Shallow, he says of me in Commentary. Interesting comeback, I suppose, until one realizes that before writing “The Shallow Musings of Jeffrey Lord” Pete had penned “Walter Russell Mead’s Shallow and Misleading Attack on the Bush Legacy.” And that is separate and apart from his thoughts on Governor Sarah Palin when he said “she relies instead on shallow talking points.”
I get it. You get it. Pete is apparently deeply into shallow.
Umbrage — pretentious, humorless, umbrage? (relax, Pete! Chill!) — is taken in my response to Wehner’s alliterative title The Reckless Rhetoric of Palin and Cain. Taking this as an apparent effort at rapping or perhaps poetry, I began by asking if my own post should be titled The Wimpy Wussings of Wehner. To which I was compared to “the Oscar Wilde of the second grade.”
Well! Take that, Lord! You clueless, shallow fool! Never get into a rap contest with Wehner!
But humorless pretension aside, or maybe it’s just irritation at being challenged on his ideas, Pete insists: “Then there’s Lord’s claim, laughable to anyone who is familiar with my views, that I am a ‘collectivist conservative.’”
Where would I get such a nutty idea? After all, as Wehner says, he once wrote:“A posture of bold fiscal conservatism is simply not compatible with timid evasions on Medicare reform…”
But alas, unless there’s another Pete Wehner out there, I have to assume it was this same Pete Wehner in this piece where, along with another ex-Bush aide Michael Gerson, the two write:
At the center of any such effort lies a thoroughgoing reform of the federal role in education, focusing on public and private choice, charter schools, testing and accountability, and merit pay for teachers and principals. But a mobility agenda might also include measures to improve job training, encourage college attendance and completion among the poor, discourage teen pregnancy, improve infant and child health, and encourage wealth-building and entrepreneurship.
A thoroughgoing reform of the federal role in education? How about abolishing the Department of Education? Well, no. That is not a Wehner favorite or a Gerson favorite. Nor, in fact, was it a Bush favorite. The Bush/Wehner/Gerson approach — No Child Left Behind — was to expand the federal role in education.
In that very same article there is Pete Wehner presenting one liberal proposition after another as accepted gospel. The GOP is seen as anti-Hispanic! The GOP is seen as anti-science! The GOP is “judgmental and retrograde”! Oh nooooooooooooo! What to do? Well, instead of seeing government as the problem, this Peter Wehner is everywhere insisting on a “limited but active role for government” or that “government shares some responsibility” or going on about “anti-government paranoia.”
This is what Margaret Thatcher called “accommodationist politics” that makes conservatives part of the “socialist ratchet,” to use a phrase of Thatcher colleague Keith Joseph. Liberals in America and Britain constantly want to move America and Britain left toward statism, and moderate Republicans (or Tory wets) like Wehner and Gerson stand pat or say “just a little but no further.” In Goldwater’s phrase this is the “dime store New Deal.” To read Wehner and Gerson is to read the American version about Thatcher’s formulation of Tory wets dealing with the socialist ratchet by loosening the corset, never removing it. Collectivist conservatism, if you will.
And of course, as Wehner never addresses, well aside from the dreadful governmental consequences that inevitably flow from this business, the politics are ghastly. As it happens, much is being made at this moment of President Obama’s approval ratings. Clarus Research has just sent out their latest, which shows the President at 48%. For comparison?
My point, which Wehner either doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to understand, is that Reagan was criticized not just for his views — but just like Sarah Palin and Herman Cain — for his rhetoric. (And, it should be noted, that Palin, like Reagan and Thatcher, has had to endure a boatload of snarky, condescending commentary from people…hmmmm… who quite amusingly have nothing to condescend about. Would-be intellectual or social emperors without clothes, as it were.)