To the Editor:
In the ideological warfare of our time, there has emerged the interesting phenomenon of the “phony Center,” whereby liberals try to seize exclusive possession of the “responsible” middle ground located between the “extremes” of both Left and Right; thus—to mention just one well-known instance—Robert Hughes of Time adopted conservative arguments against multiculturalism while energetically vilifying the very conservatives from whom he derived those arguments. The motive for this tactic is obvious: to criticize the Left while avoiding any damning link with the Right. The phony centrist can thus sit back, let the Right fight the battle and take the casualties, then move in and claim credit for the Right’s ideas and accomplishments while consigning the Right to the fever swamps. It is, to put it mildly, an intellectually dishonest thing to do.
But now COMMENTARY, which itself has eloquently dissected the “phony Center” (see Carol Iannone’s “PC with a Human Face,” April 1993), seems to be making out a phony Center of its own. In “Threats to U.S. Sovereignty” [March], Jeremy Rabkin says that Patrick J. Buchanan, who has attacked the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as a threat to national sovereignty, is a “demagogue” engaging in “overheated” and “hypocritical” rhetoric. But having dismissed Buchanan, Mr. Rabkin then turns around and criticizes NAFTA for the same reasons as Buchanan! It seems that when Buchanan is worried about the loss of U.S. sovereignty, that is very bad, but when a writer for COMMENTARY expresses the exact same concerns (several months after the historic anti-NAFTA battle has already been lost), well, that is very good. The “no-friends-to-the-Right” syndrome, and the resulting construction of a phony Center from which to attack both Left and Right (in this instance the Left being the globalists and the Right being the nationalists), apparently afflicts neoconservatives as much as it does liberals. . . .
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