To NY Times Editor Tanenhaus: Obama 'Centrist, Explicitly Nonideological'

Catching up with a great catch in last week's Weekly Standard “Scrapbook” section, the September 7 issue highlighted an example of how it takes a worldview that sees liberals like Barack Obama as “consensus”-oriented/“explicitly nonideological” centrists -- and Republicans as “ideologically committed” conservatives -- to work at the New York Times. Sam Tanenhaus, editor of the newspaper's Book Review and Week in Review sections, in his new book, The Death of Conservatism, proposes on page 23:
The primary dynamic of American politics, normally described as a continual friction between the two major parties, is equally in our time a competition between the liberal idea of consensus and the conservative idea of orthodoxy. We see it in the Democratic Party's recent history of choosing centrist, explicitly nonideological presidential candidates (Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama), as contrasted with the Republicans' preference for ideologically committed ones (Goldwater, Reagan, George W. Bush).
The unnamed Weekly Standard writer scoffed: “The sophistry here is breathtaking. Tanenhaus not only conflates his own political preferences with the American 'center.' In order to prove that only the Democratic party nominates 'centrist, explicitly nonideological' men for the presidency, Tanenhaus (1) puts Obama – Barack Obama! – in the 'centrist' camp, and (2) totally ignores Democrats Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, and Al Gore, as well as Republicans Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, and John McCain.”

The refutation continued:
Indeed, when you look at all the major party presidential nominees since 1960, you actually find that more "proud liberals" than "red-blooded conservatives" have run for the office. Furthermore, it's actually rare for the GOP to nominate a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. Even the hated George W. Bush ran in 2000 as a "compassionate conservative" who promised more federal spending on education and religious charities.

The book's more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone is belied by blurbs from such noted well-wishers of conservatism as Chris Matthews, Jeffrey Toobin, Jane Mayer, and Leon Wieseltier. Sheesh. We wish somebody would give us cash for this clunker.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center