The snide commentary by Franklin Foer in The New Republic (July 22, 2002) on The American Conservative magazine, scheduled for launch in September, disappointed me deeply. Foer – certainly better read than the average neocon who, in the graphic phrase of Sam Francis, has “the IQ of a sea scallop” – interviewed me over the phone for more than forty minutes. He told me, after discussing my monograph on Carl Schmitt with surprising thoroughness, biographical details I had not known about the sponsors of the new conservative fortnightly, for example the happy connection of my friend Scott McConnell to the Avon fortune and Taki’s brush with the law in 1984.
But Foer had a storyline that he would not abandon, no matter how hard I tried to correct him: that the American Buchananite Right had more in common with the leftists at the Nation than with the “real conservatives” in the neocon camp and in the Republican Party.
Foer implies that the Old Right has painted itself into a leftist, anti-Semitic corner. This is not original: As I have tried to show in the The(British ) Spectator (June 1, 2002), there is a convention of throwing together the non-neocon Right with the anti-Zionist Left into the same fascist, anti-Semitic heap. Whence the ease with which the entire neocon press, led by Charles Krauthammer, George Will, and Jonah Goldberg, rushed to equate the European pro-Palestinian Left with the interwar European anti-Semitic Right.
Foer’s proposed American counterpart for this European alliance of bigots are those who rally to “the Buchananite docket of suspicions,” critics of “Wall Street, capitalism, Zionism, American power,” in short “the anti-globalization left,” of which The American Conservative is destined to become a powerless adjunct. Thus the magazine will supposedly come to nought because it is not conservative. It will be a feeble echo of the Left, trying to recycle leftist “critiques of American internationalism” to a non-receptive target readership on the Right.
Of course, Foer is correct that the new magazine will have to row against the current, not enjoying the media acceptability of neocon journalists. But his other assertions are mistaken. The Old Right and the isolationist Left have not become the same simply because neither has declared for the neocons, or because both entertain suspicions about the global democratic crusades advocated by the New Republicand the National Review. On almost all social issues, starting with Third World immigration, feminism, and civil rights, neoconservatives are far closer to the Left than they are to the Old Right. The fact that neoconservative magazines are open to leftist writers, providing they’re OK on Israel, but are hermetically sealed to would-be contributors from the Old – that is, pre-neocon, Right – reveals the true positioning of the rival camps.
Foer is also all wet on the Old Right’s being more against capitalism than are the neocon allies of the New Republic. What separates the two sides economically is certainly not that the Old Right is calling for the larger welfare state or is itching for a federal tyranny over commerce. On both positions, the pro-McCain Weekly Standard and neocon columnist Irwin Stelzer, who wish to get the federal government to police corporations more closely, are well to the left of the Buchananite Right. In fact outside of the trade issue, Buchananites are far more critical of the federal bureaucracy and its control of the private sector than is most of the neocon press.
One should not mistake global free trade, under an ideologically-driven American central government, with a free market economy. Nor should one equate a critical stance toward the nationalist Right in Israel with hating Jews or with trying to stir up anti-Semitic politics in the U.S.
Although I personally do not share McConnell’s sympathetic opinions about Palestinian intentions, it is upsetting to see those who disagree with Marty Peretz being tarred as anti-Semitic. Such a baseless charge cost me a job at Catholic University of America twelve years ago, although at the time I did not hold the dovish views on Israel attributed to me.
But most misleading, and perhaps even mendacious, is Foer’s description of how the “mainstream” conservatives have
“masterfully preempted the anti-immigration backlash Buchanan would like to foment. Although Bush still talks about tolerance for Muslims, and even tried to restore food-stamp benefits to legal aliens, he has endorsed a major overhaul of the border control, tougher endorsement of student visas, and a fingerprinting system that amounts to racial profiling. Similarly, pro-immigration magazines like The Weekly Standard and National Review have turned racial profiling and a tougher visa system into crusades, leaving Buchanan and his allies little room to accuse the conservative establishment of sacrificing American security for political correctness and cheap labor.”
Curiously, this is in direct conflict with Editor Peter Beinart’s claim in New Republic a few weeks earlier that Bush, in alliance with Bill Clinton, had masterfully etc. defeated the move to reduce immigration.
In fact, of course, “mainstream conservatives” have not preempted anything. They have merely called for strong actions against those who might be associated with Muslim terrorist groups. As far as I can determine, John Miller and Ramesh Ponnuru continue to hold sway at the National Review; and, except for added hardness in attacking anti-Israeli Muslims, their views on the broader question of immigration have not significantly changed, as Chilton Williamson has documented. Our president continues to support amnesties and set-asides for Hispanics; and if Steve Sailer, Paul Craig Roberts, Michelle Malkin, and Sam Francis have their facts straight, Bush has proved to be as outreaching toward the Hispanic immigration lobby as his Democratic predecessor – without any reward, of course, but that’s another matter.
In telling contrast to Foer, sometime VDARE.COM contributor Robert Locke in his weblog (July 3, 2002), makes an immigration reform pitch to neocons, and specifically to Jewish neocon journalists. Locke explains that “too much immigration may be bad for Israel,” and that American Jews should deem themselves fortunate to live in a Christian society that is overwhelmingly “pro-Jewish and pro-Israel.” He observes that it is simply not in the interest of Jews to change this demographic and cultural situation in favor of one more closely resembling the membership of the United Nations.
Locke’s heart is in the right place. He understands what are the only grounds on which one can get neocons to move on a vital issue. God knows it will not be the threat of Hispanic irredentism or even violent crime (most of them live in insulated suburbs or in safe, gentrified districts in Manhattan and Northwest Washington)!
But Locke wrote this polemic in response to an unabashedly pro-immigration statement on July 3, by neocon author Tamar Jacoby, in the unabashedly pro-immigration neocon newspaper the New York Sun. Unlike Foer, Locke did not pretend to notice the neocons running to preempt the immigration issue. In fact, he was plainly shocked by their irrational attachment to exactly the opposite course.
Foer, not having the “IQ of a sea scallop,” may have observed the same. But not all observable truths are professionally appropriate to communicate in print – at least on paper.