Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Fred Barnes on religion

TWS’s Fred Barnes briefly answers some questions on religion, world affairs, and journalism. Nothing earth-shatteringly new, but a peek into the spiritual life and religious views of a prominent, smart, and interesting talking head (and writing hand).

Discussions - 10 Comments

"[S]mart?" When was the last time that you ever read anything written by Barnes that hadn't already occurred to you? When was the last time you heard him on Fox News, or The Beltway Boys, say something that wasn't already political common knowledge within the Beltway. He's about as insightful as Norah O'Donnell.

Barnes is a waste of column space and air time.

I'm sure he's a decent person, but he's not a person I'd turn to for the inside scoop of what's happening in Washington.

The best descriptive I've come across of Barnes was a blogger who termed him "Captain Obvious."


Barnes is not one of the greats.

Norah O'Donnell, on the other hand, is at least a pleasure to watch.

Exactly Dave, which is why I used her as a point of comparison. And she's a brunette, which I strongly prefer.

I like Fred. I like his writing style, which is compact. But I'll agree he doesn't always offer the most insightful commentary. Still, I like the guy.

Off topic, to be sure, but here are my favorite columnists:


  • Charles Krauthammer - I find I rarely find fault with either his style or his point.
  • George Will - my sentimental favorite, Will was one of my early influences in conservatism. I'll confess of late I'm not following him as closely as before.
  • Rich Lowry (NR) - the more I read of his stuff, the more I think he's got a better handle on things than most. And his demeanor in person, based on what I've seen on TV, seems to be just right: not combative, but gently persuasive.
  • Tony Blankley - as practical a writer as I've seen. I very much enjoy what he produces.
  • Jonah Goldberg - sometimes he overloads his columns with witticisms, but when he gets the mix right he has some very good insights.

These are some columnists I've been impressed by of late: Diane West, Caroline Glick, Mark Steyn, Victor Davis Hanson, Blankley and Lowry.

George Will is fast going like Bill Buckley, id est, a guy that's mailing it in. Sure, Will can still rouse himself and produce a column in his old style, a tour de force. But frequently, you get the sense that he's just churning out copy. Another problem is that Will's Conservativism has undergone some alteration over the years. He's not wholly reliable anymore.

How could I forget Mark Steyn? Shame on me! :-)

In many ways I agree with you regarding George Will. Still, the guy has been doing the column thing for 30 years pretty consistently. I would imagine that's not an easy thing to do.

Oh Will can still fire one off, in his old style.

Don, I fully agree on Krauthammer, Blankley and Goldberg. Lowry I haven't seen enough of, or read enough of, to say. Will remains one of the best, though he does drift sometimes, as you seem to agree.

Dan, Steyn and Hanson are excellent too. Wish Hanson was as readable and witty as Steyn, but that's a tall order. I think many of VDH's WW II analogies are misplaced and excessively optimistic about the West's moral resources. But that's a quibble.

Remember, VDH only has so many words that can fit in a column, which is why he turns frequently to WWII analogies. He's capable of providing better analogies, but those might be to events not as familiar to his readers. So he turns to WWII because he's confident that his readers are likely to follow the point he's trying to make.

A Lepanto analogy will trigger puzzlement. How many of his readers know what a "Parthian shot" is? But everybody knows the Bulge; everybody knows Midway; everybody knows how we had to grind it out on Guadalcanal. People are aware of the contentiousness that existed between Patton and Monty. People are aware that difficulties had to be confronted and overcome. And that patience and sacrifice were needed.

It's not just him though, far too many columnists relate unrelated events to those before and during The Second World War. Their motives might be honourable, usually are in fact. But I think they would do better to explain more, and analogize less.

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