The “Strange New Respect” Award is the invention of Tom Bethell, who noted decades ago how liberals would always start praising a conservative or Republican who showed signs of moderation, Bob Dole being a great example. “New respect”—a phrase you’d actually see in the media—was a euphemism for “moved to the left.”
It is a totem of insincere liberalism, a coy way of attacking present-day conservatives. My corollary is that for liberals, the only good conservative is a dead conservative. Back in the 1960s, William F. Buckley was attacked as a fascist or worse, and dismissed as a retrograde force. Today, of course, liberals call him a “national treasure,” and bemoan that today’s conservatism isn’t more like Buckley. (This is Sam Tanenhaus’s favorite hobby horse.)
Ditto for Dwight Eisenhower, whom liberals regarded in his time as an unenlightened dummy, until some liberals decided he was okay after all—actually pretty good in fact—a discovery that coincided with the need to find every way possible way to trash Richard Nixon. Who, come to think about it, many liberals nowadays say as actually pretty good if it wasn’t for that whole Watergate thing.
Ditto for Barry Goldwater, nowadays celebrated by liberals mostly for his departures from conservative orthodoxy on social issues, which wouldn’t be divisive issues if liberals hadn’t insisted on nationalizing them chiefly through judicial power.
Ditto for Ronald Reagan, dismissed during his time as dangerous lightweight cowboy extremist who couldn’t even tie his shoelaces without staff help. Now liberals bemoan that today’s Republicans aren’t more like Reagan, who somehow they discover was a moderate. (That’s a failed Brinks Job, but never mind for now.)
So I’ve been expecting something like this, courtesy of the egregious Dana Milbank of the Washington Post:
I had a twinge of nostalgia watching George W. Bush campaign for his little brother in South Carolina Monday night. . .
W’s cameo in the 2016 campaign served as a reminder that, not too long ago, conservative politics wasn’t so beastly. Bush, wading into the manure pile that is the 2016 Republican primary fight, was pleasant, civil and decent. . .
Bush, though just eight years retired, looks more like Dwight Eisenhower than this year’s front-runner for the Republican nomination.
I especially like this line:
Maybe W’s appearance will serve only to remind voters of Jeb’s inferior political skills.
I always thought W. was superior to Jeb, but the conventional wisdom of the time was that W. was the dumb Bush, and Jeb the One We’ve Been Waiting For (to paraphrase someone else’s slogan).
Prediction: Within a few years, you’ll hear liberals start to wax nostalgic about how wonderful Antonin Scalia was on the Supreme Court. Especially in comparison to the retrograde judges President Ted Cruz keeps appointing. You can make book on it.