "offered no promise that he could do much to bring unemployment down quickly even as he comes under pressure from his own party to do more"?

"Confronted with concern that his own ambitious agenda and the uncertain climate it has created among employers have slowed hiring, the president defended his policies."

USA Today: "President Obama warned Thursday that some of the nearly 8 million jobs lost during the two-year recession might not return without a series of new government initiatives to jump-start private sector hiring."

It's good that suddenly flush Bank of America can now repay its $45-billion federal bailout. But ordinary folks can be forgiven for asking when some of that is going to trickle down to folks who are out of work?

The New Republic's Jason Zengerle is sick of summitry:

"Barack Obama convened his first official summit before he was even elected president. In October 2008, then-candidate Obama gathered a gaggle of business and political heavyweights -- Paul Volcker, Eric Schmidt, Jennifer Granholm, Bill Richardson, etc. -- in a Florida community college gymnasium for what his campaign billed as the 'Growing American Jobs Summit.'. . . .

"It should hardly have been a surprise, then, that Obama would go a bit summit-crazy once he was actually in the White House. Little more than a month after taking office, he held a "Fiscal Responsibility Summit" where he solicited ideas for battling the deficit; a few weeks after that he hosted a "Health Care Summit" to kick off his drive for health care reform; and later still came the "H1N1 Preparedness Summit" and the "Distracted Driving Summit." Then there were the assortment of international summits (Summit of the Americas, NATO Summit, G-8 Summit, G-20 Summit, ASEAN Summit), head-of-state summits (Karzai, Zardari, Medvedev, Hatoyama, Hu), and, of course, the Beer Summit with Henry Louis Gates and Sergeant James Crowley. . . . Add it all up and that's an astounding amount of gas-baggery in such a relatively short period of time."

Morning George

As I reported online yesterday, ABC has offered George Stephanopoulos the "Good Morning America" job and intensive talks are underway. New details on who may get Chris Cuomo's spot as the news reader now that it looks like he's lost the race to replace Diane Sawyer.

Tiger's troubles

The New York Post says it's a game of moneyball: "Tiger Woods is ready to shell out seven figures to keep a homewrecking mistress quiet -- while a 'renup' of his prenup could cost him tens of millions more, it emerged yesterday.

"New York nightclub hostess Rachel Uchitel was just hours away from dishing about her alleged sexploits with the disgraced golf great when she abruptly clammed up, canceling a midday press conference after reportedly talking to Tiger's reps."

So that's why the presser with Gloria Allred didn't happen?

As for Uchitel's credibility, "Tiger Woods' alleged mistress claims she was lying when she said she did not have an affair with Tiger Woods, and sources tell TMZ the fight at Tiger's home the morning of the crash was triggered by a series of text messages between Tiger and the woman.

"Rachel Uchitel has publicly denied she had sexual relations with Tiger Woods, but we've learned she has said she did indeed have an affair with the golfer. And, we're told it was her -- not Jaimee Grubbs -- who caused an argument between Tiger and his wife, Elin Nordegren, that immediately preceded Tiger's SUV crash."

This woman didn't just deny it; she said it was "the most ridiculous story" and "dumb stuff" and that she'd offered to take a lie-detector test to disprove it.

And then there's the other alleged mistress. Woods sure knows how to pick 'em: "An Escondido woman who claims she had an affair with Tiger Woods has a criminal record, according to court documents obtained by NBC San Diego.

"Jaimee Grubbs was charged with misdemeanor burglary and grand theft in July 2004 after she was accused of shoplifting from the Nordstrom's at Horton Plaza, the records revealed. She was 18 years old."

Meet the new boss

I keep racking my brain for reasons why this isn't a terrible idea: Section editors at the Dallas Morning News now reports to sales managers.

"In short, those who sell ads for A.H. Belo's products will now dictate content within A.H. Belo's products, which is a radical departure from the way newspapers have been run since, oh, forever."

Morning News Editor Bob Mong says in his memo that "this restructure and strategic integration with news, along with the many other strategies we've put into place this year to better serve our clients and consumers, position us for significant growth and stability as we head into the new year."

I get that the travel editor has to know something about the market for travel ads and so on. But journalists reporting to the business side? I'm sorry, it smells.

Plagiarism watch

From the Wall Street Journal: "A Nov. 10 'New Global Indian' online column by New York City freelance writer Mona Sarika has been found to contain information that was plagiarized from several publications, including the Washington Post, Little India, India Today and San Francisco magazine. In the column, 'Homeward Bound,' about H-1B visa holders returning to India, Ms. Sarika also re-used direct quotes from other publications, without attribution, and changed the original speakers' names to individuals who appear to be fabricated."

Have they heard of the Google? Doesn't sound like it has 10 original words.

Missing in action

Andrew Cohen is stepping down as a CBS News legal analyst, and in his final blog post, he takes a big fat whack at what has become a television staple:

"I feel terrible for the families of Laci Peterson and Chandra Levy and Natalie Holloway. I can understand why they ran to Larry King or to Nancy Grace to try to publicize the search for their loved ones or their quest for justice. But every sensationalized, manipulated minute of their stories meant an ignored, unreported minute about the stories of the thousands of other loved ones who went missing or who were found dead during the decade.

"One of the greatest hypocrisies in the current coverage of legal events is the elevation of stories involving telegenic (and typically white) victims or perpetrators of crime over stories involving minorities and the voiceless. I simply refused to join this cynical and arbitrary chorus. You can look it up."

Howard Kurtz also works for CNN and hosts its weekly media program, "Reliable Sources."

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