NY Times Suggests Modern Conservative Movement Lacks Intellectual Sophistication, Willingness to Compromise Principles

April 28th, 2010 4:39 PM

So what happens when you put the likes of David Frum, Bruce Bartlett and now apparently Jim Manzi - pseudo-conservatives with a penchant for criticizing Republicans and other conservatives all in the same place?

You have the makings of a New York Times hit piece on conservatism. In the April 27 issue of the Times, a story in its Style section of all places by Patricia Cohen, singled out and accused a number of conservatives of "closed-mindedness" or as the article claimed "epistemic closure."

"It is hard to believe that a phrase as dry as ‘epistemic closure' could get anyone excited, but the term has sparked a heated argument among conservatives in recent weeks about their movement's intellectual health," Cohen wrote. "The phrase is being used as shorthand by some prominent conservatives for a kind of closed-mindedness in the movement, a development they see as debasing modern conservatism's proud intellectual history."

Cohen cited Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute, a libertarian, who attacked Fox News, National Review, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and Glenn Beck by saying they have "become worryingly untethered from reality as the impetus to satisfy the demand for red meat overtakes any motivation to report accurately."

And Cohen backed up Sanchez's premise by referring to the backlash Jim Manzi received after he recently lashed at Mark Levin for his book "Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto," referring to as "awful" in an April 21 National Review Online post. Cohen also identified Frum and Bartlett's seeming fall from grace among conservatives as well:

David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, argued at frumforum.com on Friday that the problem was not media celebrities, but rather conservative intellectuals.

"They're the ones who are supposed to uphold intellectual standards, to sift actual facts from what you call ‘pretend information,' " he wrote, quoting a friend. "Rush Limbaugh isn't any worse than he was 20 years ago. But 20 years ago, conservatism offered something more than Rush Limbaugh. Since then, the conservative elite has collapsed. Blame them, not talk radio."

However, R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., author of "After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery" and the founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator, who is an expert on this matter explained "sniping" at conservatives has been how pseudo-conservatives like Frum and Bartlett have been able to gain acceptance in liberal circles.

"What do my eyes behold?" Tyrrell said to NewsBusters on April 28. "I write in my new book that opportunistic pundits make their way in liberal media by claiming to be conservative while they snipe at conservatives. Here The New York Times has featured David Frum - one of my specimens - in its pages.  And for what? Sniping at conservatives. If he keeps this up, he'll be editor of their Style page."

Cohen followed that attack on the modern conservative movement up with another that suggested conservative leaders lack intellectual - from no other than Bruce Bartlett who used his prominence to attack the Bush administration:

Mr. Bartlett, who lost his job at the National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative research institute, after accusing George W. Bush of betraying the Reagan legacy, said in an interview: "Every intellectual movement needs to constantly question itself; otherwise it becomes stale. But conservatives have sort of reached a position of intellectual closure. They don't think there are any new ideas of particular interest to them. Their philosophy is fully formed. The only question is how best to implement conservative ideas in the political debate."