Writing in the wake of the Republican election losses and lamenting the absence of true conservative leadership, David Welch, a former research director for the Republican National Committee, recently wished for the days of William F. Buckley. Pointing to how Buckley in the 1960's used his National Review magazine to rebuke the emerging John Birch Society and to help drive the conspiratorial anti-communists out of mainstream Republican circles, Welch longed for someone who "displayed political courage and sanity." He longed for leaders to save the Republican Party from its own dangerous fringe, the way Buckley did.
Conservatives today are in desperate need of gatekeepers, of "adult supervision," Welch stressed [emphasis added]:
The modern-day Birchers are the Tea Party. By loudly espousing extreme rhetoric, yet holding untenable beliefs, they have run virtually unchallenged by the Republican leadership, aided by irresponsible radio talk-show hosts and right-wing pundits. While the Tea Party grew, respected moderate voices in the party were further pushed toward extinction. Republicans need a Buckley to bring us back.
If Welch had been looking for additional proof of how leaderless conservatives have become, or more specifically for proof of how the lack of adult supervision has been codified and is now even celebrated, then he could have clicked on this link and watched Fox News talker Greg Gutfeld's recent appearance at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
Invited to appear one week before Welch wrote his lament in the New York Times, Gutfeld was greeted with a hero's welcome at the Reagan Library, the bastion of modern day conservativism. Appearing at the library just days after the Republican governor of Wisconsin spoke there, and days before the former Republican Speaker of the House, it's clear Gutfeld and his od brand of would-be political satire, which is built around the premise that he doesn't know much about anything and is proud of it, has been welcomed to the GOP's Establishment table.
It's revealing because unlike right-wing talkers such as Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter or Laura Ingraham, who present themselves as plugged-in and well-read experts and use that expertise to lend credibility to their commentary, Gutfeld proudly advertises the fact that he's clueless about the Middle East, and taxation, and the First Amendment, or whatever other topic happens to be in the news.
As Media Matters' Alexander Zaitchik stressed in his review of Gutfeld's new book, The Joy Of Hate:
It is not insulting Fox News host Greg Gutfeld to say he doesn't know much about the subjects he jokes and chats about for a living. He draws pleasure from saying so himself, over and over again, in a thousand repetitive ways.
Gutfeld in many ways is the face of the conservative's Tea Party media wing. Enthralled with name-calling and proud of his I'm-not-so-bright persona, Gutfeld's clearly considered to be a rising star by the Orange County faithful who gave him a standing ovation at the Reagan Library and who came to hear the Fox host make bladder jokes, while claiming liberals see terrorists groups as "heroic."
Why would someone with such limited skills be seen as a leader? Why have GOP gatekeepers welcomed him inside? Because Gutfeld's a regular on Fox News. Period. That's what passes as leadership within the conservative movement today. It's a movement that's powered first and foremost by the media, and most often by Rupert Murdoch's media and by common sense-challenged employees like Gutfeld, who this week appeared to be giggling on-camera while discussing the topic of teenage gun deaths.
The truth is, the Republican gatekeepers Welch yearns for no longer exist. Instead, media carnival barkers call the shots. Carnival barkers like Gutfeld who peddles his wares with the upfront acknowledgement that he doesn't know what he's talking about.
And no, I can't imagine what Bill Buckley would make of this new conservative breed.