Perhaps the truest and most valuable words about politics from that great novel about politics, All the King’s Men, are these:
“Damn politics, anyway.”
That’s all you want to say when you hear that author and wit Christopher Buckley, son of the late William F., was fired–or, at least, allowed to quit with unseemly haste– from his National Review gig as reprisal for endorsing Obama in the virtual pages of Tina Brown’s new whateveritis, The Daily Beast. Because apostates are loathed far more than infidels, Buckley found himself buried in hate mail from purity enforcers, much like what happened to Sen. Joseph Lieberman when he left the Democratic Party to go Independent.
There’s still some uncertainty as to whether Buckley jumped or was tossed, but for anyone who read Buckley’s magazine and books in his heyday, the whole affair presents a sad story of decline in the conservative ranks. As Buckley the Younger notes, his father and the magazine he founded once valued ideas and their vigorous defense. If “the other side” was right about something, WFB had no problem praising them for it. As the Younger writes:
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. In 1969, he wrote a widely-remarked upon column saying that it was time America had a black president. (I hasten to aver here that I did not endorse Senator Obama because he is black. Surely voting for someone on that basis is as racist as not voting for him for the same reason.)
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. He came out for legalization of drugs once he decided that the war on drugs was largely counterproductive. Hardly a conservative position. Finally, and hardly least, he was fun. God, he was fun. He liked to mix it up.
You expect more from a magazine that once prized erudition and principle. If they slip further, the editors of NR may have to join the cable news warriors and lunatic bloggers of the right and left, hurling misspelled obscenities at one another.
Buckley writes that his pain at being drummed out of conservatism’s national magazine is somewhat diminished because he no longer knows what it means to be a conservative:
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.
Great, honest stuff. After Obama is elected and the wagons are no longer circled, I’d love to hear a “liberal” come forward and hold his or her movement up to similar scrutiny.
Chris Buckley’s full piece is here