The Wile E. Coyote Conservatives

They're beginning to look like the old Saturday-morning cartoon character Wile E. Coyote, running in hot pursuit of the Road Runner, zooming right off a cliff and continuing to run through thin air -- until he takes a look around, gulps, and plummets straight down.

Well, the conservative-movement pundits hot in pursuit of liberal-faculty subversion on the nation's campuses aren't gulping just yet. After losing their battle to keep Lawrence Summers president of Harvard by blaming his travails on politically correct professors, they've rushed on to blame diversity liberals for enrolling an ex-Taliban spokesman as a special student at Yale.

But the air in which cable blowhards Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly, Wall Street Journal online columnist John Fund, The Boston Globe's Cathy Young, and more than a few others are running and shouting, Liberals, liberals, liberals! is becoming as thin as their accusations, and no wonder: The ground under their feet isn't there. In rushing to Yale after Harvard they might as well be threatening to bring regime change to Iran after doing so well in Iraq.

Harvard isn't Iraq, of course, although a Journal editorial lamenting Summers's demise did liken its left-wing faculty to a people's congress in Pyongyang. You'd never know from this high-capitalist frothing that the real Harvard Corporation -- which, unlike the faculty, is as high and capitalist as the U.S. Treasury that corporation member Robert Rubin and then Summers once ran -- showed the latter the door partly because, among other indiscretions, he'd let Harvard defend and even pay for his economics department friends' extralegal investment antics abroad.

Even people like me who rather liked Summers's jabs at campus progressive good-think sensed something way off in his governance. He seems not to have a civic-republican bone in his body, and as revelations mounted in Institutional Investor and, the barking trailed off.

Almost immediately, though, the bloodhounds of Western civilization picked up another scent of liberal perfidy in a February 26 New York Times Magazine story about Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, who, in 2000, had been a 22-year-old Taliban spokesman in the West. Impressed with America, Hashemi had regretted his spin-doctoring for mullahs and is now, at 27, a special student at Yale. Although administrators there had known of his past and vetted him, the Times report took most of us who teach there by surprise.

Well! Hashemi's old ambassadorial utterances were dredged up; a Yale admissions dean and some students were found to have said that maybe Americans could learn something from him; and the bloodhounds were off and running: Diversity liberals were at it again!

Never mind that Yale is careful enough so that U.S. intelligence must have been at it, too, the more so because Mike Hoover, the freelance cameraman and adventurer who'd commended Hashemi to Yale, had done a little work with the CIA and State Departments himself during 22 visits to Afghanistan. When I wondered aloud on the Prospect Online if conservatives, not diversity-mad liberals, were behind Hashemi's enrollment and suggested the bloodhounds look into it, they looked into me instead, accusing me of insinuating intelligence ties without evidence.

When blogger Hampton Stephens, a smart civic-republican centrist who'd believed Fund at first (, produced a 1996 Outside magazine profile of Hoover by New York Times reporter Trip Gabriel that mentioned Hoover's CIA and State Department contacts, the bloodhounds kept barking. The intrepid Fund produced three long columns that tried to rally conservative Yale alumni to withhold donations.

They kept howling even after Yale Diplomat-in-Residence Charles Hill -- a career foreign service officer, former top aide to Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State George Shultz, Iraq War Vulcan, and scourge of liberal diversity policies and Islamist terror alike -- told the Yale Daily News that the news about Hashemi shows [Yale] to be out front in identifying and encouraging those with the potential to make the Middle East a better place and a responsible region within the international community. Hill was one of the only Yale faculty members to speak publicly about Hashemi.

Whatever that suggests about Hashemi's patrons, the bloodhounds' complete silence about it suggests something about them -- as will the yelping that's just begun over a new Kennedy School paper, published more fully in The London Review of Books, that assails "The Israel Lobby." The paper, by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, gets pretty creepy in places, so, this time, the Conintern pundits could be right to slam aspects of it, although of course they'll shout, "You see? Larry Summers was right to crack down on anti-Semites posing as critics of Israel! The problem is that they have no credibility, and nobody listened to the boy who cried wolf.

It's time someone told them: Guys, it's over. Not conservatism, which can be better than this, and not criticism of liberals and the left, who often deserve it; what's over is your endless baiting of liberals. It's become as desperate as old Mr. Coyote's dashing through thin air, as you try to outrun your own deepening blunders, hypocrisies, and lies.

Jim Sleeper is a lecturer in political science at Yale.

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