Tuesday, October 14, 2008

NR to Buckley: Resignation accepted!

The circular firing squad, where the true believers blast one another to bits rather than the enemy, seemed for years a trademark of Democratic politics. An election year in which at least one faction of the party didn't try to hold the rest hostage to their particular issue, even at the risk of sending a candidate into the general election with a fractured party behind him, seemed almost not worth the bother.

But this year it's the Democrats who are showing surprising discipline and unity. (The silliness of chuckleheaded gestures like this only proves the point.)

And America is being treated to the spectacle of conservatives sinking into the tar pits with their hands wrapped around one another's throats.

Last week we learned that Christopher Buckley, son of the National Review founder William F. Buckley, Jr., and columnist at the NR, was breaking ranks with his fellow conservatives to vote for Obama.

This week comes the story that Buckley the Younger no longer works for the magazine his late father founded, having been rather unceremoniously handed the mitten:

My last posting (if that’s what it’s called) in which I endorsed Obama, has brought about a very heaping helping of fresh hell. In fact, I think it could accurately be called a tsunami.

The mail (as we used to call it in pre-cyber times) at the Beast has been running I’d say at about 7-to-1 in favor. This would seem to indicate that you (the Beast reader) are largely pro-Obama.

As for the mail flooding into National Review Online—that’s been running about, oh, 700-to-1 against. In fact, the only thing the Right can’t quite decide is whether I should be boiled in oil or just put up against the wall and shot. Lethal injection would be too painless.

I had gone out of my way in my Beast endorsement to say that I was not doing it 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.

Ah yes. The B-word. Remember, children: Movement conservatism can never, ever fail on its own merits; it can only be betrayed from within.

If McCain and Palin lose this election, expect the accusations of "treason" by the right against All Things Obama to multiply and go underground. If they lose in an electoral landslide, expect the purges by the right against its own to reach Stalin-era levels.

And meanwhile, Chris Buckley writes his own epitaph:

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.

(Props to Nick.)

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