Dodging a Bullet: The New Yorker and Me
A friend of mine at the Los Angeles Times warned me that when the New Yorker called to suggest a profile be done of me, that my agreement was akin to a suicide decision. But the reporter, Nicholas Lemann, turned in a very fair though hard hitting piece.
If one were to confer the distinction of Most Famous Conservative Journalist Whom Liberals Have Never Heard Of, a leading candidate would be Hugh Hewitt: author (of six books, most of which get to the point so efficiently that he brings out a new one every eighteen months or so); columnist (for the online edition of The Weekly Standard and the evangelical magazine World); blogger; and syndicated radio talk-show host. Hewitt, an unlined, inquisitive-looking, white-haired forty-nine year-old with an amiable but relentless manner, lives and works in Orange County, California. In addition to his journalism, he practices law at a firm that bears his name, teaches at Chapman University School of Law, in Orange County, lectures and consults in the conservative-media world, is an elder in his church, serves on the Children and Families Commission of Orange County, and holds a series of honorary titles, such as California State Sommelier.
Another thing that I can confidently predict is that after this article appears activists on the left will put Hugh Hewitt forward as an example of the well-oiled quality of the Republican media operation, because of the efficiency and prolixity of his efforts to disseminate the Party’s message. If bloggers can respond to political developments within seconds, it must be O.K. for me to speed up the cycle of discourse just one more click and defend Hewitt in advance against this as yet unmade charge. Hewitt is definitely a Republican, but he is no mere mouthpiece. He says that he has spent a total of five minutes with Karl Rove off the air (to disagree with a possible change in the tax treatment of clerics), that he never reads the e-mails that endlessly flow from the Republican National Committee, and that he is now involved, through an outfit called Not One Dime More, in a campaign to dissuade people from contributing to the Republican National Senatorial Committee (because some of its candidates supported the filibuster compromise). What Hewitt demonstrates about journalism is that journalism-as-politics is rapidly expanding its size and reach, especially on the conservative side. What he demonstrates about politics is not that the Republicans have a wondrously efficient message machine but that there are a lot of smart and very determined conservatives who are constantly starting new organizations and signing up more converts. And the Democrats aren’t going to beat them by streamlining the delivery of their message.
Lemann will probably take some heat from some on the left who don’t want to read how center-right conseravtives like me can be both amiable and smart, but they would be wise to reread his last sentence over and over again.