countenance of Mr. McConnell. (Hernwas said to have “thin hps” and “somewhatrndisheveled hair,” among other featuresrnthat Puerto Ricans seem to findrnunattractive.)rnAfter the meeting, Mr. Singermanrnproved to be (in Mr. McConnell’s term)rn”rancorous,” and some weeks later, Mr.rnMcConnell was fired. Mr. McConnellrnremarks that his dismissal over the PuertornRico editorial was “due to deeper shiftsrnwithin American society,” shifts that dornnot suggest a bright future for open discussionrnof ethnically and racially sensitivernsubjects. But the muzzling of frankrndiscussion of ethnic issues is only part ofrnwhat merits comment. The other partrnarises from the succession to Mr. McConnellrnat the Post editorial page andrnwhat sort of “shift” it signifies.rnMr. McConnell’s successor is nonernother than John Podhoretz, son of retiredrnCommentary editor Norman Podhoretzrnand Midge Decter, both mainstays ofrnneoconservatism. For the last couple ofrnyears, Podhoretz fils has been an editor ofrnthe neoconservative Weekly Standard, alsornowned by Rupert Murdoch and editedrnby yet another neoconservative son,rnBill Kristol.rnIn an interview with the New York Observer,rna liberal newspaper, Mr. Podhoretzrncommented on his predecessor atrnthe Posf’s editorial page. “Scott seemedrnto think if you speak Spanish, you’re notrnpart of the United States,” he remarked.rnMr. McConnell, he continued, “representsrna ‘very dangerous strain’ of conservativernthought that claims ‘America is beingrnweakened by corrupting culturalrninl^uences.'”rnIt was both tasteless and profoundlyrnunprofessional for Mr. Podhoretz torncomment on his predecessor, to characterizernhis views, or to discuss why the Posfrnfired him, but that’s the sort of behaviorrnwe have come to expect from neoconservatives.rnYet apart from that, what’s interestingrnis not only Mr. Podhoretz’s remarksrnbut also the attitude of thernObserver to him and to Mr. McConnell.rnMr. McConnell’s Puerto Rico editorial,rnthe paper commented, was “tremendouslyrninflammatory,” and it’s clear thatrnthe Observer, as a liberal organ, doesn’trnmuch care for the Post editorial page atrnall. The page, it holds, “could use somerndirection,” and under Mr. Murdochrn”has done litde to appeal to the betterrnside of anyone’s nature.” Hence, the Observerrngreets the coming regimen ofrnyoung Podhoretz much as Sir WalterrnScott greets Lochinvar coming out of thernWest.rnMr. Podhoretz told the Observer thatrn”he wants the tone of the paper to bern’sharp, clever, funny, punchy and firm,’rnand that he is ‘not an enforcer of an ideologicalrnline.'” “I’m a hopeful conservative,”rnhe assured the Observer. “I don’trnthink America is going to hell in a handbasket.rn. . . The Standard was a cheerfulrnmagazine, and I’m going to run a cheerfulrneditorial page.”rnSo here’s what’s going on: an editorialrnpage editor runs an editorial that offendsrna particular ethnic community, whosernangry reaction scares the shoelaces offrnthe newspaper’s publisher. The editor isrnthen fired. The newspaper then replacesrnthe offending editor with someone whornat once distances himself from his predecessor’srnviews, denounces those views,rnand assures a voice of liberalism that he’srndifferent—that he’s not an ideologicalrnenforcer and that his editorial page willrnbe “cheerful” and “fimny.” The voice ofrnliberalism then pronounces a warm welcomernto the new editor and the “direction”rnthat he presumably will soon impartrnto the editorial page.rnWliat Mr. Podhoretz actually will dornwith the Post editorial page remains to bernseen, but if he fulfills his promise to thernObserver, the page will reflect the unwrittenrnsocial contract between liberalismrnand neoconservatism. Under that contract,rnneoconservatives are to foster arnmild dissent from the pragmatic contentrnof liberalism, and to avoid suggestingrnthat liberalism is an avenue to nationalrnsuicide, that American society is in seriousrntrouble because of the dominance ofrnliberalism, or that a degree of culturalrnand linguistic homogeneity is importantrnor desirable. In return, liberals willrnbrand any alternative version of conservatismrnas “tremendously inflammatory”rnand pronounce Podhoretzite neoconservatismrn”a friendly, nuanced, ironic conservatism”rn(to use the Observer’s words).rnIn the process, liberal cultural hegemonyrnis preserved, a serious radical conservatismrnthat could lift America out ofrnits handbasket is eviscerated, and thernDreadful Night that has so long envelopedrnNew York City remains as tenebrousrn(and as powerful) as ever.rnIn his Heterodoxy article, Mr. McConnellrnwrites that, during the exchangesrnbetween his publisher and thernangry Puerto Ricans, it suddenly dawnedrnon him that “our society had developedrnan expected script of white Anglo contritionrnand apology (President Clinton’srnapology for slavery was exemplary) andrnthat I had failed to follow it.” He’s right,rnbut there’s more. The “shifts withinrnAmerican society” are not simply towardrnembracing the political and cultural demandsrnof self-appointed ethnic andrnracial hit squads and apologizing for failingrnto embrace them gladly, but also towardrndismissing, demonizing, marginalizing,rnand effectively suppressing anyrnsounds that are not apologetic. Thernagencies of those “shifts” are the prevailingrnliberalism and its sibling, neoconservatism.rnAmerica is indeed being weakened byrn”corrupting cultural influences,” butrnthey’re not coming from Puerto Rico.rn— Samuel FrancisrnN R A “EXTREMISM”-down butrnnot out. A year ago the National Rifle Association’srninternal politics, by traditionrnkept out of the public spotlight, eruptedrninto the mainstream press. According tornNRA management and Beltway spinrndoctors, a group of extremists on thernNRA Board of Directors was trying to firernNRA Executive Vice President WaynernLaPierre for the sole purpose of replacingrnhim with NRA First Vice PresidentrnNeal Knox, a “no-compromise” stalwartrnwhen it comes to the Second Amendment.rnThe NRA’s p.r. campaign was sornsuccessful that even the New York Timesrngot into the act, describing Knox in arnFebruary 3, 1997, editorial as “a darkrnforce in the NRA,” David Brock thenrncovered the story with an exhaustingrnnine-page article in the American Spectator,rnin which he described me as thernNRA’s “kamikaze” board member.rnThough Knox took himself out of thernrace for NRA Executive Vice Presidentrnin January 1997, NRA management succeededrnin keeping him the centralrntheme of its campaign and described, tornAssociated Press reporter James Rowley,rnMr. Knox’s supporters on the NRA boardrnas “assassins,” “henchmen,” and “dissidents.”rnLaPierre’s old friend CharltonrnHeston was brought in to run againstrnKnox and defeated him in the race forrnFirst Vice President by a scant four votes.rnNewly crowned, Vice President Hestonrnwasted no time in assuring the world thatrnthere were indeed some guns that werern”inappropriate” for civilian ownershiprnand that the NRA’s Board of Directorsrnmust be “purged” of “extremists.”rnThere are two ways for an eligiblern8/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn