Friday, December 14, 2007

BLOWING THEIR COVER. Alan Keyes has been a prominent conservative for a long time. Ronald Reagan ("I've never known a more stout-hearted defender of a strong America than Alan Keyes") appointed him to the UN and to the State Department. The National Review used to be cool with Keyes, too: he has been interviewed and even written for the magazine.

In 1999 Jonah Goldberg called Keyes "the most intelligent, articulate, impressive guy to run for president in any party in years." It is interesting to see how he qualified this statement:
But I just can't shake the notion that he'd bring back the guillotine. As a friend of mine put it, if you drew a venn diagram of crackpots and great political minds, he would be one of the few people in that area where the circles overlap. Still, I find it befuddling that I can't articulate why he isn't getting more respect.
Back then, for this crowd, a Republican could be a "crackpot" and a great candidate at the same time. Why not? The GOP had Congress and Reagan Revivalism was in the air, and if some of its avatars were raw like Rush, that only added a fun frisson of political incorrectness to the proceedings. (Later Goldberg praised Keyes because "He doesn't believe that an idea or a fact is more or less true depending on whether it will make a feminist cry.")

But this year Keyes got on Wednesday's Iowa Republican Presidential debate, and spouted much the same gibberish as usual. This time the National Review crowd is incensed. "I Wish the Des Moines Register Had One More Republican Debate This Cycle," says Kathryn Jean Lopez, "so I could demand a place on the stage. It makes as much sense as Alan Keyes being there." Rich Lowry said Keyes "shouldn't have been on the stage." Mark Hemingway suggested Keyes be pushed off future debate stages with sticks.

Only Goldberg tried to maintain to old-school funtimes, saying "I kind of dug Alan Keyes' crazy guy on the bus routine." Elsewhere conservatives were uniformly angry at Keyes' presence, despite his commendations from the Gipper.

What changed? Well, for one thing, the Republicans aren't doing so hot, so the hijinks of olden times have to be kept on the down-low. The "mainstream" Republican candidates, knowing what a tough slog they have ahead of themselves, are making strenuous efforts to look and sound normal for the cameras. Conservative commentators play gamely along, talking about their debates as if they were business as usual, though were a soul innocent of the current GOP's bizarre standards of normalcy to happen upon one of these scenes, it would probably fill him with confusion and horror.

But most of us are not so well-protected, and are by now kind of inured to the Jesus-infused, torture-happy madness of Republicans. Their best chance is to keep a straight face over the course of the remaining 732 debates, and get us all acclimated to their insane ideas once more. Then Keyes comes along frothing at the mouth. Under ordinary circumstances, his competitors might see this as an opportunity to look more normal by comparison. But their supporters, at least, are wrapped too tight at the moment to see it that way. They see the rampaging id of Republicanism let loose upon their stage, and they are terrified that his mania might be catching. They had just learned to live with Ron Paul, and now this!

No wonder Keyes drives them bonkers. He's blowing their cover.

No comments:

Post a Comment