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Reason Over Passion: In Defense of Charles Krauthammer
by Aaron Goldstein
29 March 2004

Neo-conservatives like Krauthammer are an important part of the conservative coalition.  A response to Matt Abbott's Neocon Critics of the Passion of Christ.


Conservatives sometimes disagree with one another.  Most of the time the disagreements are civil. At other times when one conservative is at odds with another, he will deem the other person not a conservative. Sometimes passion rules over reason.

Speaking of passion, Matt C. Abbott recently penned an article titled 'Neocon' Critics of the Passion of the Christ.  In the article, Abbott takes “neoconservative” writers Charles Krauthammer, William Safire, Lev Navrozov and Scott Shore to task for their criticisms of Mel Gibson’s film.  Abbott, a former executive director of the Illinois Right to Life Committee, questions Krauthammer and company about their conservative credentials:

A neoconservative, to me, is the same as a “fiscal conservative”.   In other words, neoconservatives/ fiscal conservatives are, in reality, not conservatives at all; they are liberals, albeit a bit more sophisticated in their arguments than the ordinary, run-of-the-mill liberal.   They support Republicans insofar as Republicans promote a particular type of foreign policy, or a particular view of economics.   But neoconservatives seemingly have little or no concern about the moral law and the evils that are destroying our culture – abortion, contraception, assisted suicide, pornography, and the homosexual agenda.   And, for all practical purposes, they are anti-Christian.

Abbott is certainly correct when he states that Krauthammer and friends support the Republicans because they promote a particular type of foreign policy or economics.  Just as Abbott (presuming that he supports the GOP) might support the Republican Party because they promote a particular type of policy concerning traditional family values and the sanctity of life.   People support the Republican Party for many different reasons and any political party with such a large tent might very well include people who under normal circumstances might not agree on what time of the day it is.  But such is the function of the political parties; to mobilize a broad based coalition based on shared principles and values.

But, of course, there will always be differences.    It is very possible that Abbott has been conservative from the get go.    There are other individuals that were liberal or socialist in their inclinations before embracing conservatism and I certainly include myself in this category.  Indeed, there was a time when Krauthammer was writing speeches for Walter Mondale.  

Nowadays, Krauthammer writes a great deal about foreign policy.  But he also writes about other subjects and dare I say even subjects that Mr. Abbott might care a great deal about.  On February 27 of this year, Krauthammer wrote an article concerning gay marriage in the wake of events here in Boston and San Francisco and points in between. While Krauthammer supports civil unions and opposes the proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between members of the opposite sex he takes gay rights activists to task:

(T)hey deserve to be excoriated when, having thrown their cultural Molotov cocktail and finding that the majority of Americans have the temerity to resist, they cry: culture war!

Last August, Krauthammer ripped New York Senator Charles Schumer for his effort and that of Senate Democrats to thwart the appointment of Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Pryor is on public record in deeming both abortion and Roe v. Wade to be abominations.    Krauthammer ridiculed Schumer’s reasoning for opposing Pryor’s appointment:

An amazing litmus test: deeply held beliefs are a disqualification for high judicial office. Only people of shallow beliefs (like Schumer?) need apply. Of course, Schumer’s real concern is with the content of Pryor’s beliefs.  Schumer says that he would object to “anybody who had very, very deeply held views.”   Anybody?  If someone had deeply held views in favor of abortion rights, you can be sure that Schumer would not be blocking his nomination.

Does Mr. Abbott still think Krauthammer is not conservative at all?  Consider Krauthammer’s thoughts on stem cell research back in 2001:

(I)t is important to recognize the gravity of providing government money—and thus communal moral sanction—to the deliberate destruction of a human embryo for the purpose of research.   It violates the categorical imperative that human life be treated as an end and not a means.  

Abbott, is of course, entitled to disagree with Krauthammer’s position on The Passion.   However, as the evidence above would suggest, he goes too far in deeming Krauthammer not a conservative.  Besides, since when is supporting a strong foreign policy and traditional family values incompatible?  William Bennett writes forcefully about both subjects.   Indeed, Pat Buchanan considers Bennett a neoconservative. Does Abbott believe Bennett not to be a conservative?   What about the ultimate neoconservative Norman Podhoretz?  Podhoretz, the patriarch of Commentary magazine, while having written extensively about foreign policy, has also ventured into areas of concern to Abbott.    Indeed, Abbott might want to read Podhoretz’s book Ex-Friends.   Podhoretz writes of his time in New York with such people as Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, Lillian Hellman and Allen Ginsberg.    Abbott might be interested in Podhoretz taking Ginsberg to task for his homosexuality, arguing that he was escaping familial responsibility.  

Conservatives call themselves such for many reasons.  More often than not conservatives will share common ground.  When conservatives are at odds with one another the debate ought to remain civilized and cordial.   For one conservative to label another conservative unfit for the movement pulls the common ground from under both sets of feet.    

Aaron Goldstein, a former member of the socialist New Democratic Party, writes poetry and has a chapbook titled Oysters and the Newborn Child: Melancholy and Dead Musicians. His poetry can be viewed on www.poetsforthewar.org.

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