Monday, May 19, 2008

NR comes full circle

If you pick up a copy of William F. Buckley Jr.'s 1959 classic, Up From Liberalism, you'll find it brimming with contempt for the empty, meaningless "Modern Republican" stance of the Eisenhower-era GOP.

Buckley was a staunch Republican loyalist, but he was also damned sick of the go-along, get-along nonsense peddled by the GOP Establishment, and he never hesitated to declare that fact.

Fast-forward half a century:
Some candidates make themselves ridiculous by running for president over and over: Stassen, Buchanan, Keyes. Others make themselves ridiculous by running at all. Enter former Republican congressman Bob Barr. . . .
The press is speculating that Barr could be John McCain’s Nader. We doubt it. It will probably be Barr’s fate to be ignored, and those libertarians who care about the credibility of their cause should be glad of it.
Sandwiched between those two sneering paragraphs is a lot of nitpicking to no particular purpose, and of no persuasive power to those conservatives who -- like the Buckley of yore -- are damned sick of the GOP Establishment, of which National Review has become an integral component.

Why this sudden interest in the doings of the LP? Might it have something to do with another presidential candidate whom National Review once labeled "ridiculous"?

Somewhere amid the heaps of papers surrounding my desk is at least one back issue of National Review (I seem to recall a Roman Genn caricature on the cover) in which the magazine derides Sen. John McCain's candidacy as unworthy of conservative support. I don't have the time or patience to search for that issue now, but its doesn't take much Googling to find golden oldies like Rich Lowry slamming "McCainiac Hypocrisy." One wonders how long before intractable McCain critic Mark Levin will be purge from NR.

Now that McCain is the Republican nominee, however, the editors reserve their derision for those conservatives who refuse to enthusastically rally 'round the Establishment's choice. (And they ridicule Barr for changing positions!)

Because National Review has declined into a Republican house organ, with no more editorial independence than an RNC newsletter, candidates like McCain feel free to stiff-arm conservatives, co-sponsor liberal legislation with the likes of Ted Kennedy and Russ Feingold, and spout "progressive" bilge about global warming. Lowry & Co. might murmur and grumble, but there's not the remotest chance they'd ever summon the testicular fortitude to tell such a sellout to go straight to Hell and stay there.

Whatever anyone's opinion of Bob Barr may be, it's transparently obvious that this carping from the NR editors has little to do with Barr himself and everything to do with John McCain. It's stenography for John Weaver, or else plagiarism of the McCain campaign's talking points.

John McCain may yet win the White House, and Barr may disappear as an inconsequential electoral blip. I don't really care either way. Still, it's painful to see Buckley's fiery old journal turned Laodicean, a predictable sock puppet for the GOP Establishment its founder once so famously scorned.


  1. Thank you for so clearly stating what I've had a gut feeling about for some time but somehow couldn't articulate.

  2. The GOP is an embarrassingly target-rich environment!