The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Malkin and Coulter Underrated?

Posted on | December 3, 2010 | 14 Comments

Conservative Home, a new Web site run by people you never heard of, has published the results of a survey of “1,152 Republican activists” identifying their favorite pundits.

The top five are Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Charles Krauthammer, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity — i.e., the top talk-radio star, three Fox News hosts and and a Washington Post columnist who appears frequently on Fox News.

Before you say “epistemic closure,” let me point out that Michelle Malkin is ranked No. 7 and Ann Coulter No. 9 on the list. Both of them are more conservative than O’Reilly or Newt Gingrich (No. 6) and both of them have written important, heavily-researched books that were also huge bestsellers.

Malkin’s Invasion must be ranked as the best book on immigration policy since Peter Brimelow’s Alien Nation (which is very high praise) and In Defense of Internment . . . my God, talk about poking the hornet’s nest of political correctness with a stick.

As for Coulter, her books are much better than is suspected by people who know her only for her snarky jabs on TV. As for her right-wing bona fides, I still remember the shock of reading Godless, in which she described Joe Sobran as her “mentor.” If you know anything about Sobran, that one reference ought to give you pause the next time you hear some idiot dismiss Coulter as a “neo-con.” 

Malkin and Coulter and George Will (No. 10) would all rank above O’Reilly in any fair ranking of conservative pundits, but “favorite” is not the same as “most conservative,” of course. I’m also surprised that Mark Levin didn’t make the list, but you see that — with the exception of Limbaugh and Will — the basic factor here seems to be, “Who gets the most airtime on Fox?”

The Conservative Home editors themselves have other concerns:

Worryingly, columnists often regarded as among the most thoughtful conservatives did not fare well. David Brooks of the New York Times only mustered a mention from 1.3% of the panel (14 people). Ross Douthat, also at the NYT, won just four votes and Mike Gerson, Washington Post writer and former speechwriter to President Bush, gets just three mentions.

These omissions are entirely understandable:

  • David Brooks is not a conservative, period. He has described himself as a “moderate,” and I say we take his word for it.
  • Douthat is conservative and, as the editors say, “thoughtful,” but his thoughtfulness manifests itself as an unwillingness to reach out, smack liberals upside the head and yell, “You’re wrong!” (Metaphorically, of course.) A good conservative pundit has to be confrontational toward liberalism, and aggressively so. This has been true of every great pundit of the Right since Buckley smacked Yale upside the head in 1951.
  • The basic problem with Gerson can best be summarized in the phrase “former speechwriter to President Bush.” Gerson recently wrote a good column, which makes him 1-for-the-season by my count. In general, Gerson’s prose is boring and bland. David Frum considers Gerson his intellectual inferior and this is one point where even Frum’s worst enemies wouldn’t argue with him.

It is possible to be erudite and serious without being pompous, snobby, wishy-washy or dull, and the Brooks/Douthat/Gerson troika can’t seem to transcend that hurdle.


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