Thursday, October 30, 2008
The House of Conservatism
Anne Applebuam, columnist for the Washington Post, published a piece yesterday endorsing Barack Obama over John McCain.
The piece has triggered some criticism, including this from yesterday's Media Blog at NRO, by deputy managing editor Kevin Williamson:
There are all sorts of good reasons to not vote for McCain — e.g., if you prefer Obama's policies — but this bit from Applebaum is shabby nonsense. And I find it difficult to believe for a moment that this was some sort of wrenching, soul-searching exercise for the one DC-born/Sidwell Friends-and-Yale-alumnus/Europe-dwelling member of the Washington Post editorial board who was seriously thinking about going Republican this year. Spare us the opera; you're an Obama voter. Big deal.
Williamson omitted one item from Anne's appallingly elitist biography. As well as graduating from Yale, as well as living in Europe, and as well as writing for the Washington Post, Anne Applebaum is the author of the definitive history of the Soviet Gulag. Anne's history won a Pulitzer Prize in 2004, and has been acclaimed by (among others), Richard Pipes (ex of Ronald Reagan's National Security Council) and Robert Conquest (who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2005). Anne's politics are more centrist than center-right, but she was a vocal and important supporter of Margaret Thatcher during her years living in the United Kingdom. In the 1980s, she lived in Poland and reported sympathetically and at some personal risk on the Solidarity anticommunist resistance movement. I've known Anne for almost a quarter-century, and if Anne did not cast her first presidential ballot for Ronald Reagan, I would be very greatly surprised
Nor was Williamson alone. Here is what NR Senior Editor Ramesh Ponnuru had to say in the Corner:
Max Boot writes, “There have been a number of absurd reasons given recently by self-described conservatives who are endorsing the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate in his bid for the presidency, but none are quite as unconvincing as Anne Applebaum’s.” Her effort did seem oddly perfunctory—Mickey Kaus makes sound criticisms of it—but I think Boot is overstating the case. I can think of a few Obamacons who edge out Applebaum in the most-unconvincing category. My sense is that Francis Fukuyama has been the most honorable and serious of the Obamacons (although it would probably be more precise to call him an Obama-neocon).
Ramesh refrained from Williamson's overt abusiveness, but he did leave behind the insinuating implication that Anne had somehow behaved less than honorably and less than seriously in writing as she did.
Notice something about the two NR writers, as compared for example to the cited Max Boot. Max Boot's post in Commentary's blog made very clear that it was Anne Applebaum's argument he found wanting. And Max found room to mention and salute Anne's great work. NR's two contributors by contrast criticized Anne's personal honor, integrity, and sincerity. (Kevin's piece was headlined, "It's Hard to Believe Anne Applebaum.")
Anne is my friend, and of course it angers me when my friends are criticized. But this is not personal. How small has the house of conservatism shrunk when it can find no room for Anne Applebaum? What has happened at NR when this generation's greatest living expert on the crimes of communism can be dismissed as an unserious and dishonorable person?
10/30 07:09 AM