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Thursday, October 24, 2013

The American Spectator : More Than We Can Stomach

The American Spectator : More Than We Can Stomach

Adapted from RET’s remarks delivered last night at The American Spectator’s annual Robert L. Bartley Dinner.

Twenty thirteen was a distressing year. The President handed the foreign policy of the United States over to the KGB. Who knows, perhaps next year he will hand over domestic policy to Monaco.
Nevertheless, 2012 was no blowout. We have firm control of the House, and a good shot at the Senate next year. We have 54 percent of the state legislatures and 60 percent of the governors’ mansions. Finally we are poised to take the White House in 2016 with appealing candidates ranging from New Jersey to Wisconsin, from Florida to Texas, all of them smart, experienced, principled, articulate, and even telegenic.
Who are the liberals’ candidates? So far, there are just two.  There’s good old Joe Biden, with a smile on his face and a song in his heart. He would be my candidate for bartender at the New York Athletic Club, very, very affable but not for president. As vice president he committed so many amusing gaffes that he inspired in me a new word, “gaffable.” Our gaffable vice president has been described by Roger Ailes as being “dumb as an ashtray”—a memorable comparison.
Then there is Hillary. When last she left the White House the polls indicated that she was the most unpopular first lady in history. Next to Hillary, Mrs. Warren Harding was pulchritudinous and agreeable. Facts are facts. Yet in 2008 her friends in the media made Hillary the Inevitable Nominee until the Democrats had another candidate. Now she is again the Inevitable Nominee. Yet the pollsters are still polling and most recently the Rasmussen Poll found her the least desirable Democratic candidate. She even out-polled Joe Biden. Presented with the choice of Hillary or Joe, the voters chose an ashtray.
As many of you will recall, The American Spectator—always hostile to bad taste in high places—went to war with the Clintons. At the outset of their bad taste in high places we revealed Hillary taking a tax write-off on Bill’s underwear. That is a fact, now filed away in the annals of history, and the revelations kept coming. None more consequential than Miss Paula Corbin Jones. To which the Democrats responded with the first War on Women, the real War on Women: Gennifer Flowers, Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, Monica Lewinsky, and so many more. It is our boast that we started the Clinton Wars, and when the last shot was fired we were still standing.
We took on the Clintons, head to head, and it was a little like Rhode Island declaring war on Red China.  They came at us with all they had. What they had was considerable — the whole federal bureaucracy. There was the IRS, the Justice Department, possibly even the Library of Congress. Finally we looked out of our foxholes and glimpsed most of the major media lobbing propaganda shells at us.
The Clintons, I wrote then, “were holy people. They opposed  the Vietnam War, the imperial presidency, racism. They could do no wrong.” And when we got the goods on them — as history has shown we did — they responded by unloosing an unprecedented barrage against a harmless little literary magazine – a barrage that was, as one reporter for the Chicago Tribune put it, “largely embraced by official Washington and its solicitous press corps.”
We took a pounding, like a sloop challenging the Spanish Armada. But the barrage ended. The smoke lifted. And we were still there, running up our sails, ready to continue the battle.  Right now, just over the near political horizon, there’s another engagement shaping up and we shall be there.
Not long ago, I thought my days of writing about the Clintons and their syndicate had come to an end. Surely, I thought, with Boy Clinton, The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton, Madame Hillary, and The Clinton Crack-Up, I’d done my book-writing duty.
But now, it appears, there will be one last shootout. It will be fierce. But to some extent, at least, the odds won’t be so greatly weighted against us. It’s still a battle, but no longer quite as one-sided.
Over the past four decades — in fact, dating back to the birth of The American Spectator — we’ve been involved in building an alternative to the once-unchallenged Kultursmog. We have helped shape and define  the conservative movement.
At the Spectator we believed, along with Bill Buckley and Frank Meyer at National Review, Bob Bartley at the Wall Street Journal, and other conservative thinkers, that we could build that movement most effectively by bringing all strands of conservative thought together in our various publications.
Our ranks grew steadily over those years, with our pages hospitable to conservatives of all stripes — neocons, paleocons, libertarians, old-school Scoop-Jackson Democrats, as well as conservative writers and thinkers from across the globe. Come on in, we said. We’re one big tent. One big movement. One big party. And come in they did.
In the process, The American Spectator became a literary and political journal second to none. A position it continues to occupy in a rapidly shrinking universe. And it became a literary boot camp, the training ground where conservative writers like George Will and Andy Ferguson first made their bones and Bill Kristol, and, of course, Bill McGurn. Today the mastheads of the nation’s conservative publications are stocked with graduates of our American Spectator boot camp.
That process continues today, with smart, talented young writers and thinkers still being trained at the Spectator and sent out to do the Lord’s work — and to do so with style, discipline, and intellectual integrity. I’d match our young staff with any at work in opinion journalism anywhere today. And when the time comes for that defining political and ideological clash just down the road, they’ll be ready.

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