Tuesday, April 21, 2009

David Weigel reports on LGF

I noticed the bad blood between Little Green Footballs and Pam Geller many months ago, and said nothing about it at the time. Now Dave Weigel of Washington Independent -- perhaps the best young reporter in D.C. -- interviews LGF's Charles Johnson to get to the bottom of it all:
"I don't think I've changed," Johnson said. "I've always been pretty independent. This is something I've really tried to put out there on my blog. I don't consider myself right-wing." . . .
"I don't think there is an anti-jihadist movement anymore," Johnson said. "It's all a bunch of kooks. I've watch some people who I thought were reputable, and who I trusted, hook up with racists and Nazis. I see a lot of them promoting stories and causes that I think are completely nuts."
Read the whole thing. No blogger wants to get in a pissing match with Charles Johnson. It strikes me that, like a lot of people who jumped onto the Global War On Terror (GWOT) bandwagon after 9/11, Johnson's commitment to conservatism was very limited.

He was opposed to Code Pink and Cindy Sheehan and International ANSWER, and he supported George W. Bush over John Kerry. Evidently, however, Johnson cared nothing at all about opposing the Left as a political movement in general. In fact, he appears profoundly sympathetic to the Left's domestic policy aims. In this, he is no different than, say, John McCain. Or Meghan McCain, for that matter.

Somewhere several weeks ago -- I don't feel like looking it up now -- I wrote that it is a bad long-term strategy to base a political movement primarily on foreign policy. Wars come and go, alliances shift, old enemies fade and new enemies emerge and, quite frankly, most Americans don't give a damn about foreign countries unless they're at war with us.

Yet it cannot be denied that in 2002 and '04, the Republicans won chiefly by presenting themselves as the party of get-tough foreign policy, committed to taking the fight to the Islamofascist foe. The post-9/11 appeal to patriotism always had a certain "Remember the Maine!" quality to it, and it was effective only so long as the Democrats were committed to playing the "me too" game.

After the 2004 election, however, the Democratic grassroots stopped listening to their "leadership" in Washington. Instead, left-wing bloggers, MoveOn.org, and the new Soros-funded operations (Center for American Progress, Media Matters, etc.) set about fomenting a "choice not an echo" response to the Mehlman/Rove strategy.

With their champion Howard Dean installed as chairman of the DNC, the Left demonized all Republicans, marginalized moderate Democrats, sought out plausible challengers in "purple" congressional districts, and built a machinery of opposition that was flexible, improvisational and well-funded.

Meanwhile, the Republicans were stuck with a top-down hierarchical political operation that left the conservative grassroots in the position of waiting for the RNC and Sean Hannity to tell them what the key issues were and what the message was. The GWOT, a winning campaign issue in 2002-04, turned into a liability in 2005-06. The Iraqi insurgents were de facto allies of the Democrats, and as the death toll in Iraq rose, so did the Democrats' political fortunes. And the only response that Rumsfelt & Co. offered was, "Stay the course!"

Perhaps we might have stayed the course, if Bush and the Republicans had ever bothered to develop a conservative domestic agenda. Instead, from its very inception, "compassionate conservatism" was a policy of negotiated surrender on the domestic front. Can someone -- anyone -- please tell me what was "conservative" about No Child Left Behind or Medicare Part D? And let's don't even talk about S. 2611, OK?

So when Charles Johnson says he doesn't consider himself "right wing," he's utterly sincere. He is what he always was, a pro-war liberal. Now that the Republicans are out of power and the "conservative" label has been permanently tainted by its association with the hapless Bush administration, Johnson cares nothing for the fate of the GOP or conservatism. Nor does he care anything for the reputations of erstwhile friends like Robert Spencer and Pam Geller, whom he now casually dismisses as racist Nazi kooks.

I'd like to explain to Charles Johnson why he's wrong, but if he won't listen to Robert Spencer, there's no reason to expect he'd listen to me. Johnson supported the GWOT, which ended the day Bush left the White House, and thus ended Johnson's only real interest in politics.

Johnson is not "political" in the sense of trying to calculate ways to build a broad, enduring coalition that amounts to at least 50-percent-plus-one. He cares nothing about, say, figuring out how to elect Lt. Col. Allen West in FL-22 or how to defeat Bud Cramer in AL-5. And since he's never looked at politics in that way, he doesn't grasp the connection between defeating the Left on foreign policy and defeating the Left on domestic issues like "card check" and health care.

You know who does see those connections? The Left. And they've won, because Bush and the Republicans never really understood the real enemy they were fighting. Charles Johnson is just collateral damage in this conflict, incidental to the Left's triumph.

UPDATE: Donald Douglas has kept closer tabs on the LGF situation, and Gates of Vienna is even more directly involved. Both of them see the conflict as being "about Charles," who is accused of banning any commenter who disagrees with him. Meh. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn't want my bandwidth gobbled up by people who disagreed with me, either. So that's not really much of an accusation, in and of itself.

UPDATE II: Linked at Conservative Grapevine. Meanwhile, Charles Johnson tells his side of the story with a post that describes leaders of the Vlaams Belang -- the Flemish nationalist party of Belgium -- as having "met with numerous extreme right wing personalities (including Pat Buchanan)." Well, if meeting with Pat Buchanan puts one beyond the pale, there goes Ronald Reagan, for whom Buchanan was White House Communications Director 1985-87.

UPDATE III: Pam Geller protests against being accused by LGF of promoting neo-Nazism for having posted video of demonstrations organized in the British National Party. This points toward a basic problem at the heart of the dispute: European politics is not like American politics.

European politics is parliamentary and, given the socialist bent of Europe, the mainstream "conservative" parties aren't really very conservative at all. The staid, respectable British Tories are never going to make an issue of mass immigration and the attendant ascendance of Islamic extremism. Ergo, in Britain, the "extremist" BNP owns that issue, much the way that Le Pen's National Front owns it in France and Vlaams Belang owns it in Belgium.

What this situation highlights, really, is the danger to America if the Republican Party refuses to side with its conservative grassroots on the immigration issue. John McCain and other moderate Republicans want the GOP to follow European conservative parties down the path to political irrelevance by distancing themselves from "populist" issues like immigration and abortion.

The problem with that approach is that, if you marginalize dissent -- and look at what happened to Carrie Prejean, if you want to see how marginalization happens -- then you abandon those issues to the real fringe kooks. The genius of the American two-party system has been its ability to channel popular unrest into mainstream politics, so that issues that might otherwise give rise to violent extremism are instead addressed via the ballot box and legislation.

And this is why I have such contempt for Republican elitists like David Brooks, who are always striving to push the GOP toward middle-of-the-road "respectability" and urging Republicans to disdain "populism." That elitist approach will always weaken the GOP, and allow grassroots resentments to fester into genuinely dangerous extremism.


  1. The three satiric YouTubes Pamela Geller posted are all good; but the second one is the best. I put 'em all up just to keep them close by.

    But no more, Pam, please; that particular movie meme has become quite stale.

    Charles Johnson is finished I think, at least as a 'conservative'. Andrew Sullivan, move it on over!

  2. I was never a big reader of LGF, one of my rules being to avoid blogs where you have to register to comment, but from what I have read I don't think he really gives a rats ass about being finished as a conservative.

    Recently I stumbled across a mention of a guy who applied game theory to partisan politics and I have been wondering just how correct he was. Mainly because it seems to me that the left has captured the center on a lot of hot button issues, mainly beacuse it is easier to spout feel good platitudes than to actually take a logical approach to things.

    If the games theory approach is correct conservatives could be out of power for a long time.

  3. Umnnnnhhhh....

    The Rovian Strategy was just exactly this: "50% +1"

    No more, and certainly no less.

    Not exactly a comprehensive overall policy book, and he didn't need one--he had Iraq and AlQuaeda.

    And he didn't really give a rip about the downticket stuff, either, once GWB was re-elected.

  4. The Iraqi insurgents were de facto allies of the Democrats, and as the death toll in Iraq rose, so did the Democrats' political fortunes. Not to mention the MSM, Hollyweird, the groves of academicide, and other allies of success. With Rumsfeld putting his trusties like Bremer in charge, Iraq spun into a near-civil war situation.

    You are right about GWB's failure to use a Repub majority in '05-06 to do anything except Social Security reform, a cause Bill Clinton had advocated, but the Dems mau-maued George Jr. into semi-reclusive Rose Garden strategies---except for Africa, where his humanism did shine forth.

    GWB was bushwhacked and it's going to be a while before the Republicans can get it back together. The old urban legends like Plamegate are now being recycled by crazies like Excitable Andy into torturegate. Too bad the place they waterboarded KSM into ratting out the terror plot was L.A.!!!

    It would have been sadly amusing to see celebritards trying to explain away an Islamic terrorist hit on Tinseltown & environs.

  5. SteveBrooklineMATue Apr 21, 11:37:00 PM

    I never got the feeling Charles was a conservative. So I'm not sure what's new here. And frankly I think he has a good nose for racism/bigotry; I trust his judgement on that.

    I don't read LGF much any more, not nearly as much as I used to. I'm not really interested in the Creation debate that seems to be Charles' latest cause. I'm a research scientist, but find the whole debate to be a yawnfest.

    As for the comments section of LGF, it's unreadable, simply because every post gets about 2000 childish comments on topics unrelated. Who is going to wade through that?

  6. When Charles called Pam Geller "a shrieking lunatic" I realized he had entered full-blown Perez Hilton territory.

    Either Charles has changed, or his grotesque side has finally come out in the open.

  7. It's nice to see someone else calling out Charles. From day 1 this guy was never a Conservative. He's one of these "9/11 Republicans" I always heard about. These people identify more with Scoop Jackson than Barry Goldwater. (Think Sean Hannity as a example of this)

    But I would also say the same thing about Robert and Pam. "9/11 Republicans". Pro-War, Any War folks. Sure keeping a eye on Muzzies is a good thing, but what does it bring to the Conservative movement? Nothing. (Think Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in stead of Robert Taft for a example)

    All and all, to me this is a good thing. Weeding out the Neo-Liberals out of the Conservative Movement needs to be done. And this is the beginning I hope.

    Robert..love that you are posting over at Taki's. Keep up the good work.

  8. Those less than Full Conservatives are always at risk of two things. 1)Going Liberal. 2)Trying to remake the Conservatives in their image.

    This applies most strongly to LGF, but also to RSM. Robert's got a lot of Conservative in him, but not all the way.

    And Conservatives should be the ones you define what conservative means. Strong social values, strong national defense, good on limited government and respect of capitalism are the three legs of conservatism.

    Now there can be differences in judging the best way to get to those values, but in order to be a conservative, you have to be all of them.

    Single issue anti-jihadi is one strategy for a strong national defense. So is Jerry Pournelle's Maginot Line plus Build a Hundred Nuke Plants strategy.

    The Neocon method is one strategy. I think it won a lot of people over because it was obviously correct. Sure, it could have been done better. That's war...a collection of catastrophes until victory.

    The problem with those who critique the neocon strategy is that they don't have a strategy of their own that looks at all viable.

    By itself, the Paleocon Pournelle Maginot Line is going to suffer the fate of the last Line. Fold it into a Neocon strategy, and yeah, then we're talking. And I think most Neocons would have gladly gone for that, but the Shamnistas got in the way. Maybe if the Paleocons had gone full tilt after the Shamnistas instead of the Neocons we might be in actual possession of a Border Fence right now.

    And your point about abortion/immigration...thing of beauty.


  9. A couple thoughts on LGF:

    1. I think he had the better of the dispute over VB in Belgium. He produced some pretty solid evidence that there was a "white power" element in the leadership, and that is a serious problem. Sure, European politics is different, and marginalizes everyone outside the magic circle of the capital politicos and media whores, but that doesn't mean the marginalized are necessarily our friends, especially in an American context.

    2. He was brilliant on the Dan Rather Memo scandal, debunking it with that devastating Flash program. For that alone, he deserves a place in the blogging pantheon.

    3. As you say, he's a war liberal, first and foremost.

    But--he's gotten a bug up his colon about social conservatives of late, especially with his Crusade against Creationism. It would be one thing if he left it to the scientific sphere, but he's conceived a serious hate-on for so-cons in general as a result. His treatment of Bobby Jindal in particular has been irrational and dishonest.

    I think the problem is that one day, war weariness set in and he realized he was standing shoulder to shoulder with a lot of people he really didn't like and didn't want to associate with. His enlistment expired, and he went home. Simple as that.

  10. Two-party politics is about capturing the center. Today's center is PC-Multicult-Cultural Marxist. Increasingly economic crypto-Marxist, as well. That means that two-party politics are a dead end for conservatives. If conservatives want to survive they have to push for technical fixes like IRV for Senate, Congress,Governor etc., allocation of Electoral College votes by PR and election of state legislators(say, for one house) by PR would also help.

    PR, BTW, is the predominant voting system outside the US, Canada and the UK. It's what allows the "fascists" that Johnson deplores a chance to get elected.

    And, yes, European conservatism(the genuine variety, not the NuTory tripe) is different from what exists in the US:
    The reason that we find a strong conservatism in America and not in Europe is that American conservatives are not at all conservative but liberals to the core; French Revolution egalitarians and PC addicts with fear of “racism”, etc. (...)
    Due to the very nature of America, and to a lesser extent, Canada, they simply cannot understand why Europeans do not go the propositional route and are deathly afraid of European nationalism, no matter how benign. Nationalism doesn’t exist in America, only jingoism and it is seen as a relatively harmless although most liberals do find it very annoying. Even the furthest of the right in America cannot be accurately described as nationalists (e.g. right wing militia groups) due to their hatred for the government. The majority of nationalists respect the role of the government even if they do not agree with it; they do not entertain paranoid conspiracy theories about what the government may be doing to them like these militia groups. (...)

  11. Your analysis of European politics is quite correct. Another factor is that, esp. in smaller countries like the Netherlands and Belgium, the press is rather small and hence pretty uniform and often ingrained with the political elite. This creates special problems for eg investigative journalists or criticial columnists. If they have a piece that doesn't fit the MSM ''meme', they have three options: post it on their own website (which sees little traffic beyond 'believers'), post it on a 'extremist' newswebsite (eg Indymedia on the left), or not to post it (to prevent 'soiling' one's cv). Really, compared to Europe, the US media is pretty diverse.

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