Irving Kristol And Conservative ‘Taqiya’

irving kristolTo add a little to Yglesias’ post on Irving Kristol’s support for subverting facts to politics, I think there’s a real irony in the way that neoconservatives have warned ominously of Iranian “taqiya” — dissimulation in service of a higher religious goal — as if Shiite clerics invented the phenomenon of lying in politics. This is, after all, precisely the sort of thing that Irving Kristol advocated in a political context — the sacrifice of truth to Republican political imperatives:

Among the core social scientists around The Public Interest there were no economists…. This explains my own rather cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit and other monetary or fiscal problems. The task, as I saw it, was to create a new majority, which evidently would mean a conservative majority, which came to mean, in turn, a Republican majority — so political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government…

You don’t need to look hard to see that this approach is alive and well in the conservative movement. Just look to David Horowitz’s response to David Frum on Glenn Beck’s hysteria, in which Horowitz concedes that Beck’s attacks on Cass Sunstein are “over the top,” but insists that the threat from The Left is so dire that it justifies Beck’s dishonesty. (I’m curious whether Frum — whose website is titled New Majority, in reference to Kristol — recognizes Kristol as a promulgator of the sort of tactics Frum now condemns?)

Or look at NRO’s Andrew McCarthy’s defense of the “death panels” lie, justified, McCarthy wrote, by the fact that “Obama is not a normal politician. He’s a visionary, and using health care to radically expand the scope of government happens to be central to his vision.” The “stakes here couldn’t be higher,” McCarthy wrote, “time is short, and ‘death panel’ cuts to the chase.”

Irving Kristol didn’t invent this practice, of course, but he did develop and sharpen it as an American conservative political doctrine. In that respect, I think Michael Lind lets Kristol off too easily when he writes, in regard to the wilderness into which Irving’s son Bill Kristol has helped lead the conservative movement, that “the sins of the sons should not be visited upon the fathers.” There’s a clear straight through-line from Irving’s support for elites lying to the ignorant rubes to Bill’s recruiting a genuine ignorant rube to tell those lies on elites’ behalf.