Christopher Buckley, a writer and son of William F. Buckley Jr., is leaving National Review, the conservative magazine founded by his father more than 50 years ago. He has resigned after saying in a column on TheDailyBeast.com that he is still a conservative/libertarian but he is endorsing Barack Obama for president. Why would this alleged conservative vote for Obama? His reasoning is… well… extremely unlikely:
As for Senator Obama: He has exhibited throughout a “first-class temperament,” pace Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.’s famous comment about FDR. As for his intellect, well, he’s a Harvard man, though that’s sure as heck no guarantee of anything, these days. Vietnam was brought to you by Harvard and (one or two) Yale men. As for our current adventure in Mesopotamia, consider this lustrous alumni roster. Bush 43: Yale. Rumsfeld: Princeton. Paul Bremer: Yale and Harvard. What do they all have in common? Andover! The best and the brightest.
I’ve read Obama’s books, and they are first-rate. He is that rara avis, the politician who writes his own books. Imagine. He is also a lefty. I am not. I am a small-government conservative who clings tenaciously and old-fashionedly to the idea that one ought to have balanced budgets. On abortion, gay marriage, et al, I’m libertarian. I believe with my sage and epigrammatic friend P.J. O’Rourke that a government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take it all away.
But having a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect, President Obama will (I pray, secularly) surely understand that traditional left-politics aren’t going to get us out of this pit we’ve dug for ourselves. If he raises taxes and throws up tariff walls and opens the coffers of the DNC to bribe-money from the special interest groups against whom he has (somewhat disingenuously) railed during the campaign trail, then he will almost certainly reap a whirlwind that will make Katrina look like a balmy summer zephyr.
I, too, think that Obama has a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect. Harvard and Columbia don’t just hand out degrees, and while some may claim Obama had help getting into these schools (without much evidence that he didn’t qualify academically), he certainly succeeded in both. Obama also has a first-class bent towards statist policies and a tendency towards mob action, though, and that should be very concerning to anyone who claims — as Buckley does — to be conservative. A presidential election isn’t a vote on IQ, and you can insert your own joke here about any number of American presidents. It’s a referendum on character, but mostly on policy.
In this statement above, Buckley assumes that Obama will take a lesson from his meteoric rise in American politics while building a record as a lockstep liberal ideologue that he should … what? Suddenly decide he can’t succeed as a lockstep liberal ideologue? How exactly would Obama learn that lesson — from the endorsement of Buckley, Douglas Kmiec, and other conservatives who found John McCain’s moderate policy stances so objectionable that they now want to support a liberal?
Buckley resigned from National Review, saying:
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…
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.
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. 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.
So, to paraphrase a real conservative, Ronald Reagan: I haven’t left the Republican Party. It left me.
The end line is particularly odd since he appears to be claiming that not just the Republican Party left him, but so did National Review as his new piece in the Daily Beast reads “Sorry Dad, I was Fired”. Rich Lowry sheds further details on this untruth:
Chris is up with a post at The Daily Beast, “Sorry, Dad, I Was Fired.” I’d like to clarify this “firing” business. Over the weekend, Chris wrote us a jaunty e-mail with the subject line “A Sincere Offer,” in which he offered to resign his column on NR’s back page and said that if we accepted, there “would be no hard feelings, only warmest regards and understanding.” We took the offer sincerely. Chris had done us the favor of writing the column beginning seven issues ago on a “trial basis” (his words), while our regular back-page columnist, Mark Steyn, was on hiatus. Now, Mark is back to writing again, and—I’m delighted to say—will be on NR’s back-page in the new issue.
As Morrisey went on to note: National Review has a specific mission, which is to further conservative thought, and they will find it difficult to do so while their writers are busily endorsing leftist ideologues for high office while wishing with no rational basis that they will magically morph into moderates. I also think that Buckley’s reasoning is so weak here that he would have difficulty maintaining any credibility with National Review’s readers after this argument.
Here he is on MSNBC talking about his resignation, for some reason chuckling and acting suprised that his resignation wasn’t rejected and also clearing his throat a lot…
Lowry also notes:
Just one other point: Chris says that his Obama endorsement has generated a “tsunami,” that e-mail at NRO has been running “oh, 700-to-1” against him, and that there’s a debate about whether to boil him in oil or shoot him. Chris is either misinformed or exercising poetic license. We have gotten about 100 e-mails, if that (a tiny amount compared to our usual volume), and threats of cancellations in the single digits (we never like to lose any readers, but circulation is way up this year). No doubt part of what upset these readers was the dim view Chris expressed of them in his first Daily Beast post. So it goes. It’s an intense election season and emotions are running high. We continue to have the highest regard for Chris’s talent and wit, and extend to him warmest regards and understanding.
On the mentioned sneering towards the reader Lowry mentions, Allahpundit comments as well saying “The gratuitous sneer about ideological diversity, as if The Nation or Salon was any better, makes me think his political leanings are a tad more nuanced than he’s letting on, but if that’s the case then he probably shouldn’t have been given a column to begin with”
UPDATE: The Daily Beast headline has been changed to “Buckley Bows Out of National Review.”
Howard Stern sent a reporter to interview people on the street to find out why they supported Barack Obama — and whether they understood his policy positions at all. SO The reporter attributes John McCain’s policy positions to Obama, such as being pro-life and in favor of keeping troops in Iraq until victory — and Obama supporters enthusiastically support them:
The McCain camp put out a rapid release ad using only 3 instances:
On spending cuts:
“Well, I think Senator McCain’s absolutely right that we need more responsibility, but we need it not just when there’s a crisis.”
On spending cuts II:
“Not willing to give up the need to do it but there may be individual components that we can’t do. But John is right we have to make cuts. We right now give $15 billion every year as subsidies to private insurers under the Medicare system. Doesn’t work any better through the private insurers. They just skim off $15 billion.”
“Well, Senator McCain is absolutely right that the earmarks process has been abused, which is why I suspended any requests for my home state, whether it was for senior centers or what have you, until we cleaned it up.”
“He’s also right that oftentimes lobbyists and special interests are the ones that are introducing these kinds of requests, although that wasn’t the case with me.”
On business taxes being too high:
“Now, John mentioned the fact that business taxes on paper are high in this country, and he’s absolutely right.”
On violence in Iraq going down:
“Senator McCain is absolutely right that the violence has been reduced as a consequence of the extraordinary sacrifice of our troops and our military families.”
On POTUS needing to use prudent language: (but added after the McCain bomb, bomb Iran joke)
“And, John, I — you’re absolutely right that presidents have to be prudent in what they say.”
On Iraq being “difficult”:
“Now, Senator McCain is also right that it’s difficult. This is not an easy situation.”
On not tolerating Iran having nukes:
“Senator McCain is absolutely right, we cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran.”
Literally, one minute after the debate ends, McCain’s campaign was out with a statement:
“There was one man who was presidential tonight, that man was John McCain. There was another who was political, that was Barack Obama. John McCain won this debate and controlled the dialogue throughout, whether it was the economy, taxes, spending, Iraq or Iran. There was a leadership gap, a judgment gap, and a boldness gap on display tonight, a fact Barack Obama acknowledged when he said John McCain was right at least five times. Tonight’s debate showed John McCain in command of the issues and presenting a clear agenda for America’s future.” –Jill Hazelbaker, McCain-Palin 2008 Communications Director
The Obama campaign response:
“This was a clear victory for Barack Obama on John McCain’s home turf. Senator McCain offered nothing but more of the same failed Bush policies, and Barack Obama made a forceful case for change in our economy and our foreign policy. While Senator McCain wants to keep giving huge tax cuts to corporations and said nothing about the challenges Americans are facing in their daily lives, Barack Obama will be a fierce advocate for tax cuts for the middle class, affordable health care, and a new energy economy that creates millions of jobs. While foreign policy was supposed to be John McCain’s top issue, Barack Obama commanded that part of the debate with a clear call to responsibly end a misguided war in Iraq so that we can finish the fight against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. John McCain needed a game-changer tonight, and by any measure he didn’t get it,” said Obama-Biden campaign manager David Plouffe.
The Obama camp recently released this commercial, which basically amounts to “the old man can’t even use a computer!” as its sole source of criticism.
The attack angle is super weak (can you imagine any swing voter anywhere saying “well, i was considering John McCain but after finding out that he’s not good with computers!? Nooooo thank you!), as well as risks needlessly offending a large voter block who might be in the same non-technical area (senior citizens are known for high vote turnout).
But far worse is the allegation that McCain’s war injuries limit his ability to use a computer. Yikes! If true, that would make this line of attack incredibly tasteless, not to mention misleading.
I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself. I don’t expect to be a great communicator, I don’t expect to set up my own blog, but I am becoming computer literate to the point where I can get the information that I need.
Seeee? He’s holding a phone. IN A CAR! So clearly he can use electronics just fine. Not to mention that the awkward way the Senator is holding the phone in that picture doesn’t help the Huffpo’s claim, but that’s besides the point.
Maybe they were relying on this answer he gave to Yahoo News 7 months ago? ….ya. probably not. It basically says the same thing said in the Times quote.
Assuredly McCain isn’t comfortable talking about this — and the McCain campaign discouraged me from writing about this — but the reason the aged Arizonan doesn’t use a computer or send email is because of his war wounds.
I realize some of the nastier liberals in the blogosphere will see this as McCain once again “playing the POW card,” but it’s simply a fact: typing on a regular keyboard for any sustained period of time bothers McCain physically.
He can type, he occasionally does type, but in general the injuries he sustained as a POW — ones that make it impossible for him to raise his arms high enough to comb his hair — mean that small tasks make his shoulders ache, so he tries to avoid any repetitive exercise.
Again, it’s not that he can’t type, he just by habit avoids when he can repetitive exercise involving his arms. He does if he has to, as with handshaking or autographs.
Conservative blogger Allahpundit comments:
Making fun of a war hero’s severe injuries — smooth move, Team O. Talk about computer illiteracy! Doesn’t anyone on the Obama campaign know what they’re doing? Didn’t it ever occur to them that a man who can’t raise his arms above his head might have a physical barrier to using a computer?
And matters were not made better when an Obama spokesman, appearing on Fox News, won’t deny he knew McCain’s injuries limited his computer use…
So what happened here? Allahpundit hypothesizes: Sounds like what happened is they did their research, stumbled across the Globe piece from 2000 claiming McCain couldn’t use a keyboard because of his wounds, then stumbled across the NYT interview from this summer where he talks about using a computer and learning to go online and assumed the problem must have been resolved through some sort of technological advance in the eight-year interim. Clearly a risk worth taking for a line of attack this dorktastic.
Jonah Goldberg makes this killer observation about the thesis of the ad:
Lord knows I think the chicken-hawk arguments are stupid. And I don’t think the fact that Obama never served in the military should count against him in and of itself. But how stupid is it for the Obama campaign to claim that McCain is unqualified to be president because he can’t grasp cyber-security issues based on the fact he has never sent an email when the McCain campaign can just as easily say Obama can’t understand first order national security issues because he’s never fired a rife, flown a plane, commanded men in battle, or faced an enemy? I mean which prepares someone to be commander in chief better, hitting “send” on AOL or fighting a war?
Obama, by this 1982 ad, has made this point valid and fair. Whether the McCain camp is likely to take the opportunity is unlikely, but remains to be seen.
Scott Ott of Scrappleface produced this second ad for Team Obama:
Indeed if the Obama camp had shown some technical know-how themselves, finding The Boston Globe report that explained this 8 years ago, or when Forbes Magazine noted McCain’s disability in 2000 would have been smart moves to get out of the way before producing the ad.
The gag in the video, in case you are behind on the news, rests on Obama’s actual brother (yes, that’s really him in the picture, and the info on his lifestyle is correct). Here’s some background on it, with some new takes on some week-old news, mainly about Obama’s brother:
The latest rich man to invite Mr. Obama’s fire is, of course, Republican John McCain. Mr. McCain, who is married to a beer heiress, much as Sen. John Kerry is married to a ketchup heiress, owns seven homes. Excessive this may be, and it did Mr. McCain no good when he said he couldn’t remember how many homes he had. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Obama pounced on that one.
“If you don’t know how many houses you have, then it’s not surprising that you might think the economy is fundamentally strong,” he said. “But if you’re like me, and you got one house, or you are like the millions of people who are struggling right now to keep up with their mortgage so they don’t lose their home, then you might have a different perspective.”
That would ring true with most Americans, but closer scrutiny reveals yet another of Mr. Obama’s hilarious gaffes. For one thing, that “one house” boasts a solarium, four fireplaces, a 1,000-bottle wine cellar and granite-floored kitchen. It’s worth about $1.6 million.
For another, the same day that Mr. Obama ridiculed Mr. McCain, readers around the world, of which Mr. Obama is a citizen, learned that his half-brother, George, lives in abject penury in a hovel in Kenya. George Obama says he spends about a dollar a month. “I have had to learn to live,” the candidate’s half-brother told the Italian edition of “Vanity Fair,” “and take what I need.”
So there was Mr. Obama blasting Mr. McCain for his wealth, even as Mr. Obama, who wangled a sweet real estate deal for his Georgian mansion from a man later convicted on corruption charges, permitted a half-brother to languish in African squalor. You wonder how much hope George Obama has.
The Republican party of Texas took a more serious route, taking the opportunity to attack:
Is it fair? well… kinda, ya. Ed Morrisey notes that On one hand, everyone has some relatives who don’t do as well, and not everyone can afford to support them. However, Obama started this attack on the financial status of family, and while he barely knows his half-brother, George Obama is still a pretty close relation — close enough to get a mention in Barack Obama’s memoirs. Plus, with his haughty condemnation of America as a place lacking the kind of charity mentioned in Matthew (and an incorrect diagnosis, too), the lack of basic charity shown by Obama towards his destitute brother makes him look like a hypocrite twice over.