Commentary Magazine


The Shallow Musings of Jeffrey Lord

Over the years I’ve been involved in a lot of debates and the subject of a fair amount of attacks. But rarely have the attacks been quite as shallow as the one leveled at me by Jeffrey Lord of the American Spectator.

Let’s start with Lord’s suggestion that he should have titled his reply to my post criticizing Herman Cain and Sarah Palin as the “Wimpy Wussings of Wehner.” Perhaps that’s what qualifies for wit these days at the American Spectator. Mr. Lord’s comment qualifies him as the Oscar Wilde of the second grade.

Then there’s Lord’s claim, laughable to anyone who is familiar with my views, that I am a “collectivist conservative.” I guess I qualify as one of those one-in-a-million “collectivist conservatives” who was critical of Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann for her lukewarm support of free-market reforms for Medicare. As I wrote with Yuval Levin in 2011:

A posture of bold fiscal conservatism is simply not compatible with timid evasions on Medicare reform. The combination may be politically convenient, but it is substantively incoherent. And it’s not just Mrs. Bachmann who has done this—most of the GOP presidential candidates have as well. Virtually every speech they give is laced with promises to tame our deficit and debt, to scale back the size, scope, reach and cost of government. Yet they have little to say when it comes to fixing the fundamental structure of our health entitlements. They want to will the ends but not the means to those ends. And that just won’t do.

I was also a fairly active presence both privately and publicly when it came to urging the GOP House leadership to embrace Representative Paul Ryan’s budget, including his advocacy for premium supports in Medicare. All of which leads me to wonder if Mr. Lord even understands what collectivism actually is.

And then there’s Lord’s anger at my comments about Mr. Cain and Ms. Palin, which he considers to be unfair. But Lord never actually refers to the comments made by Cain and Palin that triggered my criticisms. Perhaps that’s understandable, since Cain declared America is “running full speed down the tracks towards socialism and towards communism” and Palin insisted that the United States is “becoming a totalitarian surveillance state.” 

The comments by Cain and Palin were silly and hyperbolic, for the reasons I laid out in my post; but if Lord wants to defend them, and if he thinks this kind of rhetoric is the way to the political promised land, he should make that case.

Finally there’s Mr. Lord’s logical fallacy, which is (a) Ronald Reagan was routinely criticized by liberals for being an extremist; (b) I criticized Cain and Palin for irresponsible and careless language; so (c) Cain and Palin are Reaganesque figures. The fact that a person is criticized for being an extremist does not automatically make that person Reagan-like, as both Cain and Palin demonstrate on a fairly routine basis.

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