In evaluating a candidate for office, there are — ultimately — only two questions to ask:
- What has he done that is relevant to the office he seeks? and
- Can he get into office and, once there, deliver on his previous record?
All else is details.
Based on the answers to these questions, I believe Gov. Jon Huntsman is the best of the remaining candidates to challenge President Obama next fall. None of the others offer his combination of conservative accomplishment in office, electability against the president, and likelihood for success once there.
As to the first question, Governor Huntsman has a record of achievement in Utah that should give conservatives of all varieties much to applaud. Tax hawks can note that he reduced sales, business, and state income taxes, saving Utah’s taxpayers a net of $409M. Pro-lifers may note that Huntsman signed three anti-abortion bills while in office: one banning second-trimester abortions, another making third-trimester abortions count as felonies, and a third requiring abortion providers to explain that unborn children experience pain. Libertarians and gun-owners can celebrate his liberalization of Utah’s draconian alcohol laws and Utah H.B. 357, recognizing the right of citizens to carry concealed weapons on their property and in their vehicles without a license. As Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote in his superb profile of the governor this past summer:
In Jon Huntsman’s America, once a child survives the first trimester, he’s well on the way to having a rifle in his small hands and extra money in his pockets.
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Tom posted this at 1:27 PM CDT on Saturday, December 17th, 2011 as DON'T PANIC, Is It 2012 Yet?, Politics
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David Frum wonders how he’s transitioned from “Great American” to “intellectual” on Fox News:
It seems only yesterday that Bill O’Reilly, described me on air as a “great American.”
Now Bill O’Reilly and Bernard Goldberg accuse Frum of intellectualism:
“Not that he’s an important guy, Frum,” O’Reilly noted as he asked Goldberg for analysis, but did note that it was a strange attack coming from a conservative. “They seem to be mad at Fox News,” he suggested. Goldberg had an answer to why this was the case: “there are two kinds of conservatives… intellectual conservatives, or something close to that– they don’t like the riff-raff.” Goldberg argued Frum was one of these intellectuals, and almost seemed sympathetic when asking O’Reilly rhetorically, “could you imagine how frustrating it must be to be an intellectual” who realizes “the riff-raff have more of an influence on politics and culture?”
Conor Friedersdorf suggested that Bill O’Reilly and Bernard Goldberg are not only intellectuals themselves, but are also bad intellectuals:
When used as a noun, the definition of “intellectual” is simple enough: a person who relies on their intellect, or mental labor, for work or leisure. . . .
I want to address this notion that it’s coherent to divide professional writers, pundits, and media personalities into the categories “intellectual” and “non-intellectual.” Because it isn’t.
Take Bill O’Reilly, who as an honors student in college majored in history and wrote for the school newspaper. In addition to his early media gigs, he was briefly a teacher and earned a master’s of public administration from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He’s also authored 10 books, including a historical account of Lincoln’s assassination. This isn’t to say that O’Reilly’s arguments are particularly rigorous, or that his books are particularly good. He isn’t an intellectual who produces good work. But as surely as Mary-Kate Olsen is an actress, O’Reilly is an intellectual.
As is Rush Limbaugh. All the man produces are ideas and arguments — do they not flow from his intellect? Again, they aren’t particularly good ideas.
Conor defines “intellectual” far too broadly, since just about everybody who follows politics or is an activist relies on the intellect. Paul Johnson, who wrote the excellent Intellectuals, defined the word thus: “An intellectual is somebody who thinks ideas are more important than people.” It’s a harsher, more stringent definition–but it clarifies.
Conservatives have rightly been skeptical of Johnson’s intellectuals. The only way to understand Limbaugh and Goldberg’s aspersions on intellectuals is to understand that they’re talking about Johnson’s definition, not Conor’s. Eric Hoffer once explained the trouble with Johnson’s intellectuals thus: “The sick in soul insist that it is humanity that is sick, and they are the surgeons to operate on it. They want to turn the world into a sickroom. And once they get humanity strapped to the operating table, they operate on it with an ax.“ That’s the sort of thing David Frum takes mild offense at being compared to (Frum seems to know enough not to be too offended at the attack).
The irony of it all is that Limbaugh in particular is a defender of conservative ideology; if conservatism were a faith, Limbaugh would easily be fidei defensor. Frum’s critique of much of contemporary conservative ideology is that it doesn’t help ordinary people and in some places actively hurts their interests. In other words, Limbaugh is a Johnson intellectual and Frum isn’t.
Hubbard posted this at 10:21 PM CDT on Tuesday, December 13th, 2011 as Conservatism, Philosophy
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