Certainly, if anyone has the stature and the credibility to point out where those criticizing Sarah Palin have gone wrong, it's Rush. Along with William F. Buckley and Ronald Reagan, he's one of the greatest forces for conservatism in the last half century (at least). There's nothing more infuriating -- and disappointing -- than when conservatives turn on their own (that's what liberals and the media are for, after all).
What's more, there's absolutely nothing wrong with pointing out if and when those dubbed "conservative" writers by the MSM aren't really conservatives. And it's healthy and right to contradict people, whoever they are, when we disagree with their opinion.
But one of the many reasons I'm proud to be a conservative is because -- unlike too much of the left -- we (from Rush on down) realize that our political beliefs are just that, political beliefs. They're not a religion. You don't become a "heretic" simply because you choose to disagree with mainstream conservative views on a particular issue (even an important one, like this). And obviously, those who disagree with conservative principles consistently over some period of time aren't themselves conservatives, even if they insist they are.
Do I like Kathleen Parker's critique of Sarah Palin? No. Do I think she's wrong? Yes. Is it profoundly unhelpful that she's handed a huge cudgel to those already bludgeoning Sarah Palin without reason or mercy? Absolutely. Would it have killed her to keep this particular opinion to herself? Probably not.
But writers like Parker (and others) are independent minds, and opining is what they get paid to do. It isn't their job simply to support "the [conservative] team" if their honest judgment leads them (erroneously, here, I believe) to an opposite conclusion.
One reason I'm proud to be a conservative is that, unlike those on the left, we don't enforce lockstep adherence to a certain "creed" on pain of being castigated and ultimately "disappeared" from polite political society. (Incidentally, if she thinks the emails she's gotten from disgruntled Palin fans is rough, she ought to try upsetting the readers over at HuffPo).
But good standing in the conservative commentariat community isn't (I hope) based on one's willingness to defend "the [conservative] team," even on important issues (as Rush, rightly, has often argued when he takes on the GOP establishment), simply to avoid a hailstorm of condemnation. It's based on the strength of one's arguments.
And although I think Rush's stature gives him the right to critique anyone he pleases, as a general matter, I fear the rest of us start sliding down a slippery slope when we, en masse, try to enforce conformity of thought (or expression) -- on pain of ritual denunciation -- among those whom we expect to agree with us. That kind of discipline would be nice (and welcome in a tough year like this one) -- but the price of obtaining it, in the end, might be higher than any of us wants to pay. What's more, I believe our ideas are strong enough, right enough, and true enough that we don't need to do it.
That doesn't mean we don't have the right vigorously to criticize anyone we believe to be wrong. But there's a big difference between criticizing someone's arguments and threatening, in essence, to excommunicate them from a "church of conservatism," as it were.