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Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

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    Republican for a Week

    By kyle | September 20, 2012

    Lefty writer Frank Rich last week came up with a surprisingly generous assessment of right-wing writers and broadcasters after spending a week “embedded” with conservative media outlets (what, all three or four of them?). Says Frank (whom I have not met, though he has mentioned me kindly in his column):

    I was desperate for a jolt. [Glenn] Beck provided exactly that, in the form of comedy, and to my astonishment, I found myself laughing out loud—with him, not at him.

    Beck is a great broadcaster (though obviously I don’t agree with everything he says) and if we’re going to let advertisers dictate that everything must be bland, our media will be the poorer for it. If he’s such a fringe loon, why was the Left so scared that they drove him off the air?

    Anyway, I don’t tend to get commentary from TV or radio in the first place as broadcast personalities in general have to exaggerate and be bombastic in order to be entertaining. But I do try to learn from writers like those at National Review and Reason, and Rich shows surprising respect for these:

    What did I learn in my week imbibing the current installment of the Reagan revolution? I came away with empathy for those in the right’s base, who are often sold out by the GOP Establishment, and admiration for a number of writers, particularly the youngish conservative commentators at sites like the American Conservative and National Review Online whose writing is as sharp as any on the left (and sometimes as unforgiving of Republican follies) but who are mostly unknown beyond their own ideological circles. What many of the right’s foot soldiers and pundits have in common is their keen awareness that they got a bum deal in Tampa, a convention that didn’t much represent either their fiercely held ideology or their contempt for the incumbent. They know, too, that their presidential candidate is the Republican counterpart to Al Gore—not only in robotic personality but in his cautious hesitance to give full voice to the message of his troops. Even Paul Ryan, the right’s No. 1 living hero, let many of his fans down with his convention speech—not because he fudged facts but because he soft-pedaled his “big ideas” about small government once in the national spotlight. Ryan left some conservatives wondering if the only thing they gained from having him on the ticket was his name on a lousy T-shirt.

    It’s pretty rare for a liberal to acknowledge that conservatives are not necessarily stupid or evil, so let’s give Rich a bit of credit here for rising above most of his peers.

    You don’t have to agree with these people’s politics to see they have a compelling beef. They are true believers in a minimalist American government. They see Obama’s economic record as a golden opportunity to throw him out. They helped propel Ryan, a dogged champion of conservative ideals, onto the national ticket. And they saw all of that jeopardized by a Republican National Committee and Romney campaign that muted and dumbed down the message in its tightly disciplined, highly scripted game plan to win over the tiny and elusive percentage of American voters who hold no strong views at all.

    Well, yes, we’d like to see government be a bit minimalist — but we’d settle for seeing the fiscal trajectory restored to something like sanity before we turn into the United States of Athens. For this belief we are labeled “fringe” and “extreme.”

    Topics: Politics | 14 Comments »

    14 Responses to “Republican for a Week”

    1. kishke Says:
      September 20th, 2012 at 10:53 am

      I think you’re being way too kind to Rich. The article is chock-a-block with snark designed to play to his liberal readers. His objective is a) to make the GOP seem a completely divided house and b) to convince his readers that regardless of what they might see on TV, the real conservatives are a pack of birther nutcases. He dresses this up with a bit of fake sympathy for the conservative true believers (read: dangerous crackpots) who represent the real conservativism, but his actual purpose is to convince independents that whatever Obama’s faults, it would be too dangerous to let these nuts anywhere near the levers of power.

    2. Kyle Says:
      September 20th, 2012 at 12:36 pm

      I don’t think he writes for independents. He is writing exclusively for liberal New Yorkers, who are the only people who read New York magazine. It isn’t designed for Ohioans who are on the fence. When Frank walks into a room, he assumes everyone there thinks as he does, and he’s right.

    3. kishke Says:
      September 20th, 2012 at 1:54 pm

      Okay, I hear, although I still think I’m right on the general snarkiness of the piece and the fake sympathy, which is a form of mockery.

    4. Yankeefan Says:
      September 22nd, 2012 at 8:25 am

      I think you’re being very touchy Kishke. This is a very insightful piece, and written with genuine sympathy. Rich is right: this is a whole slice of the population the lame stream media overlooks, almost entirely. This is why Fox and Rush exist in the first place.

      Now, before you dismiss me as just another snarky liberal, I probably watch more Fox and listen to more righty radio that most people who comment on this blog, likely more than Kyle himself. I kinda dig the grassroots rights insurrectionary zeal and their unwillingness and inability to salute the establishment. These are ballsy traits the left once had.

      My only qualm, and perhaps it’s unfair: many hosts and callers seem, at a visceral level, to dislike America and what it stands for as intensely as the old lefty flag burners used to. They don’t seem to like it here very much, certainly not as much as I do.

    5. SK Says:
      September 22nd, 2012 at 1:52 pm

      Isn’t it usually liberals who fake-threaten to leave the country if their candidate loses?

    6. Yankeefan Says:
      September 22nd, 2012 at 3:59 pm

      Never known a single person who made good on that threat. Have known more than a few that I wish woulda.

    7. kishke Says:
      September 22nd, 2012 at 9:06 pm

      @YF: I’ve read too many of your comments to dismiss as a snarky liberal, but I cannot agree with your take on the article. I see it as full of snark, and the sympathy strikes me as just a way of highlighting the supposed betrayal of the true believers by the GOP. I think Rich would like nothing better than to see the GOP go full blast right; he surely assumes that this would sink their chances.

      I haven’t listened much to talk radio in some years, but as I remember, it wasn’t that they don’t like it here, it’s that they don’t like what the left is turning “here” into. That’s not called disliking America; it’s called keeping America from being turned into Europe.

    8. yankeefan Says:
      September 27th, 2012 at 11:42 am

      Kishke, in re Frank Rich’s piece: I think you’re killing the messenger. At the height of the birther nonsense, nearly half of self-identified Republicans questioned Obama’s birthplace. That’s their right as Americans, of course, but they managed to alienate a helluva lot of mainstream people in the process.

      Kyle, and I gather you too Kishke given past comments, are outliers in the GOP at the moment. I suspect — and hope — that the party comes back to you, for the sake of the country.

      Kyle’s preferred candidate in 08, and hoped-for in 2012, was the liberal Rudy (a mayor I supported), who spent $50 mil in a GOP primary to garner 1 delegate. Kyle was been quite supportive on this blog of Mitt, a good and reasonable man by any measure, and a candidate opposed throughout the primaries by 75% of the GOP.

      As they say on sports radio, I would “sign for” a Kyle Smith GOP right now, one of (CLICHE ALERT!) flinty and cranky New England moderation and skepticism. Indeed, of healthy contrarianism. It may yet be a while before we get there, however.

    9. Kyle Says:
      September 27th, 2012 at 2:30 pm

      All right, you’re calling me a moderate? THE MUDSLINGING HAS BEGUN.

    10. yankeefan Says:
      September 27th, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      It’s all relative.

      Hey, I coulda called your worse: an oenophile…a Francophile….an…an…Ivy League English major……

    11. kishke Says:
      September 27th, 2012 at 3:26 pm

      The GOP I’d like would be one of small government, low spending and low taxes, strong on defense and allergic to political correctness. Support for Israel is important to me as well. But after four years of Obama, and most especially after that lunacy of a health care bill, I’ll settle for whatever I can get.

    12. Yankeefan Says:
      September 27th, 2012 at 3:48 pm

      Kishke, I know, I know: the Heritage Foundation, those damn socialists, were just totally nuts for coming up with that idea for health reform. And Newt “Che Guevara” Gingrich was positively subversive for proposing a similar plan in the 90s. And the author of Romneycare ? Well, we know he’d turn the USA into North Korea.

    13. kishke Says:
      September 27th, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      I’m not worried about us getting North Korean healthcare, I’m worried about us getting Canadian or British healthcare. I’m also worried about having such a huge chunk of the economy in government hands, and about having yet another layer of government bureaucracy installed over us — still more dense, unhelpful creatures to deal with — only this time it won’t be in the DMV or post office, but possibly in matters of life and death. Not to mention the doctor shortage we’ll be facing once the government drives down the fees, or the end of pharmaceutical research if it no longer pays. And all you have in response is the lame argument that the idea has conservative roots somewhere in the past? As if I give a damn.

    14. Kyle Says:
      September 28th, 2012 at 12:33 pm

      “If you oppose Obama, it must be because you think he’s Kim Jong Il.”

      “Or you must be a birther.”

      Strangely ineffective tactic.