*Or, The Conservative Intellectual Elite Should Meet American Thinker.com.
It seems that the Conservative Elite had a garden party last week, and somehow World o’Crap’s invitation got lost. But let’s read about it anyway, won’t we?
The Party, in Exile
THAT the e-mailed dinner party invitation warned recipients not to forward “due to security reasons” lent the evening a frisson of intrigue, even danger.
I think that Emily Post says that if you’re going to use email instead of the proper engraved vellum note paper to invite people to a party, the least you can do is to add a “security reasons” caveat to give it that upper-crust cachet.
But here in a tiki-lantern-lighted backyard garden in northwest Washington last Saturday night, the only palpable threat was the leaden humidity.
“We’re originally from Canada,” the hostess, Danielle Crittenden Frum, declared, throwing her slender arms up in the air.
“We still haven’t quite realized that in D.C., garden parties are meant for September, not June.”
Translation: “Despite living here for years, we’re not bright enough to know that summer is hot – but we try to make up for it by being slender.”
Otherwise, the ambience at this intimate cocktail and buffet in honor of the Somalian-born activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali — a woman who faced death threats even before she wrote a film that led to the murder of its director, Theo van Gogh — was one of ease.
It’s so nice to see conservatives enjoying themselves in their native habitat, the cocktail party.
“Nice to see you,” total strangers said upon introduction, as if fearing the failure to recognize someone possibly met on a previous occasion. Or perhaps in certain Washington circles people assume they already know everyone else. Either way, here at the stately Wesley Heights home of the former Bush speechwriter, David (“axis of evil”) Frum, and his wife, the writer Ms. Frum, nearly everyone did. Far from the typical New York book party, this was more a bunkering of the conservative intellectual elite, a group that domineered its way through the Bush years but is now sidelined, a somewhat baffled shadow of its former blustery self.
Yes, it is sad to see this species on its way to extinction. I remember just six or seven years ago, when the Axi of Evil used to run wild and free across most of Northern America.
Whither the conservative establishment in today’s bilious political landscape? Certainly the typical Tea Party denizen, with his “I Wanna Party Like It’s 1773” T-shirt and “You Lie!” trucker hat, would seem out of place on the Frums’ well-tended grounds, nibbling chicken skewers and mini-B.L.T.’s.
They would seem out of place because, well, they weren’t invited. Who wants uncouth yokels like the Tea Partiers at a classy shindig?
On hand was a coterie of commentators, more in summer-frock mode than Fox News attire — Laura Ingraham, Mona Charen, Meghan Cox Gurdon,
Meghan Cox Gurdon, America’s Worst Mother, was there!? Now we feel really bad about not being invited!
. . . and Barbara Amiel, the wife of the disgraced media baron Conrad Black, now incarcerated at a Florida prison.
Yeah, the prison time is one of the drawbacks of being part of the conservative intellectual elite.
Also milling about the white-painted porch and leafy garden were the “independent” gay journalists Jonathan Rauch and James Kirchick and members of the disenchanted left, most notably the contrarian in chief Christopher Hitchens.
Come on, even though Hitchens was a Marxist wacko back in the day, since at least 9/11 he’s been a Bush-supporting wingnut scaredy-baby, so the law says that the conservatives have to claim Hitchens as one of their own.
But the majority of guests occupied a newly precarious purgatory. Among those on the waning right was the host, Mr. Frum, who welcomed everyone with brief, glowing remarks about the guest of honor, using words such as “strength,” “courage” and “intelligence.” Mr. Frum lost his salaried post at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, in March, after calling the passage of health care legislation the Republican party’s “Waterloo.” The institute denied any connection between the two events, but Mr. Frum’s column elicited a ferocious slap from the conservative blogosphere.
Sure, the conservative blogosphere slaps like a girl, but when it pouts and flounces it can really make its pique known.
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal editorial page witheringly described its former employee this way: “Mr. Frum now makes his living as the media’s go-to basher of fellow Republicans.”
Hell hath no fury like a Wall Street Journal scorned.
Also present was The Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker, prom-girl pretty and winner of a Pulitzer this spring for “gracefully sharing the experiences and values that lead her to unpredictable conclusions,” including a rebuke of Sarah Palin.
Kathleen won a Pulitzer this spring? And she won it for graceful sharing of values??? This is the same Kathleen Parker who wrote the Town Hall column “Gay marriage: A trip to the moon on Gossamer wings”? Geez, the world really has changed since I stopped paying attention to it!
“Like all the best conservatives, I started off as a liberal,” she trilled.
Well, at least she’s still the annoying twit that I remember.
In a similar display of the intellectual right’s discomfort with Wasilla-brand populism, Ms. Frum mocked a speech by Ms. Palin in April on The Huffington Post. (“There was not a single memorable line, not a single new political idea, not a single proffered solution beyond the cliché.”)
Yes, it’s girls like Sarah who are getting invited to the prom these days, not “intellectuals” like Danielle, Kathleen, and the lovely Mona Charen. But instead of moping, all you denizens of Precarious Purgatory should take a lesson from Ms. Palin: being easy is a sure path to popularity!
And lending a poignant immediacy to the rejiggered state of affairs was the Republican Senator Robert Bennett, ousted last month in the Utah primary for his votes on health care and Wall Street reform.
Yeah, it’s always poignant when Republicans get fired for not being crazy enough.
After an exhortation from the Frums’ bobbed 8-year-old daughter, Bea, to “Please buy lots of books now,” Ms. Hirsi Ali signed copies at a table in the corner, where a bookseller sat, unattended. The people at a party like this — pontificators, politicians — are typically sent such books free.
The nobility never has to buy its own books like a common NewsMax subscriber! But I do think it’s a nice Gurdonian-touch that the Frums make their bobbed 8-year-old daughter shill for the bookseller at their dinner parties.
Dinner conversation over poached tilefish and grilled asparagus ranged from the flotilla to health care to headscarves.
And I’m sure it also touched on the yacht races, the latest “in” vacation site, and the impossibility of getting good help these days.
The conversation turned to Iran. “Look at the way the left stood up to South Africa. Where are the feminists when it comes to the situation for women in Iran?” Ms. Sommers said. “Liberal intellectuals are more offended by Islamophobia than they are by sharia,” or Islamic law, Mr. Hitchens offered.
Mr. Hitchens, I am only a member of the liberal hoi polloi, but in my opinion it’s more effective to speak out against wrongs I see in America than it is to tell other countries how offensive I find their legal system, religious beliefs, and stupid traditions. But hey, feel free to tell feminists they are caring about the wrong stuff, Chris — I’m sure they appreciate it.
By 11 p.m., the guests had finished the remaining bottles of red wine and berry-topped petit fours. The Frums’ daughter had long ceased splashing in the pool and gone up to bed.
I imagine that there was a nanny or two keeping an eye on her, but I still have the image of a bobbed nine-year-old playing in the pool, all alone in the dark, while the pride of conservatism finishes off the remaining bottles of wine and carps about feminists. Eventually the girl puts herself to bed, wondering if anyone would have noticed if she had drowned.
Say, maybe Danielle could take over as America’s Worst Mother!
Anyway, for the Tea Party perspective, we now turn to Mary Grabar, the People’s Ph.D.
Profiling Populists and the Tea Party
I guess I’m a populist even though with a Ph.D. in English I don’t fit the profile.
You remember Mary Grabar – like Dr. Mike, she has a Ph.D. But unlike Dr. Mike, she mentions it in EVERY FRIGGIN COLUMN!
As someone who has attended tea party rallies and town hall meetings here in Georgia I’m supposed to have “common sense” but not much book-learning. You know, we can fix cars, bake a cherry pie, and clean a pistol.
Yeah, she’s way too smart and well educated to be considered “one of the people,” and yet she is!
I’m part of a group that can be “ugly,” according to Paul Krugman.
Oh, Mary, I’m sure Paul thinks you’re pretty! (Not as pretty as Kathleen Parker, of course, but pretty in your own way.)
This sentiment, unfortunately, was repeated by Lee Harris in his new otherwise impressive book titled The Next American Civil War: The Populist Revolt against the Liberal Elite. Harris does see the movement as evidence of a healthy American “natural libertarianism.” But in placing the movement into the context of populist movements (many of them bloody) in history, he mischaracterizes it as tending toward irrationality and paranoia.
The Tea Party movement has the reputation of tending towards irrationality and paranoia? Say it ain’t so, Mary!
Anyway, Mary goes on to explain why the liberal elite (which are the real bad guys in Harris’s book) are a bunch of jerks, especially the ones she works with.
In academia I’ve seen them spin their grand theories, cite each others’ theories, and then claim that their work has been “peer-reviewed.” Their intellectual circle becomes smaller and smaller, their language more specialized as it obscures the paucity of real learning.
And because they have controlled education and the media, they simply instate like-minded, intellectually intolerant peers. They award each other graduate degrees, tenure, editorships, and awards.
Wait, academics are the ones who give out the academic degrees? That doesn’t seem right!
They dumb down educational requirements.
Um, Mary, are you sure you want people to start doubting the worth of Ph.D.s?
That a certain group of people sees through this charade indicates their knowledge of history and human nature. They are rightfully leery of a celebrity politician who promises to “spread the wealth.” They educate their kids at home, teach them Latin and Aristotle’s rhetoric—the hard subjects that have been eliminated by these supposed intellectuals in charge of education. And as this month’s elections show, they are having an influence through the electoral process—and not as modern-day mobs of pitchfork-carrying peasants.
I would encourage liberals—and conservatives—to learn more about the tea party. Most of the participants know more about the history of the West and the Constitution than do most high school social studies teachers.
Yeah, David Frum and Danielle Crittenden! Those tea-partiers whom you despise know Latin and Aristotelian rhetoric and history and such. They probably even know that it’s hot in D.C. in June. And, unlike you conservative intellectuals, THEY are the ones who are influencing the electoral process, being interviewed on Fox News, and coming up with the good ideas, like paying for insurance with chickens. So, you might consider inviting the Tea Party crowd to the next party you hold at your stately home with the white-painted porch and leafy garden. They might wipe their mouths with their sleeves, but they are a lot more smarter than you think!
There are even some professors among them.
But, sadly, not Mary – she’s just an “instructor.” So maybe she really does fit the profile as a populist after all.
UPDATE: The link to the NY Times story about the party is now fixed (thanks for letting us know about it, D. Sidhe). And if you go here, you can see an artistic depiction of some of the guests, all ready for their own appearances in court to answer charges of “disgrace.”