Nothing New Under 'The Sun'

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The latest issue of the leftist American Prospect carries a front-page article on New York’s new daily broadsheet, the New York Sun. The Sun has been touted as a u201Cconservativeu201D equivalent to the New York Times. It’s not. The Sun and the Times are both of the left and have more in common with one another than either has with, say, LewRockwell.com. The American Prospect offers this characterization of the Sun and of the New Republic, both of which are owned in part by Roger Hertog (u201Cneoconservativeu201D) and Michael Steinhardt (u201Cliberalu201D):

It’s exactly on the right-most edge of the Democratic cliff — where the DLC begins to morph into, say, the American Enterprise Institute; where neoliberalism and neoconservatism, each of which is a vestigial presence now in the twenty-first century, collapse into some new entity that doesn’t yet have a fully formed identity, or a name — that these four men meet, despite having arrived by vastly different paths.

This movement does have a name and identity, although from time to time it likes to recast itself in different drag. It’s social democracy, or in specifically American terms, u201CNew Deal liberalism.u201D The American Prospect piece elaborates, in reference to Hertog, Steinhardt, New Republic editor Marty Peretz and Sun editor Seth Lipsky:

If one were to take Hertog, Steinhardt, Peretz, and Lipsky’s politics and put them in a centrifuge, the substance that would emerge would be as follows: It would be explicitly neither Democratic nor Republican. It would be right of center, especially on foreign policy (and most especially on Israel). It would be right of center, too, on a good number of domestic questions. But because it would pay some obeisance to the New Deal and even (sometimes) to the Great Society, which neoconservatism refuted thoroughly, and because it would purport to care deeply about poor people of color — Hertog is messianic on the topic of vouchers and calls urban education "the civil rights issue of this generation" — it would stand quite apart from, say, the obstreperous conservatism of a Tom DeLay.

Bear in mind this is from the American Prospect, so what it considers to be u201Crightu201D is often wrong. The idea that an Israel-first foreign policy is u201Cright of centeru201D in American terms would come as news to such late, great old right-wingers as Sen. Robert Taft and Colonel Robert McCormick. Its ignorance of the traditions of the American right aside, the American Prospect paints an accurate picture here. The Sun — New Republic axis may be a little to the right of the New York Times, but it’s to the left of grassroots conservatives. Whatever reservations the Sun types may have about the Great Society, they are ideologically u201Cplumb-lineu201D New Dealers. Albeit a new New Deal, with a few concessions to the 21st century: The indirect socialism of vouchers, for example, rather than more direct forms of federal control.

Canadian media magnate Conrad Black is another major financial backer of the Sun. Black also owns the UK Spectator. Last year Black denounced one of his own magazine’s star writers, Taki Theodoracopulous, as an anti-Semite. Taki had criticized Israel, for which Black compared him to Goebbels. Likening men of the right to Nazis and fascists is a favorite tactics of leftists everywhere, but it’s unusual behavior for a conservative, which is what some people consider Black to be. Several other Spectator writers rose to Taki’s defense and raised the question of whether the heavy-handed Black wasn’t stifling the press. The UK paper the Guardian covered the flap.

The ideological make-up of the New York Sun will be neoconservative, but not conservative. Just consider what Steinhardt and a representative of Black had to say about it in Media Life Magazine last year:

"I don’t know that I’d call it u2018conservative,’" said Steinhardt, who is known as a benefactor of the Democratic Party.

But the vice chairman of Hollinger International, Conrad Black’s company, told The New York Times that the Sun will be "certainly neoconservative in its ideological views."

There’s no contradiction there. u201CNeoconservativeu201D as embodied by Black and Steinhardt is unrelated to — if not actually the opposite of — the u201Cconservativeu201D of America’s old tradition, a Taki (even though he’s Greek), a Col. McCormick or a Robert Taft. The New York Sun has nothing new to give the old right, it’s just more of the same reheated New Deal liberalism that fills the pages of the New Republic, Commentary, AndrewSullivan.com, The Weekly Standard, and the latter-day National Review.

Daniel McCarthy [send him mail] is a graduate student in classics at Washington University in St. Louis.

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