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Over at my place, an historian who-I-don’t-know-why-he-talks-to-the-likes-of-me noted:

Given the muck you slog through, I understand your appreciation of his rhetoric[.]

That’s true. But given the links in my previous post to the Goldberg articles and the general sentiment against Hitchens, I want to ask you what was asked of me:

If not Hitchens, what conservative (however so broadly defined) would you rather engage in a debate with?

That’s not a direct quotation, but you catch my drift. I’m genuinely curious here, so feel free to name anyone whose name doesn’t involve anything Au.

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  • Buddy Roemer leaps to mind

    • SEK

      I’m from Louisiana, remember. I know those things he wish he hadn’t said.

      • He was on UP with Chris Hayes last week and while he stuck to his conservative…altho against the GOP field, it’s more like flaming liberal…guns, he was at least reasonable about things like money in politics and participatory democracy.

        I would really like to debate a conservative who at least accepts the premise of why things are so screwed up in this nation. Then we might get somewhere.

  • rea

    If not Hitchens, what conservative (however so broadly defined) would you rather engage in a debate with?

    Obama, of course.

    feel free to name anyone whose name doesn’t involve anything Au.

    I’m old enough to remember the AuH2O bumper stickers from ’64, but why go out of your way to rule out Goldwater?

    • I think he’s mainly aiming at Goldberg, but the fact that the Senator from Arizona’s been dead for over a decade makes this pretty moot.

      • rea

        Goldberg never crossed my mind, but of course.

        For some reason the Goldwater bumper stickers made a big impression on me when I was 9.

        • DrDick

          In your guts, you know he’s nuts!

    • wengler

      Debating with mediators like Obama may drive someone to insanity. Unless you like someone that is able to take all positions on an issue.

      • But he doesn’t in speech; this is part of what makes his press-conference performances great. He’s not evasive and he’s clear about what his position is (though that is not equivalent to what he would do) and is willing to say why he holds that position.

  • Malaclypse

    If not Hitchens, what conservative (however so broadly defined) would you rather engage in a debate with?

    Since you seem to be allowing dead people, Churchill, Burke, Daniel Webster, Cotton Mather, Joseph de Maistre, and Max Weber would all be more interesting to talk to.

    • DrDick

      Have to say that I generally prefer dead conservatives to the currently living ones.

      • commie atheist

        The only good conservative is a…

        • DrDick

          Not sure that I would go that far. Even the dead ones are pretty bad.

  • Robert Farley

    Here we go:

    Eli Lake
    Matthew Continetti
    David Frum (apostate)
    Daniel Larison (apostate)
    Peter Feaver
    Thomas Donnelly
    Niall Ferguson (!)
    Charles Krauthammer (!!)
    Kori Schake
    John Derbyshire (!!!)

    That’s off the top of my head. Rogue’s gallery to be sure, but then you’ll appreciate the degree of my contempt for Hitchens.

    • Malaclypse

      John Derbyshire

      Dear Cthulhu, why?

      • Robert Farley

        Because while he’s awful, he’s also coherently, consistently awful. His political identity doesn’t feel like it’s assembled from positions chosen at random, then strung together by the thinnest sinew of rhetorical elegance.

        • rea

          Plus, he could tell you all about the time he got killed by Bruce Lee.

        • The man thinks for himself. I remember him taking a very contrary position to his colleagues during the Terry Schiavo episode.

          • TT

            I remember within a few months or so after 9/11 The Derb came out as a staunch opponent of torture, and on NRO no less! Don’t know if he’s kept to his opposition (I stopped reading NRO probably five years ago), but at the time it struck me as endearingly principled, despite the noxious nature of so much of his politics.

    • In what sense is Larison an Apostate? He rejected the Iraq war on the same RonPaulian grounds he rejects all foreign entanglements. I’m not aware that he actually changed positions on that.

      • Murc

        Rejecting the Iraq War makes you an apostate to the conservative movement. Period.

    • Senator Richard Lugar.

  • In answer to the original question about conservative thinkers worthy of serious engagement, I might put Daniel Larison in that category. His starting premises take some getting used to, though, especially the secessionist stuff.

    While I’m on about historians, Tom Bruscino‘s an interesting one.

    • Warren Terra

      Just remember to run screaming from the room whenever Larison ventures into issues in any way related to religion.

      • At least the doctrinaire Eastern Orthodox perspective is a little different from the usual Catholic League/FocusOnFamily lines. But yeah.

        • Malaclypse

          To be fair, the filioque is indeed an abomination.

          • Shit.

            Now I have to get my homeboys together and raze your city.

            I was gonna make s’mores tonight!

  • wengler

    Stalin, before he came to power.

    The conservative reformer of Russian Communism.

    Among the living lies the trouble. There are very few willing to be honest in their views because in a sense they lost that debate long ago.

    Dick Cheney may be the most honest one of them left.

    Debate him.

    • Malaclypse

      Dick Cheney may be the most honest one of them left.

      We disagree so violently on almost everything that it’s a real pleasure to drink with him. If nothing else, he’s absolutely honest in his lunacy — and I’ve found, during my admittedly limited experience in political reporting, that power & honesty very rarely coincide. – Hunter Thompson on Pat Buchanan

      Judging by Buchanan’s utter lack of filter, I’d have to say dishonesty is not on of Pat’s many, many flaws.

  • Njorl

    I think Bill Clinton has done a good job of making the conservatives case for them on some issues. Somebody had to. He needed their votes to pass legislation, and they were too busy gathering evidence that he was a witch.


    When you look at consevative issues:

    -lower Taxes
    -more regressive taxes
    -less social spending
    -less industrial regulation
    -less land use regulation
    -less corporate regulation
    -more personal regulation
    -return of cultural and social norms of the 1950s

    is there anyone making intelligent and honest arguments in their favor? I never hear them. I’m sure they must exist with respect to regulatory reform, if so, they get drowned out by climate change denialists and such.

    • Corey

      Matt Yglesias

      • Bill Murray

        intelligent and honest is not the same thing as poorly thought out and spelled

  • Dr.BDH

    I am wracking my brain and failing. Daniel Larisson seems lucid. The problem I have with debating so-called conservatives today is that they threw away the debating (argumentation, rhetoric) rule book about the time WF Buckley popped up on TV. No accepting of premise, no agreement as to what will constitute proof, no logical consistency. Listening to Hitchens “debate” someone always reminded me of Steve Allen’s comment to Buckley during their “debate” on capital punishment: “I make jokes for a living. Why don’t you stop trying to make jokes and answer my arguments?” With Hitchens it wasn’t jokes, of course, it was supercillious snorting and tilting of the head backward, nose up, as if his opponent was the school boy Hitchens apparently never outgrew.

  • Nick Z

    An automaton programmed by Corey Robin.

  • R Johnston

    Given the muck you slog through, I understand your appreciation of his rhetoric[.]

    That’s true.

    There’s something to be said for good rhetoric, of course, but good rhetoric and sound logic don’t always coincide and, in fact and of course, good rhetoric frequently masks bad logic.

    Hitchens was consistently wrong and unsound in his reasoning. His gift for rhetoric made his post-hoc rationalizations less facially ridiculous than most, but they were still quite clearly post-hoc rationalizations, even on those occasions when Hitchens’ viewpoints seemingly aligned with reality.

    Hitchens was the textbook example of someone who used the appearance of logic and gift of rhetoric to rationalize whatever it is that he happened to believe already. He was really good at it, far better than most, but he still was not difficult to see through once you put aside the fact that you sometimes agreed with him.

    I see ostensible rationalists lauding Hitchens and it strikes me as no different than liberals lauding Ron Paul for his anti-war stance. How a person comes to his beliefs and the context of those beliefs matter, not just in judging the validity and rationality of those beliefs but also in predicting that person’s future behaviors and other beliefs. A man who’s anti-war because he’s an isolationist crank who thinks the federal government is the epitome of all evil is a problem for liberals, not a potential ally. A man whose aversion to religion is based on visceral fear and hatred rather than on rational consideration is a man who turns out to be a misogynist crank and an unthinking war hawk, the kind of man who needs to personally experience torture to know that drowning a muslim is torture, and that’s true even if that man is seemingly eloquent and erudite.

  • Some of the Reason crew. Not Ron Bailey, obviously, but Matt Welch, Tim Cavanaugh, Jacob Sullum, or Radley Balko. You did say “however broadly defined.”

    At least libertarianism puts forward a critique of liberalism that worth rebutting.

    • DocAmazing

      Tim Cavanaugh was a moron with a thesaurus and a fat Rolodex while he ran Suck.com; I only read one piece he wrote since that time, and it was, predictably, idiotic.

      Suck.com did have the advantage that it had some very good contributors not named Tim Cavanaugh, though.

      • OK.

        I’ve actually read quite a bit more than one thing he’s written in the past decade, and I stand by my statement.

        • Anonymous

          I don’t even like Tim Cavanaugh, but I like Ron Bailey (although I constantly get him confused with Matt Ridley, so maybe not).

          Jacob Sullom and Radley Balko get far more into social and foreign policy issues, and what I know of them and you, they are more liberal on those issues than you are.

          • BradP

            That was me.

          • BradP

            And I lied about Tim Cavanaugh. He’s alright. Suderman is the turd.

  • bobbyp

    Bruce Bartlett

    • elm

      Yeah, Bartlett’s not that bad. Zandi as well, though I don’t know how much he really is a conservative.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    Some additions to names previously mentioned:

    Paul Gottfried
    Wilfred McClay
    John Dean (apostate)
    Kevin Phillips (apostate)
    Diane Ravitch (apostate)
    Eugene Genovese

    • The Genovese reference is very depressing to me.

  • bobbyp

    The only good conservative is a dead conservative: Winston Churchill

    • rea

      Well, he was a conservative, and he’s dead.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    Also: Alasdair MacIntyre

  • +1 for Larison

    Maybe it is just his geekiness but I’d add Reihan Salam. He is willing to make basic statements that most TV pundits are allergic to, like when he said on Real Time before the ACA passed that a policy solution is theoretically possible from the left or from the right but that neither wouldn’t happen and that any proposed solution from the center would fail to create anything other than a political solution for one or both parties.

    He is also good at taking debates tailored to TV audiences and bringing up issues that provide something thought-provoking that you would not have expected from a cable news show. In this clip you can see Chris Hayes crack a joke and throw it to commercial after Salam makes a point about the debate surrounding Plan B that the rest of the panel wants no part of.

    • commie atheist

      The ACA was cobbled together from bits that conservatives proposed in opposition to Hillarycare, and which were acceptable to the right before Obama proposed them. I suppose these days that passes for centrism.

    • Reihan Salam gets my second place vote.

  • Captain Splendid

    Thomas Friedman?

    Oh wait, the question wasn’t “Which conservative deserves most to be gutted like the fish he is on national TV by any half-competent liberal?”

    • mark f

      I have a sneaking suspicion that Jonah considers himself to be something of a soul brother to Hitchens. He doesn’t tie his tie! Sometimes he mentions scotch! He tries really, really hard to class up flaccid vituperative with fancypants references!

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    How could I have forgotten Andrew Bacevich?

  • dr

    The living conservatives my actions reveal meto find worth reading include:

    Rod Dreher
    Daniel Larison
    David Frum
    Ross Douthat
    Andrew Sullivan
    Reihan Salaam
    Megan McArdle
    Greg Mankiw

    • R Johnston

      Douthat is a completely incompetent hire who gives affirmative action a bad name and is unworthy of notice, as is McArdle. Mankiw is a pathetic shell of a man who slid down the slippery slope and before he knew it had ended up renouncing his profession and everything he ever learned in order to feed at the wingnut trough.

      The rest of the people on that list are occasionally readable, but mostly only when they break from current conservative orthodoxy, which some do more than others.

    • commie atheist

      Dreher? McArdle? Ugh. I thought the question was, which conservatives are worthy of debating? Those two? Roy Edroso would be turning over in his grave, if he weren’t still very much alive. You might as well add Amity Shlaes to the list.

  • calling all toasters

    This whole issue reminds me Fight Club.

    [Tyler and Narrator are discussing ideal opponents]
    Tyler Durden: OK: any historic figure.
    Narrator: I’d fight Gandhi.
    Tyler Durden: Good answer.
    Narrator: How about you?
    Tyler Durden: Lincoln.
    Narrator: Lincoln?
    Tyler Durden: Big guy, big reach. Skinny guys fight ’til they’re burger.

  • Visitor

    [friend’s dad]
    wossname former gov of Mass who became Atty General or something? Wade, no Weld.. Bill Weld.

  • Visitor

    PS: I also wanted to say on the earlier thread, I disagree w/you at least 80%, but since the man has just died, I want to emphasize that he did have and use a great deal of talent. I wish comfort to his family and friends around the world.

  • BradP

    Ramesh Ponnuru
    Timothy Carney
    Reihan Salamm
    Walter Russell Mead
    Daniel Larison
    Conor Friedersdorf
    Martin Feldstein
    Tyler Cowen
    Bruce Bartlett

    Those are some names that I will usually read if I see them linked.

    • Is Freidersdorf really considered conservative? He writes for the Atlantic, so it’s not a question of him being liberal but I’ve seen him take some pretty liberal positions on issues (I’ve blogged about him a few times this year).

      I would class him more as a moderate.

      • BradP

        He’s definitely a moderate, but he is also fairly libertarian. I consider him a cosmotarian along the lines of Reason’s writers.

  • Anderson

    The Hitchens hatin’ reminds me of what I dislike about the doctrinaire Left: you’re not allowed to be wrong about anything.

    Part of anti-totalitarianism is the right to be wrong. One of the premises of liberalism is that people frequently are wrong, and that we have to learn to live with them despite that — just as they have to live with us when we’re wrong, which we inevitably will be.

    Hitchens fought the good fight on so many issues that it’s shameful to treat him as negligible because we disagreed with him on Iraq, where he let the virtue of the end (getting rid of Saddam, who was a truly evil dude) obscure the problem of the means (the Dubya SNAFU factory).

    And even while supporting the war, he didn’t become a hack – exhibit A, having himself waterboarded and reporting that, yeah, it’s torture. That may be a little more empiricism than most of us needed, but compare him to the hacks who parrotted the party line across the board.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      The Hitchens hatin’ reminds me of what I dislike about the doctrinaire Left beliefs: you’re not allowed to be wrong about anything.


      Doctrinaire attitudes are no less common among centrists than among leftists.

      As for Hitchens: he was right about many things, but wrong about many others. He was a rank misogynist. He supported Clinton’s impeachment. He continued to believe that we are fighting a war against an opponent, invented by neoconservatives, called “Islamofascism.” And over the last twenty years of his life, he became wrong with greater frequency and right with less frequency.

      He deserves to be praised for his empiricism as regards waterboarding. But about many other issues–including the invasion of Iraq–he was himself utterly doctrinaire.

      I agree that it’s wrong to dismiss Hitchens as “negligible,” let alone to celebrate his death. But I think the word “hack” is a fair overall description of what he had become in the last decade and a half of his punditry, sad to say.

      • DrDick

        Pretty much agree, except about the waterboarding. Only a hack would require that kind of evidence that it was torture, given that we executed Japanese officers for it after WWII.

      • Anderson

        A hack is a bullshitter, someone who’s indifferent to the truth but wants his faction to win.

        When was Hitchens ever a hack?

        Re: Iraq, removing Saddam per se was no bad thing; but obviously, the war was sold under false pretenses, was a distraction from the more important war in Afghanistan, and was carried out by what turned out to be the biggest bunch of war criminals to occupy the White House & Pentagon since Nixon bombed Cambodia, or maybe even worse than Nixon.

        So I think Hitchens was wrong to support the war in Iraq, but calling him “doctrinaire” or a “hack” substitutes invective for comprehension.

        … Not sure what all these other things are H. was “wrong about.” The Clinton impeachment is a dubious example; it was partisan as hell, but the person most responsible for that whole pathetic chain of events was Clinton himself (who, be it remembered, was not much less disappointing than Obama, even without the blowjobs).

  • BradP
  • The Hitchens hatin’ reminds me of what I dislike about the doctrinaire Left: you’re not allowed to be wrong about anything.

    Yes. God save those who want to be right about killing innocents.

    • commie atheist

      Just because Jerry Sandusky buttfucked a few young children in the shower is no reason to ignore all the positive, upstanding things he’s done over his entire life and make him out to be some sort of monster.

  • chris y

    Kenneth Clarke, a hundred time rather.

  • I vote for ol’ Bill Buckley. At least he could string sentences and thoughts together, even if he was (IMHO of course) wrong about basically everything.

  • JAtheist

    A co-worker of mine who ranges all over the right side of the board politically speaking frequently talks up Jason Lewis as his favorite go-to guy. Lewis occasionally has op-eds and has a radio show, but I don’t know how much penetration he has at a national level.

    Anyone here have any knowledge or thoughts to share on him? I haven’t seen much from him and most of it is older anyways. I don’t feel qualified to write him off or not.

  • IM

    James Joyne.

    My favorite reactionary is actually Larison. But since he has nothing to do with the so called conservative movement in the US, he doesn’t really counts

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