14 Oct 2008

He Obviously Never Did Have a Clear Idea of What Conservatism Was

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Chris Buckley snidely takes his leave of National Review (and the Conservative Movement), indignantly remarking on the narrowness and intolerance of a Conservatism which prefers moose-hunters to Harvard men, and which has a problem with supporting an ultra-liberal democrat with a closet-full of unsavory radical connections for the White House on the same kind of class consciousness basis that led Dean Acheson to refuse to “turn (his) back on Alger Hiss.”

Within hours of my endorsement appearing in The Daily Beast it became clear that National Review had a serious problem on its hands. So the next morning, I thought the only decent thing to do would be to offer to resign my column there. This offer was accepted—rather briskly!—by Rich Lowry, NR’s editor, and its publisher, the superb and able and fine Jack Fowler. I retain the fondest feelings for the magazine that my father founded, but I will admit to a certain sadness that an act of publishing a reasoned argument for the opposition should result in acrimony and disavowal.

My father in his day endorsed a number of liberal Democrats for high office, including Allard K. Lowenstein and Joe Lieberman. One of his closest friends on earth was John Kenneth Galbraith. …

My point, simply, is that William F. Buckley held to rigorous standards, and if those were met by members of the other side rather than by his own camp, he said as much. My father was also unpredictable, which tends to keep things fresh and lively and on-their-feet. … Finally, and hardly least, he was fun. God, he was fun. He liked to mix it up.

So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, and the magazine that my father founded must now distance itself from me. But then, conservatives have always had a bit of trouble with the concept of diversity. The GOP likes to say it’s a big-tent. Looks more like a yurt to me.

While I regret this development, I am not in mourning, for I no longer have any clear idea what, exactly, the modern conservative movement stands for. Eight years of “conservative” government has brought us a doubled national debt, ruinous expansion of entitlement programs, bridges to nowhere, poster boy Jack Abramoff and an ill-premised, ill-waged war conducted by politicians of breathtaking arrogance. As a sideshow, it brought us a truly obscene attempt at federal intervention in the Terry Schiavo case.

So, to paraphrase a real conservative, Ronald Reagan: I haven’t left the Republican Party. It left me.

Supporting Allard Lowenstein against Nassau County Republican John Wydler, Chris is right, was an irresponsible, un-conservative abberation in which Bill Buckley obviously allowed personal friendship to outweigh principle. His support of Joe Lieberman against the egregious Republican-in-Name-Only Lowell Weicker was, on the other hand, an impeccably sound conservative decision. And Buckley père may have liked John Kenneth Galbraith as a skiing or drinking buddy, but he certainly never endorsed Galbraith’s fallacious economic opinions and pernicious political positions.

Chris shouldn’t be surprised that an October Dolchstoß (“backstab”) in favor of the most radical and exotic democrat ever to threaten the freedom of the American Republic would not cause the gang at the Conservative Movement’s favorite bar to offer to buy him any drinks.

Rich Lowry describes Chris’s resignation offer rather differently, quoting him as promising that were his offer to depart to be accepted, there “would be no hard feelings, only warmest regards and understanding.” Chris’s second Daily Beast column features plenty of hard feelings.

Too bad for us that we’re so narrow-minded that we actually allow mere political ideology to stand in the way of Ivy League Establishment solidarity, Marxists included, against those uncouth Alaskan gentiles.

2 Feedbacks on "He Obviously Never Did Have a Clear Idea of What Conservatism Was"


“that an act of publishing a reasoned argument for the opposition should result in acrimony and disavowal”

I find it hard to believe that C Buckley thinks that his reasoning for the Obama endorsement was reasoned. His rationale from what he wrote is that Obama is a Harvard man and can’t be so stupid as to govern based on his campaign promises.

Scott D

I am imagining Mr. Buckley reviewing a new dogmeat restaurant, gushing ecstatically over the chef’s artful presentation.
No matter how you serve up bad ideas, they are still bad ideas.


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