Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the acclaimed Russian author and dissident, is viewed as a hero by many in the West.
Adherents of American conservatism particularly seem to hold Solzhenitsyn as an iconic figure. To conservatives, Solzhenitsyn undercut the moral standing of Soviet Communism by casting light on the brutal prison camps of Josef Stalin.
Throughout the 1970s and '80s, Ronald Reagan frequently quoted Solzhenitsyn, further cementing the Russian's exalted standing with the American right.
So it is supremely ironic that Solzhenitsyn's death last week helped reveal the moral rot at the center of modern conservatism.
A moral and ethical vacuum is readily apparent on the pages of National Review, the preeminent journal of the American right.
For the past week or so, National Review Online (NRO) has been filled with tributes to Solzhenitsyn. Here is a sampling:
* Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, R.I.P.
* Moral Giant
* Witness: Solzhenitsyn vs. Evil
What do the writers at NRO say about Solzhenitsyn?
The editors write: "There was no greater or more effective foe of Communism, or of totalitarianism in general."
Rich Lowry writes: "In his suffering, he gained insight into the twistedness of the human heart. 'Gradually it was disclosed to me,' he writes, 'that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either--but right through every human heart--and through all human hearts.'"
Paul Kengor writes: "Spared the martyrdom of the dead Russian believers who could not live to blow the whistle, it was left to him to witness to the outside world."
So NRO admires Solzhenitsyn for standing up to oppressive political states, for his insights on human evil, and for his willingness to be a witness against his persecutors.
How then, do we square these sentiments with the thoughts present in an NRO editorial titled "Unappealing Power Play?"
In their "Unappealing" piece, NRO's editors seem concerned that the U.S. House Judiciary Committee and the Office of the Inspector General might actually be getting somewhere in their investigations of the Bush Department of Justice (DOJ). The editors seem particularly alarmed that the walls might be starting to close in on former White House strategist Karl Rove.
In their haste to protect Rove, the NRO editors trash Alabama Republican whistleblower Jill Simpson, saying her "stories" (actually, sworn testimony) are "hearsay," that they "keep changing," and that "no one has ever corroborated them."
The editors, however, do not stop at defaming Simpson. They go so far as to provide legal strategy for Rove and his fellow loyal Bushies, Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten. "The best approach for Rove, Miers, and Bolten is to appeal," intones the NRO crowd. "An appeal would probably run out the clock on the current administration . . . "
Is it a sure sign of a warped mind when someone cannot even see the irony that drips from their own writings? If so, the collective mind of National Review must be warped beyond repair.
The NRO brain trust praises Solzhenitsyn for speaking out against an oppressive regime, for shining a light on evil, for being a witness to the truth.
But what about Jill Simpson, who at great personal cost has spoken out about evil in the Bush administration? What about her testimony regarding an evil that has so enveloped the Bushies that they actually have caused political opponents to be imprisoned?
And what about the truth? NRO apparently hasn't entertained the thought that Simpson's sworn testimony under oath might be true. And it even goes so far as to suggest how Rove & Company might go about ensuring that the truth never comes out.
NRO's editors, writing about Solzhenitsyn, throw around terms like "moral giant."
How in the world would they recognize one?