In a column titled “Callous Conservative” in today’s Washington Post, former Bush White House aide Michael Gerson criticizes Fred Thompson’s stance on international AIDS funding.
At a campaign stop last week, Thompson was asked if he, “as a Christian, as a conservative,” supported President Bush’s global AIDS initiative. Thompson said there are larger “problems” at home and that it was not his “priority” to fund HIV/AIDS efforts in Africa:
“Christ didn’t tell us to go to the government and pass a bill to get some of these social problems dealt with. He told us to do it,” Thompson responded. “The government has its role, but we need to keep firmly in mind the role of the government, and the role of us as individuals and as Christians on the other.”
“I’m not going to go around the state and the country with regards to a serious problem and say that I’m going to prioritize that. With people dying of cancer, and heart disease, and children dying of leukemia still, I got to tell you — we’ve got a lot of problems here…”
But the right wing is outraged at Gerson, rather than Thompson. The American Scene sarcastically refers to Gerson’s “moral clarity.” Over at the National Review, prominent conservative bloggers even went as far as to vigorously defend Thompson’s remarks, suggesting that Africans should be left alone to deal with the problem. Some lowlights:
National Review’s David Freddoso:
“Imagine if Africans were twice as wealthy and more African countries had the resources to diagnose and treat their own HIV patients? The resources to care for AIDS orphans?”
National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez:
“I believe [Thompson] was pushing back against the general “what can government do for…?” attitude we have in America. That’s a good conservative reflex, and not a callous one.”
National Review’s Yuval Levin:
As Gerson noted, Thompson’s lack of enthusiasm for helping fight the African AIDS epidemics lacks a “moral seriousness.” HIV/AIDS in Africa kills some 6,000 people a day. Even President Bush has noted the importance of sending “hard-earned dollars overseas to save the lives of people [Americans] have never met.”
By defending Thompson, conservative bloggers proved today that they also “lack a moral seriousness.”
UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias has more.