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Christopher Buckley

Christopher Buckley

Christopher Buckley, in an exclusive for The Daily Beast, explains why he left The National Review, the magazine his father founded.

I seem to have picked an apt title for my Daily Beast column, or blog, or whatever it’s called: “What Fresh Hell.” 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.

Since my Obama endorsement, Kathleen and I have become BFFs and now trade incoming hate-mails.

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.

In 1969, Pup wrote a widely-remarked upon column saying that it was time America had a black president.

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.

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, Pup 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.

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.

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.

Thanks, anyway, for the memories, and here’s to happier days and with any luck, a bit less fresh hell.

Related: Sorry, Dad, I’m Voting for Obama

Source: Daily Beast

Palin doesn’t take kindly to being criticized – she has gone out her way to ruin people who she feels have crossed her ….

Allow me to introduce myself. I am a traitor and an idiot. Also, my mother should have aborted me and left me in a dumpster, but since she didn’t, I should “off” myself.

Click for Spilling the Beans ~ when Palin says the facts and figures don't matter.

Click to see spilling the beans - when Palin says the facts and figures don't matter.

Those are a few nuggets randomly selected from thousands of e-mails written in response to my column suggesting that Sarah Palin is out of her league and should step down.

Who says public discourse hasn’t deteriorated?

The fierce reaction to my column has been both bracing and enlightening. After 20 years of column writing, I’m familiar with angry mail. But the past few days have produced responses of a different order. Not just angry, but vicious and threatening.

Some of my usual readers feel betrayed because I previously have written favorably of Palin. By changing my mind and saying so, I am viewed as a traitor to the Republican Party — not a “true” conservative.

Obviously, I’m not employed by the GOP. If I were, the party is seriously in arrears. But what is a true conservative? One who doesn’t think or question and who marches in lock step with The Party?

The emotional pitch of many comments suggests an overinvestment in Palin as “one of us.”

Palin’s fans say they like her specifically because she’s an outsider, not part of the Washington club. When she flubs during interviews, they identify with that, too. “You see the lack of polish, we applaud it,” one reader wrote.

Of course, there’s a difference between a lack of polish and a lack of coherence. Some of Palin’s interview responses can’t even be critiqued on their merits because they’re so nonsensical. But even that is someone else’s fault, say Palin supporters. The media make her uncomfortable.

Or, it’s the fault of those slick politicos who are overmanaging her. “Let Sarah be Sarah” has become the latest rallying cry among my colleagues on the right. She’ll be fine if we just leave her alone, they say. Between prayers, I might add.

Not all my mail has been mean-spirited. A fair number of the writers politely expressed disappointment; others, relief and gratitude. Still others offered reasonable arguments aimed at changing my mind. I may yet.

In the meantime, though, I would note that this assault and my decision to write about it aren’t really about me — or even Sarah Palin. The mailbag is about us, our country, and what we really believe.

That we have become a partisan nation is no secret. This week has provided a vivid example of where rabid partisanship leads with the failure of Congress to pass a bailout bill vitally needed to keep our economy from unraveling.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave a partisan speech, blaming the credit crisis on the Bush administration (omitting the Clinton administration’s role in launching the subprime lending debacle). Republicans responded by voting against the bill.

Everyone’s to blame, by the way.

But when you have been in power for eight years – it’s your hands on the wheel – sorry – i.e. that’s the Republicans.

And subprime mortgages will continue – but need to be better regulated – against such things as the lying on the application form – by unscrupulous mortgage brokers – in addition people should be given all the facts about their mortgages – up front – especially where the low interests starters or incentives are concerned.

Such extreme partisanship has a crippling effect on government, which may be desirable at times, but not now. More important in the long term is the less tangible effect of stifling free speech. My mail paints an ugly picture and a bleak future if we do not soon correct ourselves.

The picture is this: Anyone who dares express an opinion that runs counter to the party line will be silenced. That doesn’t sound American to me, but Stalin would approve.

Readers have every right to reject my opinion. But when we decide that a person is a traitor and should die for having an opinion different from one’s own, we cross into territory that puts all freedoms at risk. (I hear you, Dixie Chicks.)

I’m sure it is coincidence that, upon the Palin column’s publication, a conservative organization canceled a speech I was scheduled to deliver in a few days. If I were as paranoid as the conspiracy theorists are, I might wonder whether I was being punished for speaking incorrectly.

Unfortunately, that’s the way one begins to think when party loyalty is given a higher value than loyalty to bedrock principles.

Our day of reckoning may indeed be upon us. Between war and economic collapse, we have enormous challenges. It will take the best of everyone to solve them. That process begins minimally with a commitment to engage in civil discourse and a cease-fire in the war against unwelcome ideas.

In that spirit, may Sarah Palin be fearless in tomorrow’s debate and speak her true mind

Source: Washington Post

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