Top 10 Letters
Michael F. Scheuer and Thomas E. Woods Jr. respond to their critics, plus our first correspondence from a European Commissioner.
11:00 PM, Feb 23, 2005
Max Boot hates nothing more than being told he's not a real conservative. But judging from his laughable review of my book The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, what could be more obvious?
We learn in his review that Mr. Boot agrees with the Left's assessment of just about all major episodes of the past century and a half of American history. We might call this "everything's fine" conservatism. For according to Boot, Reconstruction was fine, the Fourteenth Amendment is fine, Woodrow Wilson is fine, Franklin Roosevelt is fine, the New Deal is fine, Lyndon Johnson is fine, the Great Society is fine, affirmative action (to which anti-discrimination law inevitably leads) is fine, Bill Clinton's wars are fine. Is it not a little revealing that Boot's critique of my book is almost identical to that of the New York Times?
Boot's message to me, therefore, is apparently that the left may be wrong here and there, but it is not nearly as wrong as my book suggests. No, Mr. Boot: the left is every bit as wrong as I say they are. Hillary supported the Iraq war, too, so I'm afraid that issue alone does not a conservative make. Stop making excuses for the left, and for heaven's sake, if you want to be called a conservative without hearing all those snickers, quit siding with them on everything that matters.
--Thomas E. Woods Jr.
Max Boot responds: It will come as news to my former employers at the Wall Street Journal editorial page or to my current colleagues at The Weekly Standard--two of the preeminent conservative publications in America--that I am a closet pinko. But the issue isn't whether I am a "real" conservative; I couldn't care less how I'm labeled. The issue is whether Thomas E. Woods Jr. is a real conservative, or at least the kind other conservatives want to be associated with.
I note that he does not disavow any statements of the League of the South, of which he is a founding member. As I pointed out in my review, this is a racist, Southern secessionist group that reviles the present-day United States and looks back nostalgically on the Confederacy. Nor does Woods repudiate his past criticisms of the "barbarism of recent American foreign policy," which could just as easily have come from Noam Chomsky or Michael Moore.
One certainly can find fault with Reconstruction, Franklin Roosevelt, the Great Society, affirmative action, and a great many other things, but Woods' neo-Confederate outlook, his glaring omissions, and his cavalier disregard for the facts make him an unreliable and unpersuasive critic. Just because some leftists may be wrong doesn't mean that Woods is right. That he calls himself a conservative only does damage to mainstream conservatism by confirming all the liberal caricatures about the right.
It is with great disagreement that I must respond to Stephen Schwartz's recent article on the passing of Hunter S. Thompson. I don't know what to be more outraged about: Schwartz's seeming enjoyment, perhaps highly anticipated, of seeing the final nail put in Hunter S. Thompson's coffin, or his joy in using Thompson's life to herald the death of all that he represented, or his inability to separate great writing from bad living. Be it any of those three, or even any others, I find your piece highly disappointing for a magazine of such caliber, and a disservice to anyone trying to truly understand Hunter S. Thompson.
I happen to be one of the proud, and few, Republican fans of Hunter S. Thompson. Our flag bearer is P.J. O'Rourke; I merely man the Richmond cell of this fine organization. This will be a busy period for all of us in this august assemblage. We will spend our time combating our fellow conservatives, most of whom want to dance on Hunter's grave because of his political thoughts, rather than reflect on the genius that was Dr. Thompson. But we will do this gladly, for it is important work.
So, let's start with the first and principal objection to Hunter S. Thompson: His lifestyle. Yes, Thompson was given to using a large amount of drugs, and drinking a prodigious amount of alcohol. It is reflected in his work, and many know of him only for these reasons. But for those who know of Hunter only for his substance abuse, that is their loss. It is like only knowing Wilt Chamberlain for his womanizing. It is an attribute of his personality, but it ignores what makes him exceptional.