Why Would a Guy Who Forecast 'Death of Conservatism' Be Time's Designated 'Expert on the Right'?

February 11th, 2012 8:03 AM

Time magazine decided to publish a symposium on "What Is a Conservative?" in its February 13 edition employing "voices of -- and experts on -- the right," including Erick Erickson, Rich Lowry, Ramesh Ponnuru, Ann Coulter, Grover Norquist, Pete Wehner, and libertarian Nick Gillespie. The obvious non-conservative "expert" in this group is Sam Tanenhaus, editor of the New York Times Book Review. Time failed to explain that this very puzzling inclusion is the man who just wrote a book in 2009 forecasting "The Death of Conservatism," which in intellectual history is about as embarrassing as Geraldo Rivera standing in front of Al Capone's alleged vault.

Tanenhaus naturally lectured that "Every ambitious Republican President since Abraham Lincoln" understood that calling for smaller government is meaningless.

He began by quoting Harry Jaffa, touted as the writer of Barry Goldwater's "incendiary" acceptance speech at the 1964 GOP convention. "Calling for smaller government is essentially a meaningless idea, because what we need is not larger or smaller government but government that does the job it's supposed to do."

Tanenhaus doesn't square this with the author of "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice." He was lecturing the Tea Party:

Every ambitious Republican President since Abraham Lincoln understood this, whether it was Theodore Roosevelt reining in the trusts, Dwight Eisenhower muscling through the interstate highway system or Richard Nixon, who began his first term in 1969 with a plan " not to dismantle the Gret Society but to try and do it better," to quote Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the Democrat whom Nixon recruited to lead his anti-poverty program.

Nixon knew that Americans, much though they professed to dislike Big Government, still expected it to solve themost pressing social problems. Long ago, the archconservative Robert Taft, "Mr. Republican," famous for battling the New Deal, spoke not of undoing government but of achieving "sound government." He pushed for federally subsidized low-income housing and the promise of "reasonable material standards of living."

This was also the premise of the silly Tanenhaus "Death of Conservatism" book, that conservatism's goal should be to consolidate liberal statism when liberals lose elections. Tanenhaus proclaimed today's conservative movement was like "the exhumed figures of Pompeii, trapped in postures of frozen flight, clenched in the rigor mortis of a defunct ideology."

How on Earth would that make Time think he's an "expert on" conservatism? Clearly, they're all engaged in some very un-factual wishful thinking.