Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Is the American Right Falling Out Of Love With Geert Wilders?

The high water mark of Geert Wilders' acceptance by the American Right may have come with a blog post by Adam Brickley (who while still a college sophomore was probably more responsible than any other human being for Sarah Palin's selection as John McCain's would-be VP) in the February 24, 2010 issue of the Weekly Standard (edited by William Kristol and Fred Barnes): Geert Wilders Gets His Chance.

Brickley's blog post came just ahead of Wilders' impressive showing in the local elections that took place on March 3rd in the Netherlands. Those local elections, in which Wilders' Party For Freedom made significant gains, could well be a harbinger of what is to come in June, when national elections could result in Wilders becoming the next Dutch Prime Minister.

It is significant that Brickley was eager to label Geert Wilders as "far right", but could only do so while simultaneously explaining that, well, in fact, he is not "far right":
But Wilders is totally unlike 'far-right' leaders in the rest of Europe. He is a harsh critic of racism and anti-Semitism, and he is no friend of "far-right neo-fascist" leaders such as the French National Front's Jean-Marie Le Pen or the British National Party's Nick Griffin. In fact, while those leaders are broadly anti-Semitic and isolationist, Wilders was actually shaped by years spent in Israel as a young man. Hence, he is one of the Jewish state's strongest European defenders, an advocate of the war on terror, and a firm critic of Jihad--stances which have won him fans among national security hawks in the U.S. Furthermore, his economic agenda is radically libertarian compared to most Europeans and could be a vanguard for European reform.
That was then. Once the local election results of March 3rd confirmed that Wilders' and the PVV really are on the roll that everyone already suspected they are on, people had to stop treating the man who might soon be the head of state of a major European power as merely an oddity. In fact, Brickley had opened his post with the declaration that "Geert Wilders of the Netherlands is one of the oddest men on the world stage." That was then.

By the second week of March the time had come and gone to simply marvel at Wilders' sudden popularity, his audacity, his hair, etc. And so quite suddenly Glenn Beck, Charles Krauthammer and William Kristol (the last being Brickley's editor at the Weekly Standard) all simultaneously denounced Wilders. Beck called him a "fascist." Krauthammer called him "extreme, radical and wrong." Kristol characterized Wilders' critique of Islam as "Orwellian" and called him a "demagogue." Added to this sudden deluge of scorn was a Fox News "Special Report" by Senior White House Correspondent Bret Baier, which was vaguely negative and mostly substance free.

For a while some of Wilders' fans in the right-wing blogosphere expressed outrage and indignation with Fox News, and there was some speculation about the very likely influence of Saudi Prince whathisname, who does happen to be the largest voting shareholder in NewsCorp whose last name isn't Murdoch, and who did just meet with Uncle Rupert in NYC in late February.

But for most of the last week there has been silence. No more voices have been raised against Wilders, nor has any major right-wing spokesmodel come to his defense. Obviously Wilders cannot be ignored. But don't be surprised if from now on the "mainstream" right in the US seeks to marginalize Wilders and tries to contain and rollback any influence his ideas have managed to gain among American "conservatives."