Bring back Firing Line. William F. Buckley Jr., who died almost exactly a year
ago, hosted the program for PBS for 33 years. He performed an incalculable
service at a time when conservatives were more associated with yahoos than they
are today. He demonstrated that intellectual fluency and good manners weren’t uniquely liberal qualities. More important, the Firing Line debates (models of decorum) demonstrated that conservatives were unafraid to examine their own assumptions or to battle liberal ones.
Goldberg, conservative intellectual, best-selling author, and political "porn" distributor, says that conservatives cannot depend on Rush Limbaugh's live brains; they must have the more popular zombie brains.
Limbaugh and other right-wing talkers are popular with a third of the country.
Fairly or not, they turn off moderates and self-described independents (and, for
the left, conservative talk radio is the font of all evil). Most politicians
would prefer to have 70 percent of the public on their side at the cost of
losing 30 percent, even if that requires being less than fair to the 30 percent.
The drug-addled state of Limbaugh's brain is not enough, Goldberg said. Only zombie brains will garner attention and respect. Goldberg added that Limbaugh is not to blame; all live brains are being rejected, even by those who normally do not call for zombie brains.
The more interesting war on Limbaugh comes from the right. My National
Review colleague John Derbyshire has written a thoughtful article for The
American Conservative disparaging the “lowbrow conservatism” of talk radio. His
brush is a bit too broad at times. Some right-wing talkers, such as Bill Bennett
and Dennis Prager,
can be almost professorial. Michael Savage, meanwhile, sounds like the orderlies
are about to break through the barricades with straitjacket in hand. Derbyshire is nonetheless right that conservatism is top-heavy with talk-radio talent, giving the
impression the right is deficient in other areas and adding to the shrillness of
Another point of attack comes from “reformist” conservative writers, such
as blogger Ross Douthat of The Atlantic and former Bush speechwriter
David Frum. They argue that conservatism is too attached to talk-show platitudes and Reagan kitsch. They want conservatives and Republicans to become more entrepreneurial, less reflexively opposed to government action. Hence, the New Reformers object to Limbaugh’s role as an enforcer of ideological conformity. What’s good for Limbaugh, many of them argue, guarantees that the GOP will become a powerless rump party only for conservative true believers..
Therefore, Goldberg says, it is time to dig up William F. Buckley and put him back on television so his zombified corpse can give conservatism intellectual weight and dignity.