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Buckley Out At National Review

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Christopher Buckley, that is, son of the magazine's founder William F. Buckley. For the sin of endorsing Obama. He explains what led to his decision to resign, and their eagerness to accept:

I had gone out of my way…to say that I was not [endorsing Obama] in the pages of National Review, where I write the back-page column, because of the experience of my colleague, the lovely Kathleen Parker. Kathleen had written in NRO that she felt Sarah Palin was an embarrassment. (Hardly an alarmist view.) This brought 12,000 livid emails, among them a real charmer suggesting that Kathleen's mother ought to have aborted her and tossed the fetus into a dumpster. I didn't want to put NR in an awkward position.

Since my Obama endorsement, Kathleen and I have become BFFs and now trade incoming hate-mails. No one has yet suggested my dear old Mum should have aborted me, but it's pretty darned angry out there in Right Wing Land. One editor at National Review—a friend of 30 years—emailed me that he thought my opinions "cretinous." One thoughtful correspondent, who feels that I have "betrayed"—the b-word has been much used in all this—my father and the conservative movement generally, said he plans to devote the rest of his life to getting people to cancel their subscriptions to National Review. But there was one bright spot: To those who wrote me to demand, "Cancel my subscription," I was able to quote the title of my father's last book, a delicious compendium of his NR "Notes and Asides": Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription.

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.

I wrote on the passing of the elder Buckley here, and reviewed Jeffrey Hart's book on National Review's history here and Linda Bridges and John R. Coyne Jr.'s book on the same topic here.

NEXT: Black Rage

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  1. Conflicts among fundamentalists are always acrimonious.

  2. Frankly,

    I think it’s deplorable that the shrill knuckle draggers on my own side of the fence piled on to Buckley.

    Despite all of my Obama dread, I have an incredibly hard time thinking about voting for McCain. I can well understand why Buckley did what he did, and it shocks and disturbs me to see the blooming of a vile, low-brow idiocy masquerading as populism, slowly entrenching itself on the Right.

    There’s a reason the GOP is leaking libertarians, non-religious conservatives, and right leaning moderates. It seems we’re not wanted.

  3. “Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription” is a particularly awesome name for a book.

  4. “Conflicts among fundamentalists are always acrimonious.”

    I see you’ve been reading the threads here…

  5. If the treasurer of the NY Yankees fan club was seen wearing a Boston Red Sox uniform, you’d expect the same response. Serves him right for caring about which big government jackass gets to sleep in the White House.

  6. …it shocks and disturbs me to see the blooming of a vile, low-brow idiocy masquerading as populism, slowly entrenching itself on the Right.

    Point the first, you imply a distinction between “low-brow idiocy” and “populism”, where I find it hard to see a space between.

    Point the second, where have you been all these years? The GOP has been populist ever since the Dems crapped out the Civil Rights Act (against their better judgment) and have never been forgiven for it in certain segments. It was literally *stunning* how fast the GOP could pick up the racist, nativist, populist ball from the late southern Dems and make it their own. Thank Nixon. And it didn’t take much time for that poison to creep throughout the whole party.

  7. One editor at National Review-a friend of 30 years-emailed me that he thought my opinions “cretinous.”

    Of course, blind loyalty to a group of people who have betrayed everything they claim to believe in is completely rational and sensible.

  8. If Buckley had merely said he was going to cast a write-in vote for Joseph Mengele, he might still have a job.

  9. One thoughtful correspondent, who feels that I have “betrayed”-the b-word has been much used in all this-my father and the conservative movement generally

    WFB was an enemy of conservatism, like it or not.

  10. Back when I wrote about the real world, the hate mail was one of the highlights of the job.

  11. @Elemenope

    I think that Buckley (the elder’s) efforts, for a short but significant period, heightened modern conservatism to a pursuit and philosophy worthy of intellectual discourse. With his passing, and the right’s increasingly obvious rejection of the few remaining conservative intellectuals (and their more nuanced arguments), we’re seeing a debasement, or maybe a return, to a populism that remains “anti-elitist” but that also bares its teeth at intellectualism on its own side of the fence. That’s very disturbing to me.

    There’s always a dialectic between the blue collar and elite castes in a political movement, or at the very least some friction, but it feels (anecdotal) like the right is newly engaged in a war of attrition against its own intellectual base, marching quickly towards a whole hearted rejection of the very philosophically minded thinkers who are best able to defend conservatism from its critics.

    It’s a form of cannibalism, I think, fueled by a hunger to be acknowledged as right. Perhaps the party (and movement), after suffering 8 years of sometimes accurate and sometimes insane attacks from the left, is so tired of being told it is wrong that it is willing to coil up and strike at anyone who breaks with the simplistic “gaw shuks” narrative of down home populism.

    This is not a good thing for the GOP in the long run. It is untenable. They risk becoming a provincial voice only. Even the most rural and plebian political movements require a backbone of intellectual elites to prop up the movement.

    But really, where else can right leaning intellectuals go? They won’t defect to the Democrats. Or will they? The Libertarian party is, well, it’s got a few nubs that make it less than likely to be successful.

    This is a question for better minds than mine.

  12. WFB sought to purge the post-WWII right of libertarians. Now, his libertarian-leaning son has been purged from the movement and magazine WFB created.

    I believe the saying is, “Karma is a bitch.”

  13. @Abdul

    Very interesting. One wishes for more info and details.

  14. Buckley endorsed Sen. Obama?

    That’s IT!! I am leaving the country! Pass the 5.56mm and 9mm please.

  15. Buckley’s son is “libertarian leaning”? What libertarian leaning republican would vote Obama instead of um… libertarian?

  16. Keep in mind that recently Obama told a small businessman to not worry about being taxed to the hilt, since he was just “spreading the wealth around a little”.

    Yes, I can TOTALLY see why libertarians would vote for Obama.

  17. As the Corner rightly noted this morning, Buckley was telling NR staff and other right wing critics (one could include the writers of this publication among that group) of John McCain to “shut-up” during the primary season because they were so anti-McCain, then when he became the nominee and they started to support him, Buckley decided to endorse…Obama. Strange cat, that Buckley.

  18. “Buckley’s son is “libertarian leaning”? What libertarian leaning republican would vote Obama instead of um… libertarian?”

    Maybe he just doesn’t want to throw his vote away.

  19. So I read the Buckley article and apparently he’s endorsing Obama based upon a subjective analysis of his personality as a future Dear Leader. Gag me with a spoon. Politics shares a root word with policy. What policies would Obama enact and veto? What policies would McCain enact and veto? And Palin (OH NOZ SHE’S A HICK!) enact and veto? Or heaven forbid, what about Barr? (OH NOZ HE’LL NEVER WIN!)

    This is the intellectual elite of the Conservative movement? Please. Good thing I’ve never subscribed to that man’s material. I’ll go back to reading stuff from Heartland, Cato, and the Von Mises Institute.

  20. “Maybe he just doesn’t want to throw his vote away.” Every vote is a vote thrown away, drowned out by the masses of other voters. To say that your vote matters more by voting for somebody more likely to win is intellectually dishonest. You’re better off voting for the candidate you really like or staying at home watching teevee.

  21. Goldwater,near the end of his life, got away with showing some support for Bill Clinton; I feel for Chris

  22. Don M,

    Heck, I gave money to McCain in 2000 (and Bill Bradley, and then voted for Nader in a state that went to Gore – I was hoping for a 3rd party to get national funding…) and the positions he was holding, and some of the honest comments (about agents of intolerance for instance) were a strong part of that. Any resemblance to that was muted in the primaries and blown away in the later primaries and general election by McCain. I’m not voting for him (actually, voted yesterday since I’m heading out of the country with a hot young thing until after the election. Seems the wise course). I have some hopes that Obama is at least AWARE of the law and constutition (you know, the whole constitutional law scholar) and LISTENS to people like Feingold on people’s rights. The whole liberal/populist government thing bugs me, but a hell of a lot less than the republicans trying to control my life based on some middle-eastern fantasy novel!

    Add to that that i’m rather terrified that the next president being republican would put another 2 religous/”social conservative”/big government wing-nuts on the supreme court. I can deal with split and balance on that court – you can always hope that someone on the wrong side of whatever issue (hey, I’m in favour of guns and my “castle” type rights) can be convinced to give a majority to the correct decision. But you get 7/9 wing-nuts on the same side (as opposed to wing-nuts from opposite sides) and even if one or two are convinced, you will still get the idealogical decision. And those people are young and going to be around for most of the rest of my life.

  23. Lowry disputes what Buckley said? I’m shocked!

    Uh, the McCain of the last few months is not the same McCain of 9 months ago. What’s funny is that now the former McCain doubters are angry at all who doubt McCain. They don’t see any inconsistency there?

  24. “I have some hopes that Obama is at least AWARE of the law and constutition (you know, the whole constitutional law scholar) and LISTENS to people like Feingold on people’s rights. … you can always hope that someone on the wrong side of whatever issue (hey, I’m in favour of guns and my “castle” type rights) can be convinced to give a majority to the correct decision”

    Wishful thinking, ChiSailor. Obama has demonstrated he isn’t a big fan of the constitution, except for the gray-area collectivist interpretation espoused by many on the left. Take just the first two amendments for instance. He doesn’t like free speech (note his truth squads and support for campaign finance “reform”), and he is completely against the second amendment. He has a close association with the anti-gun lobby, and doesn’t think anybody except for the men with shiny badges should have guns in Chicago. I’m sure somebody can fill in the other natural rights he does not respect.

  25. It’s more than understandable he would not vote McCain (I’m not either) but to vote FOR Obama? And write the NR back page? Nope.
    Bye-bye.

  26. I work for Pepsi marketing and if I got caught with Coke products, I’d be in violation of the non-compete and non-endorsement agreement I had to sign to get my job. Along with showing my birth certificate.

    Buckley surely knew this was coming. I think he just didn’t want to be on the loser’s side and wanted to play in the sunshine and drink kool-aid with the other children the next 4 or 8 years. Little punk-ass weasel. Fair weather jack ass. I hope his family kicks him out of the Buckley fortune. Sniveling snot nosed brat.

  27. Big Red —

    Calm down. A guy can have many reasons for doing what he did, and neither you nor I are in a good position to judge which one it was and whether it was a good one.

    To level so much invective at a guy for following his conscience, you have to be personally invested in what some guy at a minor political magazine thinks way more than is probably healthy.

    Besides, Coke is better than Pepsi anyways.

  28. Buckley (the elder’s) efforts, for a short but significant period, heightened modern conservatism to a pursuit and philosophy worthy of intellectual discourse

    “Heightened” it? Conservatism by definition looks backwards. What, exactly, are (or were) they attempting to conserve? A “philosophy” that has an imaginary being at its very center? Their fundamentals are fatally flawed.

  29. Besides, Coke is better than Pepsi anyways.

    I’m sad to say that I’m enough of a connoisseur to agree with you. Also, that I think the Coke-Pepsi issue is more important than anyone leaving National Review. And WFB was usually interesting, even though I didn’t always agree with him. I’m not familiar with his son though.

    And what joe said.

  30. Lefiti is starting to get a lot of first posts. Which means he’s sitting in his mother’s basement pressing the refresh button on his browser over and over. That’s just pathetic.

  31. NR is not what it once was and it hasn’t been for a while. Not that I ever agreed whole heartedly with what was published I at least appreciated the commitment to political debate. The current cast of characters around that place are about as committed to political debate as Fox News.

  32. NR has been living off of its history for a long time and is only a shadow of its former self, but “excommunication” has been there since the beginning. I guess that’s what you get when your movement is started by a Catholic (relax, I was raised in the RCC as well).

  33. Guy Montag | October 15, 2008, 1:31pm | #
    Buckley endorsed Sen. Obama?
    That’s IT!! I am leaving the country! Pass the 5.56mm and 9mm please.

    You’re right, that is the fastest way out. I assume after using the 5.56mm and 9mm, we won’t have to read any more of your posts?

  34. Does anyone remember (or know separately) about that website with morality surveys on it? Conservatives put a much higher emphasis on group loyalty than liberals. Which doesn’t mean that liberals don’t value group loyalty, look at the ridicule those Hillary voters got from the left.

  35. Back during the primary season when Christopher Buckley supported McCain and other conservatives were gagging on the thought of a McCain nomination he wrote this:

    “It may strike some conservatives today as odd, if not absurd, to see John McCain being subjected to an auto-da-f? conducted by such Torquemadas of the right as Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity. The other day, he even endured jeers at a conservative gathering in Washington, by otherwise well-behaved exemplars of conservatism…

    In response, let me offer a thoughtful, considered, carefully worded comment: Would you all please just…shut…up? (I’d insert an intensifier, but this is a family newspaper.)”

    So when McCain disappoints him and he not only decides to criticize McCain but endorse his opponent Buckley writes:

    “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.”

    Chris Buckley is being a dick and playing up a false martyrdom when NR’s writers and readers call him on it. I suspect he got exactly the result he was looking for when he wrote that endorsement.

  36. It seems that NRO is degenerating into a neoconservative Zionist clown show that resembles commentary magazine more than conservatism.

  37. I find comments like this telling: I work for Pepsi marketing and if I got caught with Coke products, I’d be in violation of the non-compete and non-endorsement agreement I had to sign to get my job.

    The relationship between National Review and the Republican Party is like the relationship between a Pepsi vendor and PepsiCo?

  38. “Chris Buckley is being a dick and playing up a false martyrdom when NR’s writers and readers call him on it. I suspect he got exactly the result he was looking for when he wrote that endorsement.”

    Buckley – “He told the media they were “jerks” (a sure sign of authenticity, to say nothing of good taste; we are jerks).”

    Buckley appears to enjoy tweaking the nose of the people who have taken the NR off the rails. And, why not? It seems to me that he’s being fed a lot of materials by the persecution complex that infects the right.

  39. Meh. I find lots of useful debate on NRO. They disagree on lots of things from a conservative perspective, and I find that informative. There remain a number of people there who are unhappy with McCain, even if they are far unhappier with Obama.

    As far as I can tell, Buckley is a popular writer of fiction who was given a temporary gig and toilet papered the school on his way out.

  40. 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.

    Ha ha ha ha. One wonders if he’d ever actually read National Review.

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