He commiserates with fellow pundits Kathleen Parker and David Brooks, conservatives whose criticisms of Palin invoked the wrath of the Republican rank and file.
And by "us," I don't mean you, necessarily, or me. I mean the lowest common denominator us, the us of myth and narrative, the us of simple mind, the reactionary, ill-informed, impatient with complexity, utterly shallow us.
To my way of thinking, though, the likes of Brooks and Parker brought this on themselves. Long ago, they looked the other way as the religious right brought both fervor and anti-intellectualism to the Republican cause. No doubt believing that the mob could be controlled, they stood silent while Creationism, homophobia, and irrationality seeped into the public discourse. If Brooks' and Parker didn't exactly create the sans culottes of modern conservatism, they stood by as the rampage began. They spoke out only when their purpose was no longer served, then acted offended when the mob came for them.
The culmination of this is, of course, the explosions of rage at recent McCain rallies. The reactionary, ill-informed us, aggrieved and resentful even when in power, see their influence and importance slipping away. Fearing irrelevancy, they howl that Obama is a socialist and a terrorist, both patently ridiculous accusations that serve to show how intellectually bankrupt Republicanism has become. Of course, when an ideology characterized by its own moral certitude had driven the country into a ditch before the financial panic made matters worse, perhaps it's to be expected that its adherents will lash out at perceived enemies rather than look to themselves.
Then there are the other conservative intellectuals -- thinkers like William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer. They long ago put their ability at the service of ideology, and now have the credibility of a party intellectual in Stalinist Russia. In a typically over the top column, Krauthammer fulminates about Obama's "associations." Krauthammer admits that Obama is neither corrupt nor racist, but argues that his unscrupulous "use" of William Ayers, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and Anthony Rezko prove how cynically ruthless Obama is at his core. That this doesn't pass the laugh test bothers Krauthammer not at all, a man who will say or write anything to advance his personal agenda of keeping the United States deeply involved in Middle Eastern politics (with the exception of Israel's Likud party, with whom we have a moral obligation to follow in lockstep).
One problem with Krauthammer's argument is that everyone has associations. For example, I find John McCain's association with George Bush, Phil Gramm, Joe Lieberman, and the "shallow us" much more deeply problematic than than Barack Obama's tenuous connection to a former Sixties radical. Were he or she to think about it in those terms, the typical voter probably agrees.
William Kristol, a leading cheerleader for the Iraq war, also thinks Obama's associations are a legitimate campaign issue. But Kristol counsels McCain to make nice anyway, ignoring the reality that they let the wolves out of the cage a long time ago and that the anger of McCain's supporters has been an inescapable part of the story.
The Kristols and the Krauthammers served an important function in the rise of modern conservatism. They provided a useful intellectual veneer for the gutter politics of Newt Gingrich, Tom Delay, and Karl Rove. By surrendering their independence, they've lent ramshackle intellectual trappings to the savagery of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Ann Coulter. They are also the other half of the story that Leonard Pitts writes about, that modern conservatism is as much about intellectual dishonesty as it is anti-intellectualism...