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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Party Of Hacks

by digby

I think it's awfully nice of Jane to offer her hand in friendship to conservative writer Ramesh Ponnuru, don't you? Clearly this upcoming book tour is going to be very difficult for him, what with all the questions about his sleazy rightwing publisher and the 24 year old plagiarist editor they assigned him. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

There is no word on whether Lil' Benji Domenech is still editing away over at Regnery publishing, but it won't make much difference. He's just one of many GOP operatives given sinecures in the myriad conservative front groups out there. There's always more where that came from.

But there's no doubt that Regnery holds a special place in the organization. From Nicholas Confessore's great article in TAP:

Regnery Publishing's right-leaning corporate philosophy actually goes back to 1947, when the late Henry Regnery, Sr., set out to publish "good books," as he wrote in the company's first catalogue, "wherever we find them." Works by Regnery's friends among the nascent conservative intelligentsia soon followed, including Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind, William F. Buckley, Jr.'s God and Man at Yale, Whittaker Chambers's Witness, and Barry Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative. Henry Regnery's son, Alfred Regnery, who took over in 1986 and moved the company to Washington, D.C., has likewise been both a friend to and publisher of conservative authors. After stints in law school (where he roomed with American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene) and as college director of Young Americans for Freedom, Alfred Regnery was appointed head of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention by Ronald Reagan in 1983. While there, as reported by Murray Waas in The New Republic, he helped run Edwin Meese's ill-fated President's Commission on Pornography; disbursed generous grants to Jerry Falwell's Liberty College, Meese pal George Nicholson, and professional antifeminist Phyllis Schlafly; authored, with then-Assistant Secretary of Education Gary Bauer, a much-ridiculed report called "Chaos in the Public Schools"; and in general cultivated an updated version of his father's network of friends.

But by the time Alfred Regnery took over the family business, the firm had slipped into semi-dormancy. Regnery Publishing's 1993 purchase by newsletter magnate Tom Phillips woke it up. Phillips, one of the Republican National Committee's "Team 100" and a board member of the Claremont Institute, lavished both money and attention on his new acquisition. Leaving Alfred Regnery at the helm, Phillips folded the company into his Eagle Publishing division, an overtly political enterprise with a distinguished stable of conservative media: Human Events, a 56-year-old,ultra-right weekly newspaper; the Evans-Novak Political Report; the 75,000-member Conservative Book Club (founded in 1964 as "America was walking down Lyndon Johnson's path to a socialist 'Great Society'"); and a similar operation called the Christian Family Book Club. But perhaps most significant--given the central role direct mail has played in the conservative resurgence of recent decades--is Eagle's list brokerage operation, which rents out Eagle's own customer lists and those of organizations like Newt Gingrich's GOPAC, Empower America, the Western Journalism Center, and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, not to mention Pat Buchanan's American Cause and the Steve Forbes for President campaign.

By the time Phillips Publishing spun off Eagle last July, an entirely new entity had emerged: a company that treats publishing less as a media enterprise than as a form of political activism. With a new, almost Gingrichian sensibility, Regnery's titles have begun to reflect the particular ideological and policy concerns of foundation-funded, third-wave conservative thinkers. Believe that the American family is in its death throes? Read Maggie Gallagher's The Abolition of Marriage: How We Destroy Lasting Love. Worried that American higher education is overrun by radical feminists and licentious left-wingers? Pick up the late George Roche's The Fall of the Ivory Tower: Government Funding, Corruption, and the Bankrupting of American Higher Education, or David Horowitz's The Heterodoxy Handbook: How to Survive the PC Campus. Believe that corrupt teachers' unions are the bane of the American education system? Read G. Gregory Moo's Power Grab: How the National Education Association is Betraying Our Children. If you suspect that the Walt Disney Corporation is out to lead children astray with Miramax films and "Gay Day" at Disney World, have a look at Disney: The Mouse Betrayed, by Peter and Rochelle Schweizer. And if you wonder whether more assault rifles equals less crime, imbibe the pithy wisdom of Wayne LaPierre's Guns, Crime, and Freedom.


Since 1996, Regnery has published no less than eight presidential exposés: Roger Morris's Partners in Power: The Clintons and Their America, Bill Gertz's Betrayal: How the Clinton Administration Undermined American Security, Edward Timperlake and William C. Triplett's Year of the Rat: How Bill Clinton Compromised U.S. Security for Chinese Cash, Ann Coulter's High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard's The Secret Life of Bill Clinton: The Unreported Stories, Gary Aldrich's Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House, and R. Emmett Tyrrell's The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton: A Political Docu-Drama and Boy Clinton: The Political Biography. To date, five of these books have made various best-seller lists.

For all intents and purposes, the eight are interchangeable--with each other and, stylistically, with most of the other political books in Regnery's catalogue. Each posits a nebulous conspiracy centered around the Clinton White House, a murky stew that typically blends one or more of the following ingredients: shady banking and land deals loosely grouped under the "Whitewater" rubric; the murder--or induced suicide--of Vince Foster; Filegate and Travelgate; dalliances with prostitutes and nymphets; rampant drug use; treason via Chinese spies; and an Arkansas-based, Clinton-masterminded drug-smuggling outfit.

And yet these character assassins are considered mainstream and legitimate by the political establishment. I think we can we all see now why Lil' Benji Domenech's "credentials" as an "editor" are so absurd and why so many of us immediately understood him to be a cheap ideological shill for the Republican Party. Believe me, he didn't get the job at the WaPo because he was a founder of Redstate. He got it because he worked for John Cornyn, National Review and Regnery publishing --- all jobs that would have led someone with any sense of how modern politics operates to look, very, very, .... very carefully at his past work. These are not jobs that should have given anyone in mainstream journalism confidence in his abilities. It should have made them suspicious.

But I digress. Regnery is publishing Ramesh Ponnuru's new book "The Party of Death" this next month. Check out what Amazon has to say about it. I'm sure you'll find it compelling. Here's a little taste:

Ponnuru's shocking expose shows just how extreme the Party of Death has become as they seek to destroy every inconvenient life, demand fealty to their radical agenda, and punish anyone who defies them. But he also shows how the tide is turning, how the Party of Death can be defeated, and why its last victim might be the Democratic Party itself.

Ponnuru's editor Lil' Benji wrote similarly (there's a surprise) on RedState not long ago:

Some still hope, legitimately or not: "There must be some common ground." But there is none. No one can make that case any more, not with a straight face. We are past that point. The Party of Death won't accept compromise, and neither will those who oppose the taking of innocent life.

That post entitled "Do not Mourn" is quite the diatribe. If I were Ramesh Ponnuru, I'd check it thoroughly. With Lil' Benji's proven proclivity for lifting others' work, I might be concerned that while he was "editing" my book he may have "inadvertantly" absorbed some of my writings.

It would seem that both Domenech and Ponnuru are ardent believers in the sanctity of "life" however. (One wonders if they spent time together watching "the greatest pro-gun movie ever" where "they actually show the jackbooted communist thugs prying the guns from cold dead hands.")

Now Ramesh, ever the "reasonable" conservative, claims that he never meant "The Party of Death" to apply to the Democratic party. He wrote on NRO recently:

Franke-Ruta mentions my forthcoming book The Party of Death, which she describes as a "book on Democrats." The book does have quite a bit to say about the Democrats, and it's tough on them. But the book is about more than that, and the title isn't meant as a pejorative term for the Democrats. I explain, mostly in the introduction, what I mean and don't mean by the phrase. I'm not saying this to complain about Franke-Ruta. It was nice of her to mention the book, and her assumption was an easy one to make, partly because the Amazon page on the book is a bit misleading. (I've tried to get Amazon to change it a few times.)

Thank goodness it isn't a pejorative term for Democrats. That would be quite ugly. But it's odd then that the cover that's shown at the Regnery web site shows a book called: "The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life." Is he describing some sort of social gathering where judges, Democrats and media all get together and "party?" Or does the phrase more logically describe The Democratic Party? Interestingly, there is an alternate book cover that shows "The Party of Death: The Assault on The Sanctity of Life." Odd, don't you think? Has Ponnuru had second thoughts about spending every day for months defending that slanderous, scurrilous title?

Of course, the one thing that hasn't changed about the title is "The Party of Death" part and I think we can be fairly confident that he isn't talking about a fun afternoon with balloons and a pony. Let's hope he doesn't persist with this line that it isn't about the Democrats because he is insulting the intelligence of anyone over the age of ten. Even some mainstream pundits might find that hard to swallow.

And anyway, it takes some nerve calling the Democrats The Party Of Death when you support a party led by a man who said this:

From: "Devil May Care" by Tucker Carlson, Talk Magazine, September 1999, p. 106

"Bush's brand of forthright tough-guy populism can be appealing, and it has played well in Texas. Yet occasionally there are flashes of meanness visible beneath it.

While driving back from the speech later that day, Bush mentions Karla Faye Tucker, a double murderer who was executed in Texas last year. In the weeks before the execution, Bush says, Bianca Jagger and a number of other protesters came to Austin to demand clemency for Tucker. 'Did you meet with any of them?' I ask.

Bush whips around and stares at me. 'No, I didn't meet with any of them,' he snaps, as though I've just asked the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed. 'I didn't meet with Larry King either when he came down for it. I watched his interview with [Tucker], though. He asked her real difficult questions, like 'What would you say to Governor Bush?' 'What was her answer?' I wonder.

'Please,' Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, 'don't kill me.'

I must look shocked -- ridiculing the pleas of a condemned prisoner who has since been executed seems odd and cruel, even for someone as militantly anticrime as Bush -- because he immediately stops smirking.

Call me crazy but it seems to me that the man who personally (and casually) signed 157 death warrants and sent the nation to an unnecessary, bloody war of choice might just have a greater claim to lead a Party Of Death. Somehow all this fretting about blastocysts and spilled sperm just doesn't have much resonance when you look at this:

I'll be looking forward to many more posts about Ramesh Ponnuru and his sleazy publisher Regnery as he goes about his book tour over the next few months. I'm tired of this nonsense.