15 / October
15 / October
The Sons of Bill Buckley

I don't begrudge any conservative for not voting Republican for president this year. After eight years of creeping socialism under Bush, and a candidate who has spent much of that same time insulting conservatives, right wingers should not feel held hostage by the tired sneer, "What are you for Gore, Kerry, Obama?" Can't one be against Obama and McCain? Must one be for one or the other?

That said, I found Christopher Buckley's endorsement of Barack Obama ill-reasoned. His dad used to brag of scribbling his newspaper column in twenty minutes as his driver chaufferred him into the city. On this score, the leaf doesn't fall too far fom the tree. The endorsement neither made a convincing case for Obama nor provided an effective critique of McCain. "This campaign has changed John McCain. It has made him inauthentic. A once-first class temperament has become irascible and snarly; his positions change, and lack coherence; he makes unrealistic promises, such as balancing the federal budget 'by the end of my first term.' Who, really, believes that? Then there was the self-dramatizing and feckless suspension of his campaign over the financial crisis. His ninth-inning attack ads are mean-spirited and pointless." That's the best you could do, Christopher?

I felt better about Buckley's reasoning from his Hardball appearance Tuesday night. He mentioned Bush's nationalization of the banks, his "ill-premised" war in Iraq, and the addition of a new federal entitlement--the prescription drug care plan--as exhibts A, B, and C of why the Republican Party and conservatives make for strange bedfellows these days.

Buckley's departure from National Review, methinks, makes neither party look good. Regarding Buckley, why complain that National Review "fired" you when you submitted a resignation letter you titled, "A Sincere Offer." Words have meaning; "sincere" does not mean "insincere," and if you offer your resignation then you should be prepared for it to get accepted.

With regard to National Review, why on earth would you accept such a splendid writer's resignation--the only son of your founder, for Baal's sake--for endorsing Barack Obama? Several of NR's writers endorsed the socialist bailout, support abortion and gay marriage, and even touted the vice presidential candidacy of Joe Lieberman. If the tent's big enough for all that, why is Christopher Buckley anathema? Jonah Goldberg's response to Buckley struck me as reasoned, just, and right, but the temperate words on NRO belie a pettiness in parting company because of a disagreement over Bad and Worse on November 4. The separation, as it comes in the year of Bill Buckley's death and with the only remaining member of his family, only reinforces the stereotype that the magazine has become more partisan than conservative in recent years.

Christopher Buckley and National Review, then, are in the wrong--Buckley wrong for supporting a left-winger for president rather than not voting or pulling the lever for an alternative candidate (as his father had ocassionally done); National Review wrong for parting company with King Conservative's dauphin for reasons having nothing to do with his enormous talent or commitment to conservative principles, but having everything to do with its misguided view that the third-rail of a conservatism is voting Democrat. Of course, Buckley has the right to vote for Obama and National Review has the right to tell a Buckley "Don't let the door hit you on the way out." But having the right doesn't necessarily make you right in exercising it.

"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," Buckley writes in a far better follow-up to his lame first piece. "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.... So, to paraphrase a real conservative, Ronald Reagan: I haven't left the Republican Party. It left me." As they say in Conservative Movementland, meggadittoes.

posted at 12:36 AM

I'm not going to vote for Obama, but I think it's reasonable to think that an Obama Administration could turn out to be more conservative -- or more amenable to conservatives -- than a McCain Administration.

President Bush is probably one of the least conservative presidents of modern times, so the simple reflex that Republicans are more conservative and Democrats more liberal doesn't hold anymore.

A professed conservative voting for Obama in 2008 is no worse than a professed conservative voting for Bush in 2004.

Posted by: Eric Wilds on October 15, 2008 12:43 AM

The worst line in Buckley's endorsement was: ď[Obama] is, it seems clear enough, what the historical moment seems to be calling for.Ē

And he has the gall to be smitten by Obama b/c he seems clearly acute and intelligent (something his stale elitism disdains to grant Palin)?

How can anyone intelligent talk like that? And I am not talking about the weak use of "seems" twice in the sentence.

Historical moments donít ďcallĒ for anything, but if that has ever "seemed" true it surely was more accurate a description of both Mussoliniís and Hitlerís rise to power. It is a dangerous direction of thought to sacralize politicians like that. But given his implication in a parenthetical in this essay that he has also at some point abandoned his Catholic faith then I guess Buckley the lesser is now capable (as Chesterton would say) of believing in anything.

Posted by: Bruce Wayne on October 15, 2008 03:04 AM

From Goldberg's blog post: "Christopher knows that McCain once had great character. We know he knows this because he says so at some length... I think that is unfair and untrue."

On what basis does anybody think McCain has or ever has had good moral character? How does simply being a POW override all evidence to the contrary re: his character? Certainly, I can't think of anything else McCain's defenders can point to that overrides his widely-attested womanizing, legendary temper, much over-sized ego, and the great wrong he committed against his first wife, among other clear flaws. I find much to disagree with in this Rolling Stone article (for instance, many policies they find reprehensible I find wise), and I always take what this mag says with a huge grain of salt. But the biographic sketch of McCain is hard to refute. The man is no conservative -- not even close. More than that, he is a great counter-example in teaching our sons how to be honorable men.

Posted by: Eric F. Langborgh on October 15, 2008 09:43 AM

I know this is slightly off topic and I donít mean to troll but does anybody have an explanation why Obama has not been required to produce the actual copy of his birth certificate?

To date, he has posted a bad copy of a document on his website and itís been written that it has been verified in the Washington Post and FactChecker.org (a left wing front group).

Obama is being sued in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania to produce the actual document for inspection and verification but he and the DNC are fighting the suit tooth and nail.

If a legitimate document exists, why does he not simply produce it and any other documented information as McCain has already done?

This is kind of a big deal, I think.

Posted by: asdf on October 15, 2008 10:01 AM

Incidentally, Dan, I think I am with Christopher Buckley in believing that you have your "Bad and Worse" backwards. Esp. when I look at it from a long-term remifications point of view.

Posted by: Eric F. Langborgh on October 15, 2008 10:27 AM

This election should be viewed as more of a statement against Obama than support for RINO McCain. It amazes me how libs rail against Bush and McCain when in reality both of them are not Conservatives and lean more toward being moderate Democrats. Just shows how a dumbed down electorate does not pay attention.

That written, for anybody to vote for Obama just because he has a (D) next to his name will put this country in peril and potentially elect a very flawed and corrupt candidate. Again though, a dumbed down electorate does not pay attention.

Posted by: asdf on October 15, 2008 10:45 AM

I'm becoming more and more convinced that voting at all has effects akin to that of subsidies, or to feeding the animals. Why encourage them?

Posted by: Eric F. Langborgh on October 15, 2008 11:03 AM

Good point Eric L. With each election, the quality of the candidates seems to be diluted. Itís very discouraging to say the least. So when do we start getting substantive quality candidates?

I was thinking yesterday about this current election and how in 00í I voted for Bush because of a low quality Gore and how in 04í I voted for Bush again because of the low quality Kerry. But Bush has proven low quality as well.

Iím doing the same thing this election. However, had it been that the Democrats nominated another candidate, it would likely be a wash to vote for McCain or not. Unfortunately, as the Democrats are becoming the party of surrogate Communists, the direction is clear that McCain will be the ultimate LOTE.

Posted by: asdf on October 15, 2008 11:32 AM

"...McCain will be the ultimate LOTE."

As said, I don't think that is clear at all. And even if it was, why vote for evil at all, whether or not it is "lesser" than another? Or, if "evil" sounds too strong to some," why vote for anyone who, on the net, will take the country in a bad direction? Aren't we still morally culpable for doing so? Again, why encourage them?

I for one am undecided: I will either vote for Chuck Baldwin, as I voted for Peroutka and Phillips on the Constitution Party line the past two elections, or I will simply leave the top of the ballot blank.

Posted by: Eric F. Langborgh on October 15, 2008 11:45 AM

Buckley's reasons for not supporting McCain are, well, reasonable. What I don't understand is how those same reasons can be used in support of Obama.

Posted by: Highlander on October 15, 2008 11:52 AM

While I admire you principles Eric, I disagree with your method and for this particular election think that by voting for a candidate other than one who will actually occupy the White House, you are throwing your vote away.

Pardon me, but that's the way I see it.

In other words, this election is not the one to be making an ethical or moral stand on principles.

Posted by: asdf on October 15, 2008 12:04 PM

Bush has been, in deed though not always in rhetoric, the most left-wing president in our history.

If elected, Obama will be the most left-wing person ever elected to the presidency. How much of that leftist conviction and rhetoric will translate into deed?

Isn't McCain more "conservative" than either of them?

That's the best argument I can see to vote for him. I know -- it's not very convincing.

Posted by: xantippe on October 15, 2008 12:16 PM

I'm trying to think of one election in my lifetime that wasn't proclaimed to be the most important election ever. And of course: what could be more important than the present?

Well, the "future" might be. And I would agree. But I would also note that fighting for the short-term can be worse for the long-term future.

ASDF, you agreed with my principles above, noting the low quality (I would argue absolutely disastrous) Dubya that has resulted from feeding the animals our votes. I believe McCain will be much worse: for our national security, for our economy, for the conservative movement at large, and for America's long-term prospects of remaining a first-rate nation in the world.

But even if you want to jettison the principle, and even if you disagree with my conclusion, for practical matters a vote for McCain is still very much a wasted vote, imo. As a friend just wrote me a few minutes ago, "McCain is toast." There just ain't no way Obama is going to lose at this point.

Therefore, pragmatically speaking, there has never been a better time to vote (or not) on principle!

Posted by: Eric F. Langborgh on October 15, 2008 12:20 PM

Here are some more specifics - albeit still in just summary form -- on my thinking re: the two anointed choices this presidential election, lifted from an email to a friend, b/c I am too lazy to rewrite:

A vote for either McCain or Obama is a vote for evil, and I can't do that. Either one will continue and expand our empire and war-mongering. Neither will reduce the size of gov't one iota. Both have bought into global warming alarmism. Neither has interest in following the Constitution. Neither will protect our civil liberties and repeal the Patriot Act and other Orwellian oversteps in the never-ending and ill-defined "war on terror."

About the only "conservative" argument I can find for voting for McCain is that we will likely have a Democratic Congress, and divided government is good: blessed gridlock! But is it really divided if McCain is elected? Ain't he just as much a Dem as anything else?

I can actually come up with more "conservative" reasons for voting for Obama: 1) Where Bush has nearly destroyed the conservative movement with his "National Greatness Conservatism," exploding budgets, and not-even-close-to-humble foreign policy, McCain would likely strike a mortal blow. He would likely be as bad or worse on all counts. Meanwhile, an Obama presidency would likely energize conservatives and cause the GOP to grow some backbone. "It is darkest just before dawn" and all that. Or put another way, it took President Clinton and the threat of HillaryCare for the "Republican Revolution of 1994." to take place. It took Carter to get Reagan, etc. 2) Obama is an interventionist like the rest, but perhaps his foreign policy would be less belligerent; that would be a good thing. 3) A McCain presidency would all but guarantee a Democratic president in 2012, historically speaking. Very seldom - esp. in the past 100 years, has the same party held the presidency for more than three successive terms (biggest exception was FDR-Truman, of course. I'd rather the GOP loses now then 2012, when we might finally run a conservative for the GOP ticket again.

Anyway, a couple ideas to chew on.

Posted by: Eric F. Langborgh on October 15, 2008 12:25 PM

Well thatís one prescient friend you have there. How does he know? Does he possess some double secret information that would dictate that the election is already over? Pardon me, but that sounds like the spew coming out of the Obama campaign.

I'm very concerned about Obama's lack of experience, clandestine and obvious dishonesty, radical associations, his upbringing, his Messiah complex, his inferred militancy, anti-American leanings and hidden agenda.

Although I will admit to possibly crying wolf in the past, I donít believe that weíve ever had a scarier and very likely more dangerous candidate in the history of Presidential elections. Are we willing to take the chance that heís not?

Personally, Iím not.

To comment on one point that you made, maybe an Obama Presidency could blaze the trail for a truly conservative candidate the next go around. And I do agree with you that McCain might be an affirmation for the same old same old. But, I would rather wait for more moderate opposition to cast my lot with a Dem or a really good alternative party candidate next election than to take a chance that the U.S. could devolve into a third world country under an Obama administration.

Posted by: asdf on October 15, 2008 01:02 PM

I think there are very many reasonable indications that McCain is going to lose, and lose big -- such as: current national polls, the fact that so many red states are even in contention, with many showing clear leads for Obama, the fact that conservatives do not like McCain, likely suppressing turnout, the fact that the way he has run has campaign seems to be turning off his supposed "centrist" appeal, etc. The fact is that the electoral math is looking very ugly for McCain right now. But that debate holds no interest for me; I just put it out for those who think pragmatism should trump principles, even when those principles get put through the shredder as a result.

The more important reason for me for not voting for a McCain or Obama is the same reason one should hit the brakes and turn around when driving towards a cliff, and not bother arguing which choice kills us less quickly.

And besides, would Gore or Kerry have been as successful in exploding the size, scope and power of the federal government as Bush has? I highly doubt it. The fact is that the most ravenous wolves often look less so until put in power. Or, at least, the result is much more destructive than anyone figured possible even under the hypothetical reign of the one they voted against. (For example, in terms of government growth at least, the Clinton years look absolutely blissful to this conservative compared to the Bush years.) And this is why voting for evil will only get you evil, and often much more than you bargained for.

Posted by: Eric F. Langborgh on October 15, 2008 01:26 PM

I just noticed that Dan used ellipses in a quote from Buckley that meant dropping off his adding in his catalogue of crimes of the recent conservative movement "As a sideshow, it brought us a truly obscene attempt at federal intervention in the Terry Schiavo case."

Buckley is not a conservative. He thinks of himself as a libertarian anyway and when he says that on abortion and homo "marriage" he is a libertarian and when he sees the murder of Schiavo as not "truly obscene" but instead the half-hearted joke of a federal intervention against it, then it is clear what he is. He is a fraud, just the same as the atheist George Will and other assorted media elite neocons/neoliberals claiming the title "conservative."

Sure, there is no conservative movement in this country but it is b/c of the actions of his father and other media elites of our sad political class who loathe normal Americans and traditional Christian civilized values.

Posted by: Bruce Wayne on October 15, 2008 02:28 PM

I used the ellipses because I wanted to join the two paragraphs without having to awkwardly separate his statement into two paragraphs. In other words, using ellipses here makes Buckley's point easier to read. I wanted to keep it together, and ellipses allowed me to do that whereas not using them--and following conventional grammar rules--would have forced me to start a new, second paragraph starting with "So, to paraphrase a real conservative..." I hope this makes sense. Readers may not get my fetishization of presentation; but, methinks, writers will. Although I disagree with Buckley on Schiavo, I don't think it's grounds for excluding him from the label "conservative," as I know many principled conservatives who disagreed with me on that issue. Perhaps he isn't a conservative, but this alone isn't cause to say this, methinks.

Posted by: Dan Flynn on October 15, 2008 03:17 PM

His father famously said that he would rather be governed by the first 2000 names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard. Now Christopher (some people are radically misnamed) can write of Obama "As for his intellect, well, heís a Harvard man, though thatís sure as heck no guarantee of anything, these days." Well, if it's Harvard Law, it is a guarantee that the man has been deeply immersed in the elitest progressive groupthink that now characterizes our governing classes. Unless someone has shown clearly that he has repudiated that groupthink, such immersion is reason enough to vote for Sarah Palin, or even a lesser talented hockey mom, instead.

Posted by: DocMcG on October 15, 2008 04:07 PM

I really hate to use this an@logy Eric, but by most accounts the deal was sealed as to who was going to win last season's Super Bowl too. The old saying that that's why they play the games is true.

Posted by: asdf on October 15, 2008 05:32 PM

Obama's Harvard Law backer, black supremacist Don Warden, aka Khaleed Al Mansoor,

"...whatever you do to [white people], they deserve it, God wants you to do it and that's when you cut out the nose, cut out the ears, take flesh out of their body, don't worry because God wants you to do it." 

Posted by: Thomas on October 15, 2008 08:00 PM


Sorry, I wasn't complaining about your use of ellipses it was fine. I just hadn't bothered to read his second essay you linked to until later and when I did that clause stuck out at me, the one dropped so you could make a smoother quote for your own use. I wanted to comment on it and not really your rendition which I have no complaints about.

I do think that most pundits called conservative and the conservative media lights in general are a fraud of elitists, statists, and liberals at heart (call them classical libs if you will). The prominence of atheists is a good indicator.

You mention that some conservatives disagree over Schiavo. In fact, I do not agree with all scenarios and means called for to intervene on her behalf. I believed that it was an issue for Florida to resolve and not a federal issue at all. However, I find Buckley repugnant and typical in his use of strong language ("utter disgrace") in that case for the wrong parties. Has he used such strong language about the economic fascism currently going on as the Treasury Secretary takes over banks? Just like with George Will the disdain that this atheist has for Christians and normal Americans (response to Palin, e.g.) is greatly suggestive to me of where his heart and mind is.

Another great example of a conservative who disagreed with the Schiavo interventions is Thomas Fleming. But Fleming would also say that "conservativism" and "liberalism" are both junk modernist political ideologies bred from "enlightened" liberalism.

Posted by: Bruce Wayne on October 15, 2008 08:28 PM
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