SCALP HUNTING FOLLOWUP….At the end of a post yesterday about the recent success of the longtime conservative crusade to hound public figures (mainly media figures) out of their jobs, I said: “It might be time for liberals to realize that even if we manage to collect a few scalps of our own along the way, conservatives gain strength from promoting this brand of warfare far more than liberals do. I hope we’re not just being useful idiots by joining in this game.”

I’ve gotten a lot of email and comments about this, so let me explain briefly what I meant.

What I’m not saying is that liberals should back down from a fight. I supported Howard Dean for DNC chair ? even though I’m probably going to find myself wincing through some of his infamous miscues over the next four years ? because liberals need fighters these days. Dean’s a fighter.

But liberals and conservatives prosper in different kinds of atmospheres. Conservatives tend to thrive on a sense of besiegement, a belief that they’re surrounded on all sides by enemies seen and unseen who must be destroyed. The politics of personal destruction, brought to a fever pitch during Bill Clinton’s presidency, is tremendously helpful to their cause ? and always has been.

Liberalism simply doesn’t thrive in this kind of atmosphere. If we fight back using the same tactics we’ll win a few battles along the way ? Hooray for our side! Jeff Gannon is a smut peddler! ? but in the long run we’re just intensifying exactly the kind of warfare that helps conservatives the most.

So sure: of course we have to fight back. But we have to fight in a way that creates an atmosphere that encourages liberalism. The politics of personal destruction isn’t it, and that’s why I hope the lefty blogosphere doesn’t give in to it.

Remember: you don’t always fight fire with fire. Water usually works better.