Conservatives Liberals Should Like

A friend pointed out that my posts to date have not been complimentary of the Republican Party or the conservative movement. It's true that I am immensely disappointed with today's GOP and the extreme right-wing talking heads embodied by the Rush Limbaughs and Michael Savages of the world. Yet, I do not wish to use this blog for nonstop elephant-bashing. I do not agree with the Democrats on every issue and enjoy engaging those I disagree with more than love fests with like-minded liberals. 

My dirty, little secret is that I enjoy conservative media... a lot. Not Karl Rove or Ann Coulter conservative - those folks are the height of intellectual dishonesty and do our country a disservice whenever they are in front of a microphone. I enjoy reading or listening to thoughtful conservatives who stick to their principals even when it doesn't score political points for the Republican Party. The conservatives I like challenge my point of view and make me a more open-minded person.
With that, here is a list of five conservatives all liberals should like:
David Brooks 
Brooks has been my favorite columnist for the NY Times since joining the editorial board in 2003. Groomed by old-school conservative icon William Buckley, Brooks cut his teeth at the right-leaning Washington Times, National Review and Weekly Standard before coming to the Times. While I'm apt to agree with almost every person on the Times opinion page more than Brooks, I appreciate his balanced take, intellectual integrity and, above all, his acerbic sense of humor. 
Examples of Brooks' independence pepper his columns. A self-professed admirer of Barack Obama, Brooks called on the GOP to modernize well before the Tea Party came to town and famously described Sarah Palin "a fatal cancer to the Republican Party".  In all cases he was on point. 
His weekly give and take with liberal commentator Gail Collins is one of the most worthwhile features in political media.
Kathleen Parker 
The Washington Post's whip-smart voice of the moderate-right, Parker has championed herself as a "rational conservative" implicitly acknowledging that much of the movement is not well-versed in the art of sanity. Like Brooks, Parker also called on Sarah Palin to step down as a vice-presidential candidate during the 2008 campaign, describing the former Alaskan Governor as "out of her league". 
Parker is slated to host a new show on CNN when the Larry King show (thankfully) fades into the sunset. Her co-host is set to be former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer fresh off his scandal-induced resignation. I cannot wait to see those two debate and hope the program provides a fresh alternative to the trash on FOX.
Shepard Smith

Speaking of FOX... you can take the rest of the network (really... please take the network off the air) but leave me Shep Smith. In the vast, brain dead, propaganda machine that is FOX News, Smith remains an intelligent and rational voice. 
Smith earned my respect for courageously taking on conservative colleagues when they lined up behind former vice president Dick Cheney in defense of waterboarding. Smith minced no words with fellow FOX personality Trace Gallagher when Gallagher tried to feed the public Dick Cheney's talking points. "We are America!" yelled Smith. "We do not f#cking torture."

Right f#cking on Shep!

Smith's most recent show of decency was not running the infamous Shirley Sherrod tape before it could be verified. For that, he earned himself the ire of Rush Limbaugh. Amazingly, FOX let him keep his job.

Ross Douthat

The newest addition to the NY Times, Douthat is also the paper's most conservative voice. I never read his stuff before he landed at the Times but have liked what I've seen so far. His columns demonstrate the ability to dissect volatile issues and debates without the reader knowing which side he is on until the end of the last paragraph. 
Douthat has also challenged conservative orthodoxy by noting that Barack Obama is a "pragmatic liberal" - rather than say... a socialist, Marxist, Nazi, dictator, Islamofascist terrorist - and taking the heretical position that climate change is beyond scientific doubt
Maybe the fact that Douthat replaced Bill Kristol - one of my least favorite writers in the world - has colored my thinking, but I look forward to Douthat's columns every week and hope he has a long career at the NY Times.

Joe Scarborough

The former Republican Congressman from Florida gives us our daytime straight talk on his show "Morning Joe". Note to MSNBC - Scarborough doesn't need a co-host and is better at monologues than dialogues.

Like the other independent-minded conservatives, Scarborough is not out there to mindlessly tow the party line or spew out venomous right-wing propaganda (he's on MSNBC for god's sake). Scarborough has repeatedly earned the ire of the movement's fire-breathing fringe and taken on right-wing blowhards like Limbaugh and O'Reily with impunity.

An Inconvenient Truth

The sad thing is that the five thoughtful, honest and well-intentioned conservatives I described above could never run for office as a Republican given the extremism permeating in today's GOP. They would not pass the purity test and probably receive third party challenges (if not death threats) from the Tea Party and other extremist elements of the Far Right.

It's deeply unfortunate that "moderate" has become a dirty word in the conservative movement - look at what has become of John McCain. The Republican Party is justifiably concerned with winning elections and thinks the enthusiasm of the Far Right can return them to power. However, it will behoove the GOP not only to think about how they can get back to governing, but what it will take to govern well.

To do that, they'll need to think more like David Brooks or Shepard Smith and a lot less like Michele Bachmann and Rush Limbaugh.  
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