Bravery Hurts

The Neocowardice of Rich Lowry

December 27, 2012

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The Neocowardice of Rich Lowry

Imagine if Al Franken gave you a call and offered to fight you. A real fight, too—no gloves, no clock, and no rules.

Would you do it?

Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, would not. He explained it all in his sniveling and aptly titled piece “Why I Won’t Fight Al Franken.” Apparently in 2000 Franken was looking for a fight because Lowry had been publicly lamenting the way “liberals and feminists” were promoting “the feminization of America.” So Franken challenged him to put his money where his mouth was, and Lowry pussied out. It’s not that Lowry “feminized out”—he “pussied out,” which is how people who aren’t pussies would describe it.

“Lowry may have the guts to slam Hagel on the Web, but he can’t even muster up the courage to fight Al Franken, let alone serve in the military he wants to see march across the globe.”

When all of this happened, Lowry was 32 while Franken was 49 and had a bad back. Only a few months earlier, Jonah Goldberg (Lowry’s colleague at NR) had written a piece called “A Continent Bleeds” in which he advocated an American invasion of Africa. A few years later, right after the invasion of Iraq, Lowry would imply that after Iraq should come Syria. Yes, there seems to be a disconnect here.

It brings to mind one of this site’s most popular pieces, Scott Locklin’s “Never Trust Anyone Who Hasn’t Been Punched in the Face.” But why bring up the nuances of a fight that didn’t happen over a decade ago? Because with the possibility of Chuck Hagel becoming Obama’s new Secretary of Defense, it’s more relevant than ever.

The neocon reaction to the potential pick and all it implies has been most revealing. Robert Wright at The Atlantic already covered Bill Kristol and The Weekly Standard‘s take on it in his masterful “Chuck Hagel and the Neocon Smear Machine,” so Rich Lowry (snubbed only in passing at VDARE) is in my sights. His writings on the matter are featured in two different places: National Review has “Against the Hagel Nomination” and Politico has “Why Mr. Hagel shouldn’t go back to Washington.” The texts are nearly identical, with curious differences. For example, in NR, Lowry writes that “Hagel woke up every morning and thought he saw the next Henry Kissinger.” The Politico version reads, “Chuck Hagel woke up every morning and thought he saw the next Hans Morgenthau.”

Lowry’s claims that Hagel is unqualified are baseless from the get-go. He writes that “A self-styled foreign policy realist, Hagel is out of the mainstream and terminally naive.” And why is this? Well, Hagel broke with the Bush Administration and began speaking ill of the Iraq War and neoconservatism. He even went so far as discuss the possibility of the president being impeached. All of this is documented in John B. Judis’s “Look Back in Anger” for The New Republic. The idea that those positions would somehow make him at odds with the mainstream is laughable. It is currently very mainstream to disdain Bush, the Iraq War, and neoconservatism. Just look at a few polls.


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