DEFINING INTELLECTUAL HONESTY: Jon Chait posts on the Plank that he thinks Ramesh Ponnuru is the most intellectually honest conservative writer. I can't decide if I agree. On the one hand Chait has some strong evidence from Ponnuru's recent blogging on The Corner that, at least in so far as judging Republican presidential aspirants goes, Ponnuru is frank about the strengths and shortcomings of everyone including his preferred choice (John McCain) while his colleagues simply shill for whoever they've chosen. It's also true that when I interviewed conservative intellectuals about whether they believed in evolution for TNR, Ponnuru gave me a very honest and non-pandering reply. He was not alone in this regard (Charles Krauthammer and Pat Buchanan also spoke their mind, although they completely disagree on the topic.) But many conservatives, who shall remain nameless, ducked the interview with feeble excuses, or gave pro-intelligent design answers that sounded more like a political calculation than a seriously considered one.

OK, so why do I have a hard time just giving Ponnuru his due? Because the man wrote a book called Party of Death. And what is the party of death you may ask? Why it's the Democrats, of course. Ponnuru seems to think it's reasonable to infer that support for policies like reproductive freedom, embryonic stem cell research, and physician assisted suicide for the severely ill constitute a pro-death platform as opposed to a pro-liberty platform. This is obviously disingenuous. And furthermore, to score political points, he attributes those views to Democrats as a whole, even though views on those issues vary among Democrats. And Ponnuru knows perfectly well that those liberals who can fairly be said to almost always subscribe to those positions do so out of an affinity for the health and freedom of the living, not a desire to see more dead as such. But he pretends otherwise to rabble-rouse. Where's the intellectual integrity in that?

--Ben Adler

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