Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson – President George W. Bush’s top speechwriter from 2001 to 2006 – was hired by the Post in 2007 because he would be “a different kind of conservative” and "an independent voice." Translation: he would slash other people on the right as dishonest, dishonorable, unpatriotic people. He has not attacked talk-show hosts on MSNBC or other leftists this way.
In his Friday column, Gerson whacked Ron Paul, Rush Limbaugh, and Mark Levin with these harsh attacks. Mark Levin offered NewsBusters his reaction.
A number of libertarians and conservative populists have found data collection by the National Security Agency(NSA) to be the final confirmation of their worst fears about Barack Obama and modern government. It is an attempt, according to Ron Paul, to “deliberately destroy the Constitution.” To radio talk show host Mark Levin, it reveals “the elements of a police state.” To Rush Limbaugh, it is part of a “coup d’etat” by the Obama “regime.”
...For Levin, it encompasses abuses by the Internal Revenue Service, the collection of DNA by policemen, Obamacare’s centralization of medical records and the use of domestic drones. “The Transportation Department, people forget, has proposed black boxes in all of our automobiles to track how they function,” Levin adds.
...But asserting that U.S. intelligence agencies are part of a conspiracy that somehow includes a national gun registry, drone surveillance and Lois Lerner crosses a line. It is one thing to oppose the policies of the administration; it is another to call for resistance against a “regime” and a “police state.” It is the difference between skepticism about government and hatred for government. And it raises the question: How is it even possible to love such an Amerika?
Levin replied to NewsBusters:
Gerson is a big-government quasi-Republican who twisted what I said. This is not about some conspiracy or populism, etc. My listing of the federal government's intrusions into the daily lives of individuals, and its abuse of power, has been reported in many of the news outlets that run his column. This is the federal government run amok. The fact that Gerson is blind to it doesn't surprise me. He's blind to a great deal.
The NSA program has now evolved from intercepting telephonic and electronic communications involving potential terrorists initiated here or abroad via FISA court approval, as originally explained in the aftermath of 9/11, to the de facto nationalizing of the private databases of telephone and server companies in the hunt for patterns of communications by American citizens, among others, through what are akin to general warrants. General warrants were explicitly rejected by the Founders and serve as the impetus for the Fourth Amendment. Gerson may not understand our history and the dangers of such practices, and he may not care about the misapplication of massive resources better used for actually implementing programs and practices that are effective in tracking down the enemy, but many of us do.
Here is Gerson’s pugilistic conclusion:
The continuity of anti-terrorism efforts across two administrations, with the bipartisan support of congressional leaders, is an achievement, not a scandal. The introduction of extreme political polarization into this debate could be debilitating. “Do I want somebody in charge of this kind of surveillance,” asks Limbaugh, “who doesn’t like this country as it’s founded?” Partisans on the left will make the same case against the next Republican president. In these charges and countercharges, the objective security requirements of the country could get lost — until the next major terrorist attack.
This type of conservative argument is not recognizably conservative. Traditional conservatism recognizes the balancing of principles — in this case, security and privacy — rather than elevating a single ideal into an absolute. That balance may need occasional readjustment, based on shifting circumstances. But this requires prudence, not the breathless exaggeration of threats for political purposes.
And larger things are at stake. Questioning the legitimacy of our government is the poisoning of patriotism. It is offensive for the same reasons it was offensive when elements of the left, in the 1960s and 1970s, talked of the American “regime.” Because it distorts the United States into something unrecognizable in order to advance a partisan ideology. Because this is still the “last best hope of earth,” not a police state. Because Americans have fought and died for this country, and to turn on it in this way is noxious. It is dishonest. And it is dishonorable.
Dear Mr. Gerson: you are certainly aware that liberals routinely crossed the line and referred to a Bush "regime" after the "tick-tight" 2000 election. It wasn't just a sixties-seventies thing. (Former Postie Daniel Froomkin loved the term "Bush regime" when he worked there.)
So Gerson has the audacity to suggest that Limbaugh, Levin, and Paul are guilty of the “poisoning of patriotism,” and are “noxious...dishonest...dishonorable.”
One might suspect a bad case of David Brooks-itis, defined as more affiliated with your liberal newspaper masters than with conservatives. So Gerson began his column at the Post on May 16, 2007. From that date through Obama’s first Inauguration, let’s try some Nexis searching.
Did Gerson attack or even mention Keith Olbermann? No. Chris Matthews? No. Rachel Maddow in her Air America-to-MSNBC phase? No. Even MSNBC in general? No. Could that be because his Post masters had a content-sharing “strategic alliance” with MSNBC? Hmmmmm.
What about other Bush haters in the liberal media, people who called President Bush a dictator? Did Gerson call out CNN’s Jack Cafferty? No. Eleanor Clift? No. Jonathan Alter? No. Bill Maher? No. Michael Moore? No.
Perhaps Gerson is simply allergic to attacking the liberal media in general, because that’s where he sits now. Perhaps attacking Limbaugh and Levin make his case for subbing in for pseudo-conservative David Brooks on the Friday roundtable at the PBS NewsHour, and attacks on liberal journalists would not. He hasn’t attacked PBS, either. His outrage is laced with opportunism.