Debating Dan Riehl -- Top of the First Inning

Below the fold, I offer the opening salvo in a debate I’m having with Dan Riehl, who blogs here. Our topic is the Mark Levin kerfuffle. If you’ve followed it here at the Scene, there probably isn’t any need to read my opening post, so apologies for the redundancy. I am quite curious to see Mr. Riehl’s rebuttal, and I’ll let you know when it goes up.

On a related note, thanks to everyone who commented on prior posts. One criticism I haven’t answered is, “Why do you spend so much time attacking other conservatives?” I imagine that question will come up in this exchange, and I have plans to pen a longer essay addressing it too.


Thanks for agreeing to a back-and-forth.

Here’s the background for readers: On Thursday, May 21, I happened to flip on the AM radio during Mark Levin’s program, when I heard an exchange that vexed me. The conversation occurred between Mr. Levin and a female caller. A transcript can be found here. I object to two things that Mr. Levin said.

1) When the caller expressed the opinion that Barack Obama can move prisoners from Gitmo to the United States despite Congressional objections, Mr. Levin angrily shouted, “I SAID WHY DO YOU HATE MY COUNTRY! WHY DO YOU HATE MY CONSTITUTION? WHY DO YOU HATE MY DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE?”

His words are problematic. On substance, the leap he makes is illogical. It is perfectly possible to love the United States and to believe that President Obama possesses the authority to move War on Terrorism detainees. Indeed, a common position among conservatives is that the Commander in Chief possesses the inherent authority to make arrangements for prisoners in war time. Mr. Levin is smart enough to know that. Perhaps anger clouded his thinking, as is common among folks who suddenly begin screaming loudly during conversations about politics. Or maybe the whole thing was theater, in which case the host unfairly berated a fellow American for the sake of entertainment. Finally, as a general proposition, it is reprehensible to question someone’s patriotism in that fashion. Should you disagree, or not understand why, I can return to that point.

2) Later in the same conversation, the following exchange occurred:

MARK LEVIN: Answer me this, are you a married woman? Yes or no?
MARK LEVIN: Well I don’t know why your husband doesn’t put a gun to his temple. Get the hell out of here.

As I wrote before, “That isn’t merely beneath a gentleman. It is the kind of thing that a decent man doesn’t say to a woman, under any circumstances. Awful as it is on the page, it came across even worse on the air, hearing the hateful, angry inflections. Forget the fact that this isn’t the way forward for the conservative movement — this just isn’t the way any person should behave.”

So Dan, do you disagree with my assessment? I suspect you do, because when Rod Dreher criticized Mr. Levin for the “gun to his temple” remark, you excoriated Mr. Dreher and defended Mr. Levin.

Let’s assume you’re right that Mr. Levin is a smart man, and that he’s done lots of impressive things in his career outside of talk radio. Doesn’t it remain the case that he was wrong to speak as he did to that female caller, that he should stop employing unsound arguments and hateful rhetoric, and that he should be criticized insofar as he fails?


Conor Friedersdorf