Your effort to reduce my article to the question of whether or not I have ample justification for hurt feelings is laughable. Citing my employment arrangements with the American Spectator, my book income, and my media profile, you say I have no reason to complain. "People get bumped off invite lists every day," you write. Last Thursday evening you attended a dinner party at my home. That morning, I had read your reply to me in SLATE. If I had called and disinvited you to dinner, do you really believe there would have been no "deeper significance" to the incident? That it would not have betrayed an intolerant and ignorant mindset?
But enough about dinner parties. My complaint, in case you missed it, has nothing at all to do with my career, or my social life, or my bank account. It has to do with the oppressive conservative culture I describe. Your only effort to rebut me substantively on this is demonstrably wrong: "You were attacked by a few marginal figures on the right, people most intelligent conservatives regard as ridiculous and embarrassing." Let's see ... the editors of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, the Washington Times, and National Review ... Paul Weyrich, Gordon Liddy, and Oliver North ... neocons Hilton Kramer and Midge Decter (the mother of your editor at the Weekly Standard). While I would sometimes like to think that these voices are "marginal" in the eyes of most intelligent conservatives, the last time I checked, these figures constituted the entire conservative-opinion elite.
You also chide me for not having anticipated what you call the "obvious" reaction among conservatives to my Hillary book and to my criticism of Aldrich. Well, if at the ripe old age of 26 it is so obvious to you that conservatives have no intellectual standards and don't give a damn about the truth, then you'll go much farther in the conservative media world than I did.
Having read Jacob Weisberg's piece in SLATE, " The Conintern," your refusal to come to grips with my main point is all the more astonishing, since you appear to have been a target of the thought police on the right yourself. You recently wrote a critical profile of conservative activist and Newt Gingrich protégé Grover Norquist. The conservative weekly which employs you passed on a very hot piece for fear of offending the powers-that-be in the GOP leadership. You sold it to the New Republic. According to the Weisberg piece, in retaliation Norquist tried to convince Rupert Murdoch to pull the plug on the Standard. (In one version I've heard you tell, Newt got directly involved and your job was in question. Norquist, by the way, denies exerting pressure but says he did call Eric Breindel, a top Murdoch aide, to complain about alleged inaccuracies in your piece. Clear up the record on this, please.) You received menacing telephone calls, including one from Michael Ledeen, who expressed perfectly the kind of Leninist mentality that no conservative, certainly not one who pretends to be an intellectual, should have anything to do with ("No one who believes what we believe should be attacking Grover"). Yet you don't mention any of this, choosing instead to prattle on about my "marketability." Hello? I'm not one for questioning motives, but any disingenuousness here seems to be on your part.
I'm disappointed that you've given me so little to work with. You write that I "seem disillusioned with journalism itself." Well, yes. Because journalism is so often seen as a way of advancing a particular agenda or spin, and the pressures to do predictable punditry are so great, there seems no way of accommodating original thinking and unexpected conclusions. A conservative who says nice things about Hillary? It doesn't compute in the Crossfire culture. Am I wrong?
When you do engage, you completely miss the target. My comment about "censorship" on Meet the Press was not a reference to my own case, but rather to the Washington Times' spiking of Arianna Huffington's critical columns on Newt. But this is typical of your misreading of this entire controversy. Tucker, it's not about me. We're engaged in this dialogue because my Esquire piece struck a chord. People are responding not to the details of my personal story, but to the larger points my story illustrates.
One of these is the profound disillusionment with the Republican leadership. Just as I found out that the conservatives were willing to stick with Aldrich's lies for political gain, so too have many conservatives concluded that the Republican leadership is about holding onto power with no sense of higher purpose. Those members of Congress who might challenge the leadership are afraid to do so in public, perhaps for fear of telephone calls implying retribution from so-called True Believers like the one you got from Michael Ledeen.
Another is my desire to be "off the team" as a partisan conservative. Considering their appalling performance in the Aldrich affair, when I now read the Wall Street Journal editors' admonitions that the Clinton administration "come clean," I gag. People are sick of the hypocrisy of apologists on both sides and don't want to be told what to think. A third point to consider is my sense--this, from a self-confessed "right-wing hit man"--that scandal politics, the criminalizing of policy differences, and attack commentary has run its course. It's time to try to advance a legitimate conservative case on the grounds of policy.
On all of these meaty issues, you take a curious pass. When I read your piece on Grover, I thought you were a fresh-air conservative. But your dreary little squib about motives and money is only another example of Washington small-mindedness.
Tucker Carlson is a staff writer for the Weekly Standard. David Brock is an investigative writer for the American Spectator. He is author of The Seduction of Hillary Rodham and The Real Anita Hill.
This dialogue grows out of Brock's article, "Confessions of a Right-Wing Hit Man," in the July 1997 issue of Esquire. Click here for an excerpt.