Over the weekend, rising liberal pundit Rachel Maddow was interviewed by the New York Times and was asked if she had a favorite Republican. The answer wasn't altogther that surprising. When answering this question, most liberals say either Chuck Hagel or...

I like the congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul, because I understand what he believes, and he is fearless and civic-minded in his beliefs, rather than personally zealous.  

Maddow is a smart woman (a Rhodes Scholar to boot!) and she certainly pays attention to the news. Did she miss the whole kerfuffle about Ron Paul being a paranoid, racist crank? Perhaps Maddow, a lesbian, needs a refresher in what Congressman Paul wrote about gays. Did she miss the news that he endorsed Christian theocrat and 9/11 Truther Chuck Baldwin (of the Constitution Party) for President? Or that Paul proudly delivered the keynote address at the 50th anniversary of the John Birch Society? (Yes, it still exists).

As it's safe to assume that Maddow is fully aware of all these things, one wonders how an ostensibly "liberal" and "progressive" person could voice such admiration for a far right extremist. The answer is that Maddow doesn't care about Paul's views on anything other than foreign policy. For many people on the Left nowadays, simple opposition to Bush, the "neocons," what have you, is sufficient evidence of one's "anti-imperialist" bona fides. Never mind that Paul's positions on foreign policy, while seemingly attractive to liberals who may abhor what's occurred during the Bush administration, derive from the Old Right isolationsim of Charles Lindbergh and Father Coughlin, figures whose ideas any self-respecting and historically aware person calling herself a "liberal" ought to abhor. Paul stands foursquare against American "Empire," and the fact that he's a Republican makes the deal even sweeter. Suddenly, a conspiracy-spouting crank is "fearless" and "civic-minded." 

If Rachel Maddow is the harbinger of the new generation of liberal pundits -- and having doubled her viewership in just the past several days and currently the subject of a worshipful cover story in the American Prospect, there's every indication she is -- then perhaps the impending progressive era isn't something to welcome so uncritically.

 --James Kirchick