Where I part company with John is on his contention that Letterman's joke belongs in a compendium that includes Jeremiah Wright complaining about ''them Jews'' and Tim Hardaway saying, ''I hate gay people.'' If conservatives were ever gassed or beaten because of what they are, I must have missed it.
But some conservatives admit to no such distinction. They see themselves not as adherents to a political ideology, but as a besieged minority, which speaks volumes about the deterioration of that ideology since the days of Ronald Reagan. I mean, I often disagreed with the 40th president, but at least I understood him, at least he articulated an intellectually coherent vision: small government, fiscal restraint, foreign-policy pragmatism.
By contrast modern conservatism is defined by an Alice-through-the-looking-glass incoherence: small government except when it is growing larger than ever, fiscal restraint except when we are spending like Michael Jackson in a Disney gift shop, foreign-policy pragmatism except when we are trying to transform the Middle East.
Indeed, sometimes it feels as if it is no longer defined by principles at all, nor by energy and ideas, but rather, by a limitless ability to feel put upon and slighted. To be a conservative these days is, or so they would have you believe, like being black in Birmingham in 1952. It is to be the victim of media, culture and law, which hate you just for being.
BTW, Leonard Pitts' columns also run in The Herald.