Observing my exasperation with some founding Zombie Contenders, and declining to accept my excuses for rudeness, a certain amphibious e-mailer asked me what, after all, I expected, considering that this blog was originally founded for refugees from “ground zero for intolerance.”
That phrase struck me as strange, since I had never thought of Contentions as a haven for intolerance. The notion doesn’t, or shouldn’t, fit the profile: The leftist origins of founding neoconservatives recall the historical Jewish affinity for social progressivism and the politics of solidarity. Even without actively nurturing a guilty conscience toward an abandoned left-progressive project, even when reacting against conventional liberal and leftist politics, urban Jewish intellectuals in the rightwing coalition have referred by their mere presence to their pre-history, as one of its typical products. There were and remain limitations on their influence, but a movement that made room for Norman Podhoretz and that strongly supported Israel would have little space left over for the “paleo-conservatism” of figures like Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul, who never completely separate from political anti-Semitism.
Distancing from “comprehensive immigration reform” politics, a hot button among nativists, seemed to confirm that the old Jewish progressive conscience was still at least somewhat operational. More significantly regarding neo-conservatism’s central mission, tolerance/intolerance seemed secondary in relation to a foreign policy emphasis, while support for Israel and for American values could be viewed as progressive relative to the state of the world in general. A Rechtsstaat in Iraq is fundamentally more progressive than a Saddamstaat. Israel is fundamentally more progressive than any of the regional alternatives. Promotion of constitutional government based on universal human rights is more progressive in the broad sense of the term than support for authoritarian governments on the basis of Realpolitik.
Obama has shown his true sentiments now, after weeks of concealing them, on an issue of deep significance not only to the families and loved ones of 3,000 slaughtered Americans but also to the vast majority of his fellow citizens. He has once again revealed himself to be divorced from the values and concerns of his countrymen. He is entirely – and to many Americans, horridly — a creature of the left, with little ability to make moral distinctions. His sympathies for the Muslim World take precedence over those, such as they are, for his fellow citizens. This is nothing short of an abomination.
What I find abominable is indulgence in rhetoric so extreme that the writer must either be considered a coward for not forming a revolutionary cell (I’m assuming Rubin has not done so), or be considered a candidate for pharmacological intervention.
While tracking the conservative reaction on this issue, I’ve commented on Rubin’s language more than once in recent weeks. The excerpt above strikes me as not very far from this reaction from Pamela Geller to the same Obama statement (quoted at a blog linked by commenter miguel cervantes):
If you had any doubt who Obama stood with on 911, there can be no doubt in our minds now.
Gellar is an extreme case, but her paranoid, all-for-the-war-on-Islam style, is easy to find on sites all around the internet. It’s often accompanied by ethnic/religious humor – creative exploration of ways to offend Muslims – eventually leading to the spectacle of supposedly sober-minded conservatives of Jewish background, like Jonah Goldberg, chortling about throwing pork in the faces of the Muslim k—s. To my knowledge, no conservative opinion leader has yet sought to rebuke the extremists and fellow travelers: Until further notice, all American conservatives still “own” such rhetoric. (I feel like putting up an updating “America’s Conservatives Held Hostage” graphic…)
Attacks on the patriotism and morality of the leftwing intelligentsia were always a stock in trade on the neo-conservative right, especially prior to the collapse of the Soviet Bloc. 9/11 and War on Terror politics allowed for a re-escalation, but this response to Cordoba House/Park51, the uniform and unself-conscious opposition all across the American conservative spectrum from furthest right to centrist, suggests something qualitatively new. Among conservative Christians, “dual covenant” doctrine, which affirms a special status for the Jews and urges Christians to support Israel, helped to solidify a political and religious-cultural coalition, under a worldview increasingly described in terms of “Judeo-Christianity.” More than a generation after the political dual covenant coalition first formed under Ronald Reagan, Judeo-Christianity appears to be the foundation for a new culturally reactionary politics, defined in critical part by antagonism toward the third Abrahamic faith.
Maybe the “Ground Zero Mosque” frenzy is just a Summer fever that has already peaked, but, even if it fades away and is forgotten, it has exposed something, in Rubin’s phrase, “of deep significance,” something that was always present as potential – ready to break the surface after 9/11, allowed to do so in the form of military violence, but suppressed on a rhetorical level amidst the realities of political responsibility under the Bush Administration.
To me, “dual covenant” also implies “dual eschatology.” The implications are something I intend to examine in future discussion. They do not, for now, leave me in a mood to apologize for having hurt someone’s feelings a little bit in some thread exchange.