Toby Harnden of The Daily Telegraph has been compiling a list of America's top 100 conservatives and top 100 liberals. He's published the top 20 conservatives today. It is interesting - and probably a fair conclusion - that no movement religious conservative appears in the top twenty.
Top of the list is Rudy Giuliani - the frontrunner for the GOP nomination. Many conservatives won't agree that a candidate with liberal views on homosexuality and abortion is a conservative at all. Some will think he should be in the list of liberals - where Toby has put Governor Schwarzenegger. The conservative differences between Giuliani and Schwarzenegger are on tax, crime and national security. There's also a big difference in attitude. Giuliani relishes attacking liberals. Governor Schwarzenegger has decided to make constant accommodations with them.
Petraeus is number two in the Telegraph list. With the news out of Iraq more and more encouraging, Petraeus may well be a GOP candidate for the White House in years to come.
Matt Drudge is number three and well-deserved, too. Over the last month his site enjoyed nearly 500 million visits (according to Mr Drudge himself). Incredible influence.
John Roberts is at number eight in the list. I'd have probably placed him higher. Appointing Roberts as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was probably Bush's finest single decision. Not only is Roberts a conservative, he's also a persuader. Other conservative Judges on the Court are capable of winning arguments but not winning people. Roberts is different. David Frum has suggested that Roberts' people skills almost make him worth two judges. Aged 52, God willing, he'll be Chief Justice for at least a generation.
Unlike Iain Dale's list of most influential UK conservatives, Toby has included some journalists. Paul Gigot, Editorial Page Editor of the Wall Street Journal is at number fourteen. Can't disagree with that. The WSJ's opinion pages have been a platform for conservative views for a generation. They have played a leading role in propagating conservative ideas. No UK newspaper performs the same role for British conservatism.
President Bush doesn't even make the top twenty. Toby explains his reasoning here. In short, he says, it's because his list is about the future and not the past. Why's Dick Cheney at number six then? I'd use Toby's own words to suggest Bush deserves to be near the top of the list of conservatives: "For good or ill, the “Bush Doctrine” of pre-emption, unilateral projection of US power and dividing the world into those for and against the US will also endure. Major elements of it will probably be adopted by, for instance, a President Hillary Clinton." Surely this is about the future? The future of Bush's tax cuts will be central to the next election. His appointments of Roberts and Alito will shape American law. He still has the capacity to raise many millions for future candidates. Whether or not he and Petraeus fail or succeed in Iraq will be one of the most important influences on who is the next President.
Other odd decisions: putting Christopher Hitchens, Joe Lieberman and Andrew Sullivan in the list of conservatives. Hitchens is certainly a supporter of the Iraq war but he's much more liberal than Arnie - who, as already noted, is classified as a liberal. Hitchens is more of a liberal interventionist than a neocon. The same could be said of Senator Lieberman although he leans conservative-wards on many cultural issues. On civil liberties and lifestyle issues, Sullivan is increasingly liberal.
Fascinating exercise by Toby, however, and - Bush aside - his judgment calls are largely very good ones.
The top twenty liberals - a list headed by Bill, not Hillary - can be found here. I'll comment on that list soon...