Paul Safire

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Animal House Meets Church Lady

One moment it's frat-boy humor; the next, it's the old verities. Limbaugh, P.J. O'Rourke, and other comedians of the right love to have it both ways.

Y ou have to wonder whether the apostles of the conservative movement, the self-anointed champions of public morality, read their own press. In May 1995, the American Spectator ran an article by senior editor P.J. O'Rourke entitled "Why the GOP Doesn't Suck," which defined the Republican Party as the natural home of the frat-boy mentality. "The thing I like about Republicans," he wrote, "is that they're no damn good at all. I know, I'm one of them. A Republican just wants to get rich, buy oceanfront property, dump the old wife and get a new blond one." Meanwhile, the media organs of the right were busy heralding smoking--and all the defiant, Brando-esque images it conjures up--as the essence of the conservative personality. Even the unapologetically highbrow journal Commentary succumbed to Joe Camel posturing: In the same pages where Gertrude Himmelfarb argued that a restoration of Victorian-style social pressures is necessary to restore civic order, neocon Peter Berger cel ebrated...