Over at NRO, Ramesh Ponnuru (gently) takes me to task:
Peter Wehner writes, “So the notion that Rove has suddenly become an ‘establishment Republican’ and a traitor to the conservative cause simply isn’t plausible. It is, in fact, risible.” I think Wehner would be better off challenging the notion that to be part of the Republican establishment is to be a traitor to the conservative cause. For if Rove isn’t part of the Republican establishment then the term has no meaning. The truth is that conservatism needs a political party to house it; parties need establishments; and establishments have characteristic vices. Conservatism should want an intelligent and conservative party establishment, not disestablishment.
Two points in response: Ramesh (whose work I generally admire and agree with) seems to have overlooked the crucial word “and” — as in, “’establishment Republican’ and traitor to the conservative cause.” What I wrote is true and the charges against Rove are risible.
Second, I placed quote marks around the phrase establishment Republican. I did so intentionally, since those words have a particular (negative) meaning to Rove’s critics; not to me. I thought that this was all clear enough, just as I thought it would be obvious that I believe that conservatism needs an intelligent and conservative party establishment. But if it wasn’t, let me state it now, for the record: I am not and never have been for a conservative party disestablishment.