With American troops nearing the precincts of Baghdad, the end of the war in Iraq may be coming fairly soon. In this country the war within the American right shows no signs of a ceasefire whatsoever.
Two weeks after National Review published neo-conservative Likudnik David Frum's attack on "paleo-conservatives" (including me) as "unpatriotic conservatives," an aging senior statesman of the Old Right weighed in—on Mr. Frum's side.
The senior statesman is William Rusher, once the publisher of National Review in the days when it was a real conservative journal, and now a syndicated columnist in semi-retirement in San Francisco. Quite frankly, his column is generally unnoticeable, but this one got attention.
Mr. Rusher quotes Mr. Frum's article extensively and allows him to repeat his charges that paleo-conservatives "hate their country" and are on the side of the enemy in the Iraq war—false charges Mr. Frum entirely fails to substantiate.
Mr. Frum, you see, is incapable of distinguishing between those who opposed the war because it was not in America's interest and those who might oppose it because they're actually on the other side.
Nowhere does Mr. Rusher bother to inform his readers that there have been at least half-a-dozen and probably more full-scale responses to Mr. Frum from the very people he smears—from Robert Novak, Pat Buchanan, Thomas Fleming of Chronicles, historian Paul Gottfried, me, and several others — as well as any number of replies from our supporters. All these are easily available in newspapers or on websites, but sadly, Mr. Rusher isn't honest enough to cite a single one.
He also swallows Mr. Frum's flawed account of the history of paleo-conservatism, repeating his error that the paleos emerged only in 1986. In fact, paleos had been active conservatives for years before that.
He's right that a distinctive paleo-conservative identity emerged only in response to "neo-conservatism," but he gets the reasons for it wrong.
Mr. Rusher would have us think that the paleos objected because "the 'neos' had hijacked the conservative movement to serve an agenda of their own, notably support for Israel." In fact, neo-con support for Israel has never been a major issue among paleos.
The paleos held two objections to the neo-cons. First, they were not reliable conservatives and their "conservatism" applied only to a few issues like the cold war, affirmative action and opposition to the New Left. As Mr. Frum and other neo-cons have long made clear, while the paleos opposed the civil rights movement, mass immigration, and big government in general, the neo-cons favored them.
In 1997, for example, long after the two groups had split, neo-conservative leader Bill Kristol openly endorsed the liberal legacy of the swollen federal leviathan. In an interview [Pay archive] with liberal columnist E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, Mr. Kristol said, "Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy and, for that matter, Lyndon Johnson are big facts in American history. Are we willing to say that the country is worse off because of FDR or JFK or LBJ? I'm not willing to say that."
No, the neos aren't. But the paleos are. And at one time National Review and Bill Rusher were too.
But if paleos raised eyebrows at the arrival of the neo-cons into their ranks for ideological reasons, they worried even more over who started calling the shots.
The neo-cons began demanding that conservatives abandon or dilute many of the issues and principles that defined their identity—opposition to immigration, civil rights, and big government among them. Moreover, they soon acquired the financial clout at various funding organizations to enforce their demands. Conservative institutions that refused to tow the neo-con line were simply defunded, as happened to the Rockford Institute, which publishes Chronicles, the main paleo magazine. Others were threatened; still more were too frightened to resist.
In short, most of those now identified as "paleo-conservatives" at first welcomed the "neo-conservatives," until it became clear they weren't conservatives at all and weren't willing to let us be conservatives either. All this is recounted in several books about the history of the conservative movement—by Paul Gottfried, Thomas Fleming and most recently by Joseph Scotchie, whose "Revolt from the Heartland" tells the story in full. Mr. Frum, of course, cites none of the above. Nor does Mr. Rusher.
Today, the neo-cons have won—at least they've taken over what's left of the "conservative movement" and driven this country into what may be the first of many wars we didn't have to fight. As for the movement, they can have my share of it, along with that of most other paleos—we now have our own movement—but reading Mr. Rusher's simple-minded, inaccurate and one-sided column helps make clear how the neo-cons could bamboozle so many older conservatives so easily.
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[Sam Francis [email him] is a nationally syndicated columnist. A selection of his columns, America Extinguished: Mass Immigration And The Disintegration Of American Culture, is now available from Americans For Immigration Control.]