To Siberia, Applebaum!
Whether or not you agree with him (generally, or in his staunch opposition to the Palin choice), David Frum has been a great read these past few months, and this broadside is no exception. For the sin of backing Barack Obama—in a rather unconvincing semi-endorsement—Anne Applebaum, author of the terrific Pulitzer Prize-winning book Gulag, is attacked by National Review blogger Kevin Williamson for being some sort of Euro-sympathetic elitist, faux conservative. Here is Williamson:
And I find it difficult to believe for a moment that this was some sort of wrenching, soul-searching exercise for the one DC-born/Sidwell Friends-and-Yale alumnus/Europe-dwelling member of the Washington Post editorial board who was seriously thinking about going Republican this year. Spare us the opera; you're an Obama voter. Big deal.
Well, now. This is an absurd criticism on many levels, but as someone who lived in Europe for reasons similar to Applebaum—my wife is Swedish, her husband is Polish—let me remind Williamson that, rather than relaxing on the Left Bank in Paris, reading Sartre and smoking Gitanes, she is married to Radek Sikorski, the very pro-American former Polish Minister of Defense (and current Minister of Foreign Affairs). It should also be mentioned that her elitist European (boo!) husband has also contributed to National Review countless times over the years. Frum's rebuke to Williamson is here, and includes the following question: "What has happened at NR when this generation's greatest living expert on the crimes of communism can be dismissed as an unserious and dishonorable person?" Indeed.
Michael Weiss has an interesting response here, slamming those Stalinist conservatives who have tried to paint Frum as "a dandy arriviste more fond of attending D.C. cocktail parties than blindly supporting any old candidate the Republicans toss up this year," guilty of the unforgivable sin of deviationism.
Frum's latest adult intervention into the playpen that is NRO's Corner blog is to defend the excellent Ann Applebaum. A Thatcherite conservative with an independent cast of mind, Applebaum wrote a column for Slate in which she explained why she couldn't in good conscience vote for John McCain this year. She did not technically endorse Barack Obama, but just being anti-McCain was enough to tweak the epigones of William F. Buckley, some of whom were even more strongly anti-McCain when Mitt Romney was still a nationally saleable dreamboat.
Has the tradition of Burke and Chambers really degenerated into such hands? Buckley, of whom I'm a lesser admirer than most of the so-called "Obamacons," could at least keep lifelong friendships with liberals such as Murray Kempton and John Kenneth Galbraith. And Robert Conquest, I have it on excellent authority, was quite the gentleman to Susan Sontag when they were first introduced. (The author of The Great Terror, who fired a rifle on behalf of the Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War, once lived in Europe, too.)
I'm under no illusion that an Obama administration will usher in a period of American "healing." The politics of polarization has always been with us, and it's in no danger of expiring in the Age of Blogorrhea. But how sad that those paid to do the hard thinking about the future of conservatism should all rush to prove that they've got the intellects of four-year-olds, and the temperaments of Comintern agents.
Williamson responds here.
Weiss's reason piece on cyberwar in Estonia is here.