Andrew Sullivan is enraged, and rightfully so, at the Washington Post’s hiring of Marc Thiessen, Dick Cheney’s former speechwriter, as an op-ed writer at the Washington Post.
My initial instinct was to say that that’s what you get in the United States, where “conservative intellectual” is an oxymoron. But that’s not quite accurate. To be sure, major media outlets have slobbered all over themselves getting former Bushies to “write” or “opine” for them. Former Bush bloviator Michael Gerson also writes for the Post; Dan Senor and Dana Perino work for Fox (of course); Liz Cheney regularly pops up on ABC. Whenever John Yoo or John Bolton want to spew out the view from Bizarro world, they get some very precious newspaper real estate. The list goes on.
The real shame here is that there are actually lots of smart conservatives who would do a much better job than the Bush crowd. I can find two just in my own building: my colleagues Eugene Volokh and Steve Bainbridge. Mark’s friend Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr. Mickey Kaus. Somehow I think Richard Posner would have little trouble churning out a weekly column. Orin Kerr. I could name another 10 with no trouble at all.
Why don’t any of them have a column?
One obvious reason is that newspaper editors are lazy and not very bright: they round up the usual suspects.
But perhaps more importantly, it reflects what the Conservative Movement is all about. The Movement does not want the best thinkers and writers to write good articles: it wants people to rehash the approved talking points. And all of the people I just mentioned will not do that. So while they are not personae non grata in the Movement, they aren’t the people who work at the highest levels of the Movement. Those are former Bush apparatchiks. And apparently, the Movement has been able to work the refs in the media for so long that they are the ones who get to make the choices.
That is quite an indictment of the news media, which doesn’t even pretend to try to have the best writing anymore. But it also demonstrates how Movement Conservatism has destroyed real conservatism. Over the long run, that’s not good for this country.