Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Hewitt Hardball

Not Hugh's Finest Hours

Anyone who examines the archives here will find that I have been as staunch a supporter of Hugh Hewitt as of George W. Bush. I listen to Hugh at work and on my drive home, although the show quality from KRLA, Hugh’s home station in Los Angeles, is just awful and San Diego station KCBQ, while farther away, is actually a slight improvement. I have been such a dedicated Hewitt fan since July 10, 2000, when his current radio show debuted, that I have gladly tolerated three hours each weekday of high-pitched static – listening online at work is forbidden – to hear the blogfather of modern conservatism.

For the past eighteen broadcast hours and counting, the whiny, grating sound has been coming from Mr. Hewitt himself – and it was never more painful to hear than when he interviewed erstwhile friend Professor Bainbridge. You can read the transcript at Radio Blogger, the website of Hugh’s producer Generalissimo Duane Patterson. I grimaced throughout their discussion as Hewitt interrupted Bainbridge repeatedly whenever he tried to finish a thought with which Hugh disagreed and talked over his guest. It was the type of interview I usually associate with Chris Matthews.

Since President Bush nominated Harriet Miers, Hugh has expressed little disappointment in the President and his selection but righteous indignation that many long-time conservatives have dared to express their disappointment. Hugh is angry, too, but his anger is directed at the conservative blogosphere and his scapegoat is National Review Online.

Today Hugh attributes to the “anti-Miers crowd” – meaning the fine folks at NRO – “the refusal to entertain any competing fact” on the Miers debate. This is an absurd assertion and Hugh Hewitt, more than anyone in the blogosphere, must know that it is an absurd assertion. The M.O. at NRO is to engage opponents in open, freewheeling discourse, as they did with Hugh on the issue of Arlen Specter's elevation to Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. At that time, Andrew Sullivan injected his grudge against the Cornerites into their civil debate.

In the Miers debate, Hugh has assumed the unlikely role of Andrew Sullivan, picking a fight with NRO. He blames NRO for leading the conservative blogosphere into a mutiny against Bush, implying that the right’s collective disapproval can be so easily manipulated or controlled. Hugh has been trying to control the debate and keep the Bush coalition together, but the only person who can repair the damage Bush has done is Bush.

On the day of the announcement, I heard about Miers’ nomination while listening to the Laura Ingraham show. Laura was mightily discouraged but looking for a reason to be optimistic. Long before I got around to reading The Corner that evening, I learned enough to feel crushingly disappointed.

We read NRO to get not our talking points but a variety of conservative viewpoints from an unruly array of bloggers who never speak with one voice, except perhaps in reverence for William F. Buckley and Ronald Reagan. When they are not debating amongst themselves, the Cornerites are posting dissenting opinions from e-mailers and other media sources.

We have been reading and listening to Hewitt and the few selective sources he cites, hoping to be persuaded by a credible argument in favor of the Miers nomination. We are not persuaded, but it is not entirely Hugh’s fault that his case for Miers is so inconsistent with his case for Roberts – and inconsistent with his case for Luttig or McConnell on the eve of the Miers nomination.

Here's another inconsistency. As a Constitutional Law professor at Chapman University, Hewitt states with authority that Con Law is not all that complicated and Miers can catch up in no time. Tellingly, when the famous Arroyo Toad case involving Hugh's client was argued before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in Rancho Viejo v. Norton, he hired the most knowledgeable, qualified attorney who specialized in constitutional law - those were his words about John Eastman - that he could find. Does that mean Hugh holds a higher standard for his clients than he does for the American people?

Hugh has been generous to all bloggers on the center-right, including me. He has linked to this blog and even read one of my posts on his radio show – which I am sure will never happen again after this kerfuffle. For his kindness I owe him my gratitude and my patience but not my silence when he mischaracterizes me and those who think like me.

When Hugh and like-minded Miers supporters insult NRO, they are insulting all of us who question her nomination. They are insulting me. They are insulting Theresa Kiihn. They are insulting Bunnie Diehl. They are insulting countless conservatives of faith and countless conservative non-believers who agree that fidelity to religion is not a qualification for the Supreme Court and fidelity to originalist judicial philosophy is the best qualification for the Supreme Court.

Conservatives who oppose the nomination of Miers are tolerant of disagreement within our movement. However, none of us is masochistic enough to stand for insults and bullying. In response to Hugh's insults, Jonah Goldberg calls Hugh's argument "cheap." And now that Sullivan has insulted Hewitt once too often, Hugh calls him “the Ronnie Earle of the blogosphere.” All this proves is that, when pushed, we all tend to push back.

The conservative movement is strong enough to survive this debate, hopefully with Hugh's good name intact, but a shakeup in leadership is taking place. Anyone who deliberately alienates such a substantial segment of the base over the Miers mess may find himself marginalized.

According to Bunnie Diehl, who attended the 50th birthday tribute last week to the magazine that Buckley founded, “Rich Lowry told the crowd that he could reveal that Chief Justice John Roberts was a long-time subscriber." If that insight reassures you that Roberts is more conservative than his Senate Judiciary Committee testimony suggests, that is because National Review – online and NRODT – has been and will continue to be the gold standard for conservative credentials.

1 comment:

Terrance said...

What exactly are the "insults" to NRO? Hugh's statement on ". . . the refusal to entertain any competing fact"? How does that compare with Jonah Goldberg calling Hugh's argument "cheap"? Which you excuse by saying a guy can only take so much. So, it's okay to insult if you feel you have been insulted.

If Hugh's comments and those of like-minded conservatives have insulted everyone with arguments against the nominee (including yourself), does that mean that Jonah and all his like-minded conservatives (including you) have insulted all the conservatives who have said a word in support of the President's nominee (not to mention the President himself)? If we go by your logic, there are not many people who have not been insulted, are there?

I didn't hear the Bainbridge interview, but did hear interviews with John Podhoretz,John Fund and David Frum. There was a lot of open space for them to express their opinions. One interview does not a style make. Maybe you are overstating the problem?

I myself, who go back with NR to the grand days of "Nee-nee-naa-naa-goo-goo" and the National Committee to Horsewhip Drew Pearson, think the NRO tone on this leaves much to be desired.

I appreciate good argument and humor and have found too little of either lately. I think maybe conservatives have forgotten how to argue. A review of 1960's and 70's NR may help to correct that.