Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 10, 2008

BUCKLEY JOINS THE OBAMACANS.... I've never been entirely clear on whether we're supposed to call them "Obamacans" or "Obamacons," but either way, there's a group of relatively high profile Republicans and conservatives who, for a variety of reasons, are supporting Barack Obama. There are some fairly big names on the list -- former Rep. Jim Leach, current Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, former Sen. Lincoln Chafee -- but an unexpected name joined the ranks today.

Author Christopher Buckley, the son of William F. Buckley, offered a hearty endorsement of the Democratic candidate today. Given that Christopher Buckley remains a columnist for the National Review, this was not at all expected.

What's more, Buckley has known McCain personally for more than a quarter century, has defended him, and has even worked for him. But he's seen enough to know that Candidate McCain hasn't earned his support.

[McCain] said, famously, apropos the Republican debacle post-1994, "We came to Washington to change it, and Washington changed us." This campaign has changed John McCain. It has made him inauthentic. A once-first class temperament has become irascible and snarly; his positions change, and lack coherence; he makes unrealistic promises, such as balancing the federal budget "by the end of my first term." Who, really, believes that? Then there was the self-dramatizing and feckless suspension of his campaign over the financial crisis. His ninth-inning attack ads are mean-spirited and pointless. And finally, not to belabor it, there was the Palin nomination. What on earth can he have been thinking?

What's more, Buckley seems to think highly of Obama, too, lauding this "first-class temperament" and a "first-class intellect."

Obama has in him -- I think, despite his sometimes airy-fairy "We are the people we have been waiting for" silly rhetoric -- the potential to be a good, perhaps even great leader. He is, it seems clear enough, what the historical moment seems to be calling for.

I shudder to think how many emails he'll receive from National Review readers.

Steve Benen 4:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (16)

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As Buckley pointed out in the article, after Kathleen Parker told Sarah Palin to drop out, she got over 12,000 rabid emails. Such love from the "Christians".

Posted by: bkmn on October 10, 2008 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

These phony intellectuals, like George Wills, Kathleen Parker and David Brooks, are abandoning ship to save their credibility. I still blame them for the last eight years. Drown, baby, drown!

Posted by: Danp on October 10, 2008 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

I'll believe someone like Buckley is deeply serious when he has the courage of his convictions to publish that in the National Review (if they'd let him -- and if they wouldn't, would he ever say as much?) instead of some out of the way place.

Posted by: Diane Patterson on October 10, 2008 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

The blind are seeing. Next the lame will be walking.

But watch out for a crucifixion. I fear what some member of the rabidly irrational lumpenproletariat might try to do. All you is watch the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies.


Posted by: The New York Crank on October 10, 2008 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

Welcome to the party, Buckley. If you want to make yourself useful, write a few missives on how all your fellow conservatives ought to discourage the radicals on your side from sounding like a pack of rabid jackals.

But somehow I doubt that will happen.

Posted by: Racer X on October 10, 2008 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

Reading Christopher Buckley's novels has long been a guilty pleasure for this progressive reader. I've long said: he's a pig, but a very funny pig. His analysis of Bush's psychology in New York Magazine in Jan 2007 remains the best insight I've ever been given into GWB's soul -- not to mention the most humorous. So, I'm glad CB's come aboard the Obama campaign even if all these johnny-come-lately Republicans are nothing but rats jumping a sinking ship.

Posted by: Stacy on October 10, 2008 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

While I am less optimistic about Sen. Obama, I can well understand people like Buckley, who supported Sen. McCain in 2000 because he represented something better than George Bush, resenting deeply that McCain is running now against Obama the kind of campaign that Bush ran then against him.

Now, my own reasons for not resuming this year my support for McCain eight years ago started with something more basic: everything else aside, I think McCain is just too old. McCain has added to that a number of things, which boil down to his decision that to win the nomination and a chance to win the Presidency he had to run as a Bush Republican. I never believed this strategy gave him much chance to win, in the first place, not with Bush as unpopular as he is. All the sacrifice of honor, intellectual honesty, and personal dignity McCain has made this year were to no purpose, if I am right about this.

Moreover, even if McCain somehow managed to win by running as a Bush Republican, he'd be isolated in the White House: unable to rely on his own party as Bush did, dependent on Democratic votes to pass legislation, with only his heartbeat standing between the Presidency and the ignorant woman he put on his ticket. That a pretty poor prize, purchased at the price McCain has paid already.

There is a sense in which all the outrage directed against McCain for the way he has campaigned is misplaced. Despite considerably greater provocation, McCain did not campaign against Bush in 2000 the way he is campaigning against Obama now (I have in mind here not so much the personal attacks as the naked dishonesty about fiscal, foreign, and several other kinds of government policy). Men do not reinvent themselves at McCain's age; it makes more sense to observe that the tone and content of his campaign this year has been dictated by his campaign organization's operatives, many of whom he inherited from Bush's campaigns and administration. The focus on McCain gives them a pass, which matters because in the likely event that he loses this election McCain's career in public life will be near its end. The Bush Republican cadre of campaign operatives will be with us for many years to come.

But with that said, for people like Buckley, and to a lesser extent people like me, the plain fact is that nothing John McCain has done recently is a very good reason to support him. The reasons to support him are all things he did, and stood for, years ago -- before he chose to run for President as the kind of candidate he ran against in 2000, before he adopted the positions on all major issues of an administration that has failed the country more often and more spectacularly than any in living memory.

I have serious reservations about Obama, on many levels. But the central question in this election is whether we can afford to go on the way we have. A vote for McCain is a vote that we can, and should. It's not a vote I can imagine casting this year.

Posted by: Zathras on October 10, 2008 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

Regrading Obamacons versus Obamacans:

I think what matters is what you're trying to convey. I'm sure there is some overlap, but Obamacons are rooted in ideology, Obamacans are rooted in party. Conservative versus Republican.

I personally, would go with Obamacans, because I think the primary message is that the party and the ideology are splitting.

I have just officially given that more thought than necessary.

Posted by: doubtful on October 10, 2008 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Putting. Racism. Last.

Thank you Mr. Buckley.
Thank you for putting country first.

Posted by: koreyel on October 10, 2008 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. The truth is there never was an "Honorable John McCain". Its an invention of the media, as a brief review of the LAST 35 years of his life will quickly reveal: His Family (divorced his 1st wife after multiple affairs to marry a woman half his age), his office (sold himslef to the highest bidder, Keating), and his integrity (Lies, Palin, Racist hate mongering, etc,etc). Bush won because he was slimer than McCain, but only just. McCain screwed himself when he turned on his real base, the tire swinging media. They have no reason to keep selling his brand now that he's turned on them by refusing access to Sarah Plain, accusing them of bias (especially laughable coming from the recipient of so much of their positive bias). He's F&*ked, and good riddance.

Posted by: ChicagoPat on October 10, 2008 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

I'll believe someone like Buckley is deeply serious when he has the courage of his convictions to publish that in the National Review (if they'd let him -- and if they wouldn't, would he ever say as much?) instead of some out of the way place.

Did you read the article? Buckley specifically addressed the question of why he wasn't writing in National Review - because he doesn't want to get 12,000 vituperative emails from enraged knuckle-draggers. Personally, I don't blame him. He'll probably get a shitstorm anyway if any of the Republican propaganda blogs take notice. (I'm sure The Corner will. . . poor guy.)

As for the venue, this is Tina Brown's new venture, and she also got Michael Kinsley to write there, so I wouldn't describe it as "out of the way". It's just brand new as of this week, I think.

Posted by: Nat on October 10, 2008 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK

A psychological study (maybe mentioned here by an OP or a commenter) said that liberals are more motivated by fairness, and conservatives by loyalty. Hence, Chris Buckley will be seen and felt as a traitor regardless of how well reasoned his move is. Ditto for the dump on Sully, but I must say he really gets into ragging on those chicks he doesn't like. Hidden cat-fight instinct at work, heh?

Posted by: Neil B on October 10, 2008 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

I prefer Oba-blicans.

Posted by: Will on October 10, 2008 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK

Buckley may get a lot of letters from National Review readers but most of them will be incoherent, so he can ignore them.

Posted by: Zeno on October 10, 2008 at 9:15 PM | PERMALINK

Personally, I prefer the term "Barackefeller Republicans." I forget who coined the phrase-- it was in some publication back in the spring. Whoever coined it was brilliant, so, I tip my hat in that individual's general direction.

Posted by: The Caped Composer on October 11, 2008 at 2:11 AM | PERMALINK

See, Danny Shea's article at HuffingtonPost where David Brooks is quoted giving glowing praise to Obama's intelligence, political acumen, and team-building skill. Btw, why does the spellchecker for this forum ding Obama but not McCain?

Posted by: machomaas on October 12, 2008 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK



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