Category Archive 'Christopher Buckley'

27 Apr 2009

Christo’s Revenge


Pat and Bill Buckley, 1981

About 30 years ago, William F. Buckley, Jr. published a monumentally insensitive obituary in which his own subjectivity and personality were allowed to usurp the space traditionally reserved for compliments toward and expressions of personal regard for the recently departed. A number of friends of the deceased, including present company, were absolutely infuriated, and some of us never really looked upon WFB in exactly the same way again afterwards.

A tradition of inappropriately self-indulgent behavior in the face of death must be part of the Buckley family culture, because here is Chris Buckley in this week’s Sunday Times Magazine cheerfully quoting Oscar Wilde (“Jack: I have lost both my parents. Lady Bracknell: To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”) as an epigraph to a feature on the deaths of his parents, before moving right along to share, with awe-inspiring complacency, the sorts of private details and opinions on family relationships and deathbed scenes which the overwhelming majority of us do not share.

Soon after, a doctor came in to remove the respirator. It was quiet and peaceful in the room, just pings and blips from the monitor. I stroked her hair and said, the words coming out of nowhere, surprising me, “I forgive you.”

It sounded, even at the time, like a terribly presumptuous statement.

Indeed, it did.

Professional writers, I tend to think, particularly those of Ivy League background, acquire too commonly an addiction to attention. They sometimes just don’t know when to stop.

3:59 audio slideshow

04 Mar 2009

Brooks and Buckley Experience Buyers’ Remorse

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Jennifer Rubin observes how quickly Barack Obama has persuaded last autumn’s conservative turncoats to reconsider their wardrobes.

It’s not quite LBJ losing Walter Cronkite on the Vietnam War, but the president has lost David Brooks.

Well, well. First Chris Buckley and now Brooks. Usually it takes more than a month for presidents to disappoint those they have bamboozled during the campaign. But, as Brooks points out, Obama threw caution to the winds when he unveiled his monstrous budget.


David Brooks:

[The] Obama budget is more than just the sum of its parts. There is, entailed in it, a promiscuous unwillingness to set priorities and accept trade-offs. There is evidence of a party swept up in its own revolutionary fervor — caught up in the self-flattering belief that history has called upon it to solve all problems at once.

So programs are piled on top of each other and we wind up with a gargantuan $3.6 trillion budget. We end up with deficits that, when considered realistically, are $1 trillion a year and stretch as far as the eye can see. We end up with an agenda that is unexceptional in its parts but that, when taken as a whole, represents a social-engineering experiment that is entirely new.

The U.S. has never been a society riven by class resentment. Yet the Obama budget is predicated on a class divide. The president issued a read-my-lips pledge that no new burdens will fall on 95 percent of the American people. All the costs will be borne by the rich and all benefits redistributed downward. …

Those of us who consider ourselves moderates — moderate-conservative, in my case — are forced to confront the reality that Barack Obama is not who we thought he was. His words are responsible; his character is inspiring. But his actions betray a transformational liberalism that should put every centrist on notice. As Clive Crook, an Obama admirer, wrote in The Financial Times, the Obama budget “contains no trace of compromise. It makes no gesture, however small, however costless to its larger agenda, of a bipartisan approach to the great questions it addresses. It is a liberal’s dream of a new New Deal.”


Chris Buckley:

Hold on—there’s a typo in that paragraph. “$3.6 trillion budget” can’t be right.The entire national debt is—what—about $11 trillion? He can’t actually be proposing to spend nearly one-third of that in one year, surely. Let me check. Hmm. He did. The Wall Street Journal notes that federal outlays in fiscal 2009 will rise to almost 30 percent of the gross national product. In language that even an innumerate English major such as myself can understand: The US government is now spending annually about one-third of what the entire US economy produces. As George Will would say, “Well.”

Now let me say: Unlike Rush Limbaugh, I want President Obama to succeed. I honestly do. We are all in this leaky boat together—did I say “leaky”? I meant “sieve-like”—and it would be counterproductive, if not downright suicidal, to want it to go down just to prove a conservative critique of Keynesian economics. …

One thing is certain, however: Government is getting bigger and will stay bigger. Just remember the apothegm that a government that is big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take it all away.And remember what de Tocqueville told us about a bureaucracy that grows so profuse that not even the most original mind can penetrate it.

If this is what the American people want, so be it, but they ought to have no illusions about the perils of this approach. Mr. Obama is proposing among everything else $1 trillion in new entitlements, and entitlement programs never go away, or in the oddly poetic bureaucratic jargon, “sunset.” He is proposing $1.4 trillion in new taxes, an appetite for which was largely was whetted by the shameful excesses of American CEO corporate culture. And finally, he has proposed $5 trillion in new debt, one-half the total accumulated national debt in all US history. All in one fell swoop.

He tells us that all this is going to work because the economy is going to be growing by 3.2 percent a year from now. Do you believe that? Would you take out a loan based on that? And in the three years following, he predicts that our economy will grow by 4 percent a year.

This is nothing if not audacious hope. If he’s right, then looking back, March 2009 will be the dawn of the Age of Stimulation, or whatever elegant phrase Niall Ferguson comes up with. If he turns out to be wrong, then it will look very different, the entrance ramp to the Road to Serfdom, perhaps, and he will reap the whirlwind that follows, along with the rest of us.


Who could possibly have predicted that a red diaper baby community organizer with a life-long record of radical associations would adopt an ultra-left program of taxing and spending? Messrs. Buckley and Brooks obviously weren’t paying attention when they read Dreams from My Father. Obama explains that he learned as an adolescent that he could get away with doing drugs and raising Cain, simply by mollifying the adults in his life by speaking softly and politely.

DFMF, 94-95:

It was the start of my senior year in high school… and one day she [his mother] marched into my room, wanting to know the details of [his friend’s] arrest. I had given her a reassuring smile and patted her hand and told her not to worry. I wouldn’t do anything stupid. It was usually an effective tactic, one of those tricks I had learned: People were satisfied as long as you were courteous and smiled and made no sudden moves. They were more than satisfied; they were relieved — such a pleasant surprise to find a well-mannered young black man who didn’t seem angry all the time.

23 Oct 2008

Me-Too Republicans Are Back

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Back in the days of Dwight Eisenhower, we had Me-Too Republicans who were simply too timid to challenge a conventional liberal orthodoxy for fear of being labeled radical. Tony Blankley finds today a new form of Me-Too Republican motivated by snobbery and misplaced loyalty to the community of fashion.

15 Oct 2008

Douthat Defends the Rats

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Ross Douthat argues that a more successful McCain campaign with better poll results would have stiffened the spines of those representatives of the center-right punditocracy currently finding all sorts of reasons (“first class temperament”) requiring them to desert the Republican cause and make peace with a Marxist democrat.

Suppose that you accept the most cynical account of, say, Peggy Noonan’s uncertainty about whom to vote for in this election, or Christopher Buckley’s Obama endorsement – that they’re just craven, self-interested bandwagon jumpers who want to keep getting invited to all those swanky cocktail parties I keep hearing about. Suppose that you regard every right-of-center writer – or single-issue fellow traveler with the Bush Republicans, in the case of Christopher Hitchens – who’s publicly hurled brickbats at the McCain campaign as a quisling and a coward, a stooge for liberalism and a rat fleeing a fast-sinking ship. In such circumstances, what’s the best course of action – denouncing the rats, or trying to figure out why the hell the ship is sinking? Even if Brooks and Noonan and Buckley and Dreher and Kathleen Parker and David Frum and Heather Mac Donald and Bruce Bartlett and George Will and on and on – note the ideological diversity in the ranks of conservatives who aren’t Helping The Team these days – are all just snobs and careerists who quit or cavil or cover their asses when the going gets tough and their “seat at the table” is threatened, an American conservative movement that consists entirely of those pundits with the rock-hard testicular fortitude required to never take sides against the family seems like a pretty small tent at this point. And if I were Hanson or Levin or Steyn I’d be devoting a little less time to ritual denunciations of heretics and RINOs, and at least a little more time to figuring out how to build the sort of ship that will make the rats of the DC/NY corridor want to scramble back on board, however much it makes you sick to have them back. Who knows? It might just be the sort of ship that swing-state voters will want to climb on board as well.

Douthat is right in observing that, when you’re winning, the wimps, opportunists, and trimmers have neither need nor incentive to take French leave, but, alas! no political party, no philosophical school of thought can always win. Sometimes fate and circumstances are against you. Sometimes victory in a particular contest, in a particular election year, is impossible. And it is at those unfortunate times that we get to discover that in the contemporary political wars not everyone is another Roland or another Leonidas.

Read the whole thing.

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.

13 Oct 2008

Now We Know Where the Name Buckley Came From

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Roger Kimball responds to his friend Chris Buckley’s endorsement of Obama.

The sub-text is an effort to assign those of us who decline to offer our support for The One We’ve Been Waiting For a place in the limbo of right-wing cloud-cuckoodom. At a strategic moment, Christo quotes his father: “I’ve spent my entire life time separating the Right from the kooks.” You don’t have to be a student of Quintilian to understand that sheep are being segregated from goats here, and those of us who have serious qualms about Obama are being mustered on the wrong side of that divide. A similar principle of exclusion is at work in his reference to “Rush Limbaugh and the others in the Right Wing Sanhedrin.” The Sanhedrin was the ancient court that tried Jesus and found him wanting. Who is on trial here? Obama? McCain? Or, Dear Reader, is it you?

Buckley says he is endorsing Obama as a “first rate intellect” largely on the evidence of his memoirs. But there is uncertainty that Obama actually wrote them. The reality is that, in this election as during the later years of the War in Vietnam, the pressure to conform brought to bear upon members of the community of fashion has become intense enough to cause the weak to buckle.

10 Oct 2008

That Whirring Sound You Hear Is WFB Spinning In His Grave

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Christopher Buckley
has endorsed Obama.

This from the son of the man who wrote: “I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.”

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