by David Safier
Christopher Buckley. Son of famed conservative William F. Buckley. Novelist like his father. Conservative like his father.
Writes Wrote on the back page of the very conservative National Review his father founded. Supports Barack Obama.
Let me repeat. Supports Barack Obama
I have known John McCain personally since 1982. I wrote a well-received speech for him. Earlier this year, I wrote in The New York Times—I’m beginning to sound like Paul Krugman, who cannot begin a column without saying, “As I warned the world in my last column...”—a highly favorable Op-Ed about McCain, taking Rush Limbaugh and the others in the Right Wing Sanhedrin to task for going after McCain for being insufficiently conservative.
But that was—sigh—then. John McCain has changed. He 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?
As for Senator Obama: He has exhibited throughout a “first-class temperament,” . . . I’ve read Obama’s books, and they are first-rate. He is that rara avis, the politician who writes his own books. Imagine. He is also a lefty. I am not. I am a small-government conservative who clings tenaciously and old-fashionedly to the idea that one ought to have balanced budgets. . . . 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.
So, I wish him all the best. We are all in this together. Necessity is the mother of bipartisanship. And so, for the first time in my life, I’ll be pulling the Democratic lever in November. As the saying goes, God save the United States of America.
A couple of interesting side notes. Buckley published this, not in the National Review but on a blog because, after he saw the email abuse heaped on Kathleen Parker when she said not-nice things about Sarah Palin in the National Review, he didn't "have the kidney" to take the same abuse.
It didn't help. Anti-Buckley hate mail flooded into the National Review, and nobody hates as well as the wild-eyed right wing. So he thought he'd do the right thing and send a letter of resignation from the magazine, thinking it would be torn up. Instead, it was accepted in a heartbeat.
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.
All those educated, intelligent conservative writers who make me crazy because, while I disagree with them, I'm pretty sure they'd reduce me to mush in an argument, are leaving the McCain camp because they've arrived at their belief systems through thought, analysis and the study of history. And their thoughtful analysis and their study of history tell them that their chosen party is bankrupt. Or, as Chris Buckley writes, "I haven’t left the Republican Party. It left me."