Rejoinder

12.19.12

Stephens Missed My Point

Bret Stephens is upset that, in the course of claiming that he’s quicker to accuse public figures of anti-Semitism than of other forms of bigotry, I wrote that “When it comes to identifying prejudice against African Americans, Hispanics, Arabs, Muslims and gays, Bret Stephens is remarkably restrained.” He responds with examples of himself supporting the right of gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, supporting gay marriage, opposing “demonizing Latin American immigrants” and claiming that many Muslims yearn for freedom.

Stephens deserves credit for those positions, and it’s gratifying to see that support for gay marriage and immigrant rights is growing among conservative pundits. But by taking my quote out of context, Stephens suggests that the columns he cites contradict my argument when they actually don’t.

What Stephens doesn’t quote are the sentences immediately after the one he cites. Let me do it for him:

If, during the 2012 campaign, the Wall Street Journal columnist detected any bigotry in Donald Trump’s obsession with Barack Obama’s birthplace or Newt Gingrich’s declaration that Obama is the “food stamp president,” or Herman Cain’s vow not to appoint a Muslim to his cabinet, he didn’t share it with his readers. When Mitt Romney blamed Palestinian “culture” for the discrepancy between Palestinian and Jewish living standards in the West Bank, Stephens ridiculed claims that Romney’s comments were racist and instead enthused that “I’m beginning to warm to Mitt.”

These sentences define what I meant by “remarkably restrained.” My point in that paragraph, and in my entire piece, is that while Stephens called Hagel an anti-Semite on the flimsiest of grounds, he gave leading Republicans a pass for anti-Muslim and anti-black comments that were far more egregious. And when Mitt Romney basically accused Palestinians of having an inferior culture, Stephens applauded. Somehow I doubt he would have responded the same way had Romney made similar comments about the culture of Jews.

I don’t think Bret Stephens supports bigotry. I do think that, like many conservatives, he is far more willing to accuse American politicians—at least those he considers too dovish on Israel—of anti-Semitism than of other forms of prejudice. That’s my point, in this season or any other.