Joe Conason's Journal

In his decision to make war on Iraq, one neocon argues, Bush benefited from "Divine Guidance."

Published April 21, 2003 4:29PM (EDT)

God and man among the neocons
Even in triumphal mode, conservatives cannot entirely escape their crackups and crackpots. Today, American Conservative executive editor Scott McConnell replies to David Frum's lengthy excommunication of non-neo conservatives (which appeared in the April 7 National Review). Formerly a contributor to Commentary and an editorialist for the New York Post, McConnell brings insider perspective and a personal tone to the intracon hostilities.

Frum's essay, according to McConnell, is only the latest episode in a split that began more than a decade ago, and "predictable in its wielding of the standard neocon rhetorical weapons: those who disagree with his faction are racist, nativist, anti-Semitic, and of course 'unpatriotic' ...

"The neocons have always been the dominant side in the contest; they are more internally cohesive and far wealthier. Nonetheless they often, and rightly, feel unappreciated by those they believe should admire them, and they are constantly on the lookout for ideological deviancy ...

"The neocons would prefer to ignore their challengers. On paper, they should be able to: they hold key jobs in the Bush administration; control virtually all the major 'conservative' media outlets -- from the magazines, to the major television and radio shows, to the significant editorial pages -- and play the dominant role in the better-funded think tanks and foundations. And yet they don't breathe easily."

Concerning Frum's charge of paleo-con anti-Semitism, "the nuclear weapon accusation in American public life," McConnell writes:

"The simple point to be made is that neoconservatism is not synonymous with Jewish opinion. (And indeed, several of the movement's prominent figures are Gentiles.) In their effort to marry American policies to the goals of the Israeli far Right, the neocons have embraced Norman Podhoretz's definition of anti-Semitism: if you are supportive of Israel, everything is fine. The neocons have no problem with those parts of the Christian Right that view the gathering of Jews in the Holy Land as a prelude to the final Armageddon, in which all Jews will convert to Christianity or perish."

I can't help wondering whether such fundamentalist dogmas have also influenced Robert Bartley, a longtime Gentile proponent of neoconservatism, who now appears to believe that the wrong side won the Scopes trial. (How easily libertarians sell out their intellectual heritage, and their forefather H.L. Mencken, to the likes of Pat Robertson.) Even more spectacularly, Bartley opines that the Bush presidency, at least insofar as its decision to make war on Iraq is concerned, benefits from "Divine Guidance." Let's hope nobody shows his column to our new friends among the Iraqi Muslims.
[9:32 a.m. PDT, April 21, 2003]

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