The decline and fall of National Review

blog_national_review_against_trumpIt’s kind of like watching a friend or favorite relative grow old and feeble.  At one time, National Review was my political “bible”, but now it’s something I rarely take a look at.

William F. Buckley founded the magazine in 1955.  It’s motto? “Stand athwart history and yell ‘Stop’.”

NR was ground zero for the burgeoning rebellion of conservatives against the Rockefeller Republicans controlling the GOP at the time.  It was nine years before the historic presidential primary showdown between Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller.

NR was instrumental in promoting Goldwater as a nationalWilliam_F._Buckley,_Jr._1985 figure, and the founding of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) — seen as a competitor to the establishment controlled College Republicans.  

After the Goldwater debacle of 1964, National Review began promoting the outsider anti-establishment efforts of former actor and newly-elected California governor Ronald Reagan.

I was an undergrad during the Reagan years.  I noticed some guys on campus reading NR, and decided to mooch their copies.  There was a lot of good information on The Reagan Revolution that was just not being shared with the rest of us by Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, and Tom Brokaw.  I became a subscriber.  Each issue exposed me to several schools of thought on the right — social conservatism, libertarianism, et. al. — and how they were a great alternative to the big government tactics eating away at our economy and our society. 

Bill Buckley soon began to champion a more pure120214102823-stanley-buchanan-culture-wars-story-top libertarianism — staking out positions in favor of marijuana legalization and open-borders.  In 1991, as Pat Buchanan was emerging as the leader of the conservative opposition to GHW Bush, Buckley published a 40,000 word essay in National Review blasting Buchanan’s close-the-border, anti-amnesty, America First views on immigration and Israel as racism on par with that of Hitler.  

Buckley passed away in 2008.  A much younger bunch, led by Jonah Goldberg and Rich Lowry, took over the helm of the magazine.  These guys came from nowhere.  They gave interviews talking about their love of skateboarding and hipster music and how they were going to make conservatism “cool.”

In 2012, NR turned its anti-establishment reputation on its head by endorsing the presidential candidacies of Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney.

Fast forward to 2016.  The drivebys are hyperventilating over the fact that the conservative “bible” devoted a whole issue to attacking Donald Trump.  One of the writers in that issue is Brent Boztrump1ell — WFB’s nephew and the guy who signed my paychecks about 25 years ago. 

Brent got me involved in the Buchanan primary campaign of 1992.  (He was also a leader in Steve Forbes’s anti-establishment primary run in 2000.)  You would think what Donald Trump is doing this year would appeal mightily to people like Brent.  

But not so.  Over at Breitbart — a site that is rapidly replacing NR as the “conservative bible” — a writer made this point about Bozell, NR, and the effort to “define” conservatism: 

[…] Lastly, there is no absolute pure strain of “conservatism,” my dear fellow Americans. There are many differing opinions depending on circumstances. William F. Buckley, Jr., who I greatly respected, had once said that if the United States warhad a parliamentary system, President Bush would be subject to a “no confidence” vote. He was highly critical of the war in Iraq. In the past, Buckley’s nephew Brent Bozell has weighed in on National Review’s relevance. Back in 2012, he posted this to Facebook and Twitter: “National Review’s endorsement of Romney & Huntsman proves only that this is no longer the magazine of William F. Buckley Jr. My uncle would be appalled.”

You’re right, Brent.  National Review is no longer what your uncle and NR’s cofounders meant for it to become.

20 thoughts on “The decline and fall of National Review

  1. The premature passing of Andrew Breitbart took a strong thoughtful voice out of the world made up mostly of j school diarrhea and opportunists like Chuckie Todd and George the Greek.

  2. Why, because they’re telling you that Donald Trump is not a genuine conservative? Hell, I’m not a conservative, and I coulda told you that. He’s a “yuge” charlatan, and you’re playing right into his hands. In the last presidential cycle, it was revealed that he gave most of his money to Democrats:

    Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Harry Reid, Rahm Emanuel, Chuck Schumer, Charlle Rangel, Ted Kennedy, and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee of New York, to name a few.

    If God help us, he’s elected President, you have absolutely no idea what he’ll do.

  3. So what if they are against Donald Trump. What and who are they for?
    In an election, one cannot vote against someone! One can only vote for someone!

  4. Honestly, who reads that out of touch, elitist rag? The fact that these “intellectual elites” would think that it is appropriate to scuttle any GOP candidate in an election cycle says it all about how insider and elitist they truly are. Forget about winning. All they care about is protecting their “power.” And will someone please tell me why I should support ANY politician who runs on a conservative platform? Name one promise that these jackasses have kept?? I will not be fooled again.

    1. Out of touch and elitest…. you just described Trump. The man was born rich and doesn’t even use a computer. I doubt he can even drive a car. He’s so elite he says he can walk out in the street and shoot people and not lose supporters.

      The opposite of Trump? Rand Paul. So anti-establishment FOX can’t show him correctly in a poll graphic and so non-elitest he was working every day selling eyeglasses just a few years ago.

  5. >You would think what Donald Trump is doing this year would appeal mightily to people like Brent.  

    Trump is a narcissist and con man who has fooled some people into thinking that he isn’t a Democrat anymore. His support for eminent domain, single payer healthcare, rejection of the free market via tariffs and crony deals, and his lloooonnng history of supporting “the establishment” of both parties should make it painfully obvious to anyone that he is not Conservative, not Republican, not libertarian, and certainly not anti-establishment.

    But maybe you’re right since Brent and the others at NR have fallen so far from their roots of supporting libertarian minded candidates like Goldwater and Reagan. Their recent support of neoconservative and Progressive candidates should lead them to support a Progressive authoritarian like Trump.

    1. “Trump is a narcissist . . . ”

      How do you know this? Because you heard it parroted by the media, or by jealous presidential candidates, or their supporters?

      I received a hair-raising crash course on narcissists by marrying one, once. (A divorce followed.) Going by my own experience, I don’t believe Trump is a narcissist.

      Does The Donald have heaping helpings of ego, bombast, and a flair for the outlandish? Absolutely, but that’s part of his charm.

      However, he also has a big heart — he’s kind, thoughtful, and he loves his family. His children are well mannered, poised, and successful. He strongly connects with his supporters, and they think of him as one of them. (Ask Trump supporters who their second choice is, and they’re likely to say that they don’t have one. They’ll be voting for Trump, or no one.)

      Trump’s employees also speak well of him. A narcissist tends to treat employees like subhumans. I speak from experience, here.

      Narcissists say whatever they think you want to hear at the moment. And, while they’re busy, conning you, your inner alarm system is blasting away, warning you that something is wrong. You can feel waves of something sinister, rolling off them and hitting you. (Don’t ignore them, like I did.)

      When I watch or listen to Mr. Trump, however, there are no sinister waves, flying at me. I feel calm, and happy, and hopeful.

      Narcissists are incapable of raising the sort of children that Trump has. The narcissists who I know can’t stick with a project long enough to finish it, before they throw it down, and go chasing after the next shiny object.

      Trump, by contrast, focuses like a laser on completing his projects — often ahead of time and under budget — and his many gorgeous buildings attest to this. From my experience, a narcissist is simply too scatter-brained to cope with that many details.

      They also haven’t a smidgeon of empathy, or sympathy, or even the smallest clue about what love is — including how to show it or how to accept it from others.

      Like all of us, Trump has his faults. But, I don’t believe that narcissism is one of them.

      And, remember: It ain’t bragging, if you can do it.

      (No one asked me or paid me to write this. I just wanted to speak up in defense of our next President.)

      TRUMP/USA 2016!

  6. Mr. Clifton – please cite a source for your claim NRO endorsed Romney in 2012. The magazine endorsed Romney over McCain in 2008, but did NOT endorse Romney in 2012 to the best of my knowledge.

  7. I’m gonna go ahead and totally disagree with this one, Sorry.

    Taking a stand against a liberal like Trump is exactly what Buckley would have done. If anything, NRO is returning to their foundings.

  8. Say what you want to about Trump, But he has moved the conversation about immigration and other things further to the right. The others were not even mentioning the immigration problem before Trump. My question is where has the national review been during the past 7 years? Why haven’t they wrote a piece on the liars in congress who have done nothing they promised the voters they would do. Talk about being anti conservative take a LOOK at your congress first. They are the sole reason Trump has gained so much traction. Just amazing the national review would do a piece on Trump being anti conservative but give a free pass to the house and senate who are as anti conservative as you get.

  9. The National Review endorsed Paul Ryan as speaker of the house who is worse than Boehner. He has already blown through the spending caps and increased Muslim immigration.Ryan also increased foreign visa’s that will take American Jobs. Paul Ryan exempted the Unions from the Cadillac Tax on health insurance for 2 years. While Trump may or may not be a conservative the NATIONAL REVIEW sure as heck does not know.

  10. At least Trump has not taken the Oath of Office yet. It is somewhat presumptuous to take the Oath of Office before the voters are cast.

    I am not a Constitutional scholar but I would be surprised if Glenn Beck was authorized to administer the Oath of Office for the President of the United States of America.

    I think the National Review has been turned upside down just like the GOP race for President. I am not too sure what a conservative is any more and I doubt seriously if the National Review knows either.

  11. I agree wholeheartedly with Thommy. I am a Cruz supporter, but it’s the lack of leadership in Congress and their giveaway of everything to Obama without any semblance of fight that has given rise to Trump. If Cruz doesn’t win the nomination, I vote for Trump. Because the rest of the bunch of ‘runners’ are just the same ol same old politicians. There’s not a single one in the bunch who will actually fight to restore the country and overturn Obama’s policies. At least Trump will fight back on illegal immigration, in my opinion.

  12. This election is all about illegal immigration. And, the ONLY candidate who is willing to call it as it is is Trump. As mentioned above, the NR sat on its ass as the GOP establishment fully funded and completely supported this invasion and the complete disregard for the rule of law. Take a look at what is going on in Europe or better yet go to your local public school to see if THIS is your vision of what America should be. Ask the school administrators how many reading specialists they have on staff vs. the number of ESL teachers. You will be shocked. I will take a gamble on Trump any time than vote in the NR’s despicable establishment favorites.

  13. One could write a similar column on other conservative venues like RedState. When RedState was founded, its editor, Erick Erickson was essentially a full spectrum conservative, but its founding rules only required conservatism on one issue, Right to Life, to participate. The result was that many of its front page writers and moderators were squishy in one or more areas.

    A month ago, Erickson left RedState, and now publishes The Resurgent. His successor was not one of the key group who was a full dimension conservative. I suspect we will see Red State start to become less and less conservative. There are quite a number of writers there who are squishy on immigration, southern heritage, and the presidential race (inordinantly down on Trump but favorable to establishment hack Rubio). Indeed, if you read the comments section, it is not unusual to see commenters permanently banned for posting a conservative comment against one of the squishy opinions of the key group. There are also not infrequent threats of banning.

    For us southerners, it was really appalling to watch many of RedState’s core group of writers join in full throatedly with the MSM’s jihad against the Confederate flag and southern heritage. RedState went as PC as the Huffington Post on that subject, and it was shameful.

    RedState is a good concept, and can do a lot of good if they can rein in some of those squishes in their key group. Otherwise, I suspect with Erickson gone it will go downhill like NR did.

  14. Well, National Review and the RINO Establishment have nobody but themselves to blame for the Trump phenomenon.
    Americans gave the Republicans landslide victories in the last two elections, then they stabbed us in the back, and bent over and grabbed their ankles for Obama and the Democrats!
    I agree that Ted Cruz is our best hope.
    But Donald Trump is tapping into the frustration (and utter disgust) at the RINO’s in Washington.

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