Saturday, October 18, 2008

Why Christopher Buckley and his defenders are wrong

Christopher Buckley, son of William F. Buckley Jr. and noted author and essayist, has as perhaps many of you know endorsed Barack Obama. He's also left National Review, the magazine his father founded. He has many conservative critics, of course; and some defenders, including the columnist Kathleen Parker in today's Washington Post.

I've agreed with Ms. Parker a lot in the past; but not on this. Here, she's dead wrong.
She's wrong, for example, to suggest that there was a "tsunami" of anger and opposition to Buckley among the NR community, and wrong to suggest in any way that Buckley was run out of NR in a fit of pique by the magazine's current stewards, as Rich Lowry has clearly stated in The Corner.

But here's the larger point. Did you notice Ms. Parker's defense of Christopher Buckley's argument as to WHY a conservative should support Obama? No? Neither did I. That's because there's a reason for that. There isn't one. Mr. Buckley says it's horrible, just horrible, that over the past 8 years we've seen a huge increase in the national debt and in entitlement programs. Yep. You betcha. Not good things.

And how is voting for Barack Obama going to help with those problems, exactly???? Obama's going to introduce tax increases, and $800 billion in new spending; that's something a conservative should be in favor of? Really?

And really, the larger point is that Christopher Buckley and his followers have forgotten the lessons WFB Jr. learned. A quick story: back during the 1960 presidential election, Buckley and the young NR were trying to decide if they should endorse Richard Nixon, the Republican nominee, for president or not. They didn't really want to. They thought he was too moderate and wishy-washy, especially on domestic issues. But Buckley's fellow senior editor James Burnham made a powerful argument to the editor-in-chief. Look, he said, at who surrounds John F. Kennedy, the Democrats' nominee. All the forces of liberalism, all their interest groups, all the leading advocates, support Kennedy. They clearly knew what his election would mean: a victory for liberalism. How, then, Burnham argued, could NR not support Nixon--against whom, again, lined up all those on the left?

Buckley was slow to accept Burnham's argument, but eventually he did so. Never again during Buckley's tenure as editor in chief did NR fail to endorse the Republican candidate for president. The situation is the same now. Lining up around Barack Obama are ALL the forces of liberalism, progressivism, the left, whatever you want to call it. They certainly know what Obama represents. But Christopher Buckley and Kathleen Parker want to tell us that an Obama victory can somehow help conservatism??

Please. WFB Jr. would have known better.