News - Bye-bye, Bob Barr

Our search for a conservative worth reading continues

What does it take to find a conservative with a brain in this town?

Three weeks ago, in this space, I canned the right-winger who we'd been paying for his over-the-top critiques of Creative Loafing.

Technically, he quit because I insisted he use his real name and show his face alongside his column. With conservatives being so macho and all, surely plenty of rightists would be willing to put their names to an "ombudsman" column. So we solicited auditions.

A bunch of people responded. Around a dozen sent in samples. But, geez, is it too much to ask that they put a few coherent thoughts together?

One sounded witty for a moment: "I voted for Pat Buchanan on purpose," he wrote. That's funny, given the number of Floridians who voted for Buchanan by mistake in 2000.

Then, he went off the deep end: "The ombudsman should not comment on the ads, but the hair removal ads make me wonder how different our country would be if the War on Poverty had been as successful as the War on Pubic Hair. Of course, the pubic wars have been privately funded and are not a vile, putrid stew of government reach-around programs." Uh ... yeah.

Then, there was the guy who related personal hygiene to the legislative effort to allow Sandy Springs to become a city: "If you hippie bastards were living someplace and it got overrun by bathing conservative types like myself, you'd try to do something about it, too, if you could put the bong down long enough."

I guess I asked for this crap. In my original solicitation for a new ombudsman, I told readers I wanted someone to "express rage in our pages," someone who would "Hannitize us." And Sean Hannity wannabes are exactly what I got.

A handful of folks suggested a more thoughtful approach. "My one reservation about this whole thing concerns your motive," wrote a would-be ombudsman named William Stark. "If it is to incorporate rational, reasoned, conservative critiques of the opinions espoused by certain liberal CL contributors, then by all means count me in. If, however, you are looking for a right-wing caricature to serve as an ideological punching bag, I must tell you that I am not your man."

Point well taken. The "Reeves Jackson" gig was fun for a while, and writers who take themselves too seriously can be boring. But baiting one side to flap its ignorance in the wind isn't really fair to that side. Witness the Regular Guys.A more liberal reader offered a similar sentiment: "Given the power of the Republican Noise Machine," wrote Atlantan Wade Marbaugh, "and its disregard of the truth of its premises and reliance on name-calling and personality attacks, America needs intelligent dialogue between the right and left."

I'd meant to reply to Marbaugh to point out that we did run an independent-minded conservative columnist. Every two weeks, former GOP Congressman Bob Barr appeared in CL. In that column, Barr made national news for his break from party orthodoxy. While he argued for family values and low taxes, he also criticized the Bush administration over civil liberties and the so-called war on terror.

His column was supposed to run this week in CL. But bad news came in the form of a courteous letter: Barr got an offer for a weekly column at the AJC and skedaddled to the monopoly daily.

I was pretty bummed about that. But Barr's departure opens up a new opportunity for an intelligent, contrary voice in CL. We don't want to add to the "noise machine." Wishy-washy liberals that we are, we're changing our Swift Boat's course in midstream.

We're on the hunt for an independent, energetic voice - somebody who might lambaste the political correctness that creeps into CL one week, and offer a conservative, libertarian, or for that matter, anarchist take on the issues the next. Who says liberals are scared to bag an endangered species?

Keep an eye on this space in News & Views. Let me know what you think of the columns we run. Among others, they may include some of the more coherent ombudsman applicants.

You reach CL Editor Ken Edelstein at ken.edelstein@creativeloafing.com.??

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