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Friday, December 30, 2011

The Case for a Conservative

National Review goes Establishment Republican as movement faces 2012 election and the future.

Did you hear the news about National Review?

Somebody dug deep into the archives and came up with a couple of the old classics from the days when William F. Buckley Jr. was sailing at the front of the conservative movement.

Who could forget that great 1964 cover story: Earth to Barry, illustrated by an astronaut-suited, helmeted and visored would-be GOP presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, bug-eyed behind the trademark black-framed glasses, floating above the earth tethered to an Arizona cactus way down below. With the cover banner reading "The Editors: Against Goldwater." In which Buckley's National Review roasted Goldwater for his proclivity to shoot from the hip, his countless verbal miscues ("Let's lob one into the men's room at the Kremlin"), his seemingly perpetual addiction to applying minor ideological rigidities to major policy, giving liberals a chance to paint conservatives as extremist nuts.

Then there was that jewel of a cover story from January of 1980: "Acting Conservative: Reagan's Love Affair with FDR and Truman," the cartoon depicting a lecherous Reagan on bended knee to a demure, smitten GOP elephant wearing a bridal veil. Discreetly pinned to the underside of his wedding tailcoat were political buttons reading "Happy Days Are Here Again: FDR Forever" and "I'm Just Wild About Harry." Accompanied by the cover banner declaring "The Editors: The Case for Bush and the GOP Establishment."This one excoriated presidential hopeful Ronald Reagan for pretending to conservatism when he had voted repeatedly for FDR and campaigned actively for Truman. It scorched Reagan for his inattention to detail, his intellectual idiosyncrasies that let him blurt gaffe after gaffe along the lines of trees being responsible for pollution. And made a strong case that the time-tested wisdom of the GOP Establishment should have Republicans looking at smart, reasonable people like George H.W. Bush, Howard Baker, Bob Dole or John Anderson.

And perhaps best of all there was that famous column by National Review's current editor a mere five years ago titled "Run, Newt, Run," an admiring look at former Speaker Newt Gingrich and urging him to run for president in 2008.

Wait. Stop.

No, those first two stories were never written by William F. Buckley Jr. In fact, they never happened, period. Much less did his famous National Review flee the conservative field as the incoming missiles from the GOP Establishment (not to mention the rest of the outside liberal world) rocketed into the conservative camp in the days of Goldwater and Reagan. Buckley never picked Rockefeller or Scranton over Goldwater, and he chose his great conservative friend Reagan over the GOP Establishment favorite George H.W. Bush and the Establishment rest in 1980. Buckley was first, last, and always making the case for conservatism.

But in fact, yes indeed -- that third story mentioned? "Run, Newt, Run" -- a genuinely admiring 2006 story urging Newt Gingrich to run for president in 2008? That is not a figment of anyone's imagination. It was in fact written by National Review editor Rich Lowry and can be found right here.

Which leads to the obvious question.

When one picks up the current issue of National Review with its mocking cartoon cover of Newt Gingrich entitled Newt's World and a banner headline reading "The Editors: Against Gingrich," one wonders what happened to Mr. Lowry over the course of the last four years. How did Newt Gingrich, the man enthusiastically touted for the White House a mere five years ago by Lowry as having "reestablished himself as a party leader through sheer intellectual energy" -- become transformed into an arrogant intellectual nut whose "character flaws -- his impulsiveness, his grandiosity, his weakness for half-baked (and not especially conservative) ideas made him a poor Speaker of the House."

If the latter assessment from NR is true now, certainly Mr. Lowry should have noticed all this in 2006. But, alas, apparently not. Meaning either Lowry was asleep at the switch in 2006 -- or something else has happened since that period at NR that mysteriously changed the perception of Newt Gingrich's performance in what was already by 2006 long ago history.

I don't mean to pick on Mr. Lowry here, or my friends at National Review. In fact, Andy McCarthy at NR made bold to dissent from his editors, and Thomas Sowell was on the pages of National Review Online differing from the editors as well.

But I do think Lowry and company have provided something to reflect on as we stand at the edge of the 2012 elections. Something that was touched on by our friend Brent Bozell in his reaction to the National Review anti-Gingrich editorial. And for those who came in late and are familiar with Mr. Bozell only from his regular appearances on Hannity discussing the latest findings from the bottom of the liberal media barrel as discovered by his great invention the Media Research Center, why and what Bozell said is important. He is both the nephew of NR founder William F. Buckley Jr. and the namesake son of Mr. Buckley's brother-in-law, himself a prominent conservative Founding Father.

Here's Brent's take on the NR editorial as reported by Newsmax:
"National Review's endorsement of Romney & Huntsman proves only that this is no longer the magazine of William F. Buckley Jr.," he posted on his page above a photo of Buckley and President Ronald Reagan sharing a laugh. "My uncle would be appalled."
 

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