The Fault of Underlings
By Jerry A. Kane
We can now add the son of the late William F. Buckley (WFB), Christopher Buckley, to the growing list of Me-too Republicans who have denounced John McCain and disparaged Sarah Palin. Buckley, political satirist and novelist, opted to forgo the back page of National Review and make his mark through cyberspace, releasing his column “Sorry Dad, I’m Voting for Obama” on the Daily Beast (how delightfully apropos).
It was only back in February that the conservative bon vivant was “taking Rush Limbaugh and the others in the Right Wing Sanhedrin to task for going after McCain for being insufficiently conservative.” In a “highly favorable Op-Ed” in The New York Times, Buckley writes, “the sum of Mr. McCain seems (to me, anyway) far greater than the parts…. And who among ‘us’ … would not sleep soundly knowing that the war hero was on the job calculating how to dispatch more Islamic fanatics to their rendezvous with 72 virgins.” Alas! “But that was—sigh—then.” Frailty, thy name is Buckley!
Buckley’s Jeffords-moment of clarity, from “God, this guy should be president someday” to “graffiti on a marble bust” tragedy, came during his “genuinely saddening” realization that the McCain campaign had changed the noble McCain: he became “inauthentic,” “irascible, and snarly”; his promises became “unrealistic”; his attack ads became “mean-spirited and pointless”; and his “positions changed” and “lacked coherence.” Conversely, the glib, urbane son of a stalwart conservative praised Obama as the “rara avis [rare person] … politician who writes his own books.” Buckley readily admits that Obama is a “lefty” (possible baseball jargon) but his prescience exceeds labels, given that he can see Obama’s potential as a “great leader,” the one who is “what the historical moment seems to be calling for.”
Despite that “Obama’s record is far more left than McCain’s is far right,” and that Obama has been “the most partisan in the Senate, McCain one of the most bipartisan,” or that an Obama presidency would mean open borders, “higher taxes, larger government, more entitlements, more of a UN-centered foreign policy, dialogue with an Iran, less coal, oil, and nuclear energy production at home,” and more living Constitution activists on the Supreme Court, the self-proclaimed “conservative/libertarian/whatever” offers little more than “airy-fairy” rhetoric to justify his “leap onto the Barack Obama bandwagon.”
Buckley’s defense is mere pretext. His the-noble-McCain-has-changed argument lacks substance and is anything but persuasive. Yet his reason for “pulling the Democratic lever in November” is “bleeding obvious”; namely, that Sarah Palin is an embarrassment, and a dangerous one at that.” Methinks a balmy zephyr has left behind a “foul whiff of aristocratic disdain.”
Herein lies the bloody truth behind the snide and sneering comments from the silver spoon-fed member of the life-of-the-mind crowd. To this Abbey School sophisticate, Palin is just another ordinary, stupid, upstart commoner, lacking the charm and social refinements of a “first-class” “Harvard man.” Palin belongs to the class of “discontented … rabble” as expressed by Henry F. Potter, the cantankerous, snobby old businessman character from It’s a Wonderful Life. Yet, Buckley would do well to remember that the rabble he’s talking about does most of the working and paying and living and dying in this country. WFB knew that about Reagan conservatives and understood that they were human beings, not “kooks.” As far as I’m concerned, “pup” was a man of high ideals who died a much richer and wiser man than his son will ever be.
Buckley said he tried to soften the blow of his Obama endorsement by not publishing it in the National Review, but location wasn’t the problem for the irate readers who e-mailed the magazine with threats of cancellations; therefore, Buckley offered his resignation, and it was readily accepted. Now that all is said and done, Buckley seems a bit thunderstruck with both the outrage and its subsequent consequences. After all, didn’t WFB endorse a few Democrats in the past, and was he not “quite tolerant of the surprising point of view” not wanting NR writers to be “in intellectual lockstep”? In what has to be a Dixie-Chick moment, the baffled Buckley said, “It’s an odd situation, when the founder’s son has suddenly become the turd in the punch bowl.”
Buckley refuses to accept that along with the wealth, social contacts, and membership into the privileged class, he has also inherited the personal responsibility that goes along with sporting the last name, Buckley. At such a crucial moment in our nation, when the mainstream media (MSM) churn out blatant propaganda for the Democratic Party in general and for Obama in particular, and the Republican Party tries desperately to keep the Democrats from gaining super majorities in Congress and absolute power over the Republic, all that seems to matter to the self-absorbed Buckley is that he has been slighted, and the world should know it.
Buckley’s pretentious manner and feckless thinking calls to mind the late Louis Nye, whose best-remembered character, Sonny Drysdale, is the spoiled, sissified, ne’er-do-well son of the Drysdales from the 1960s sicom the Beverly Hillbillies. Sonny D. is a smug, arrogant, overbearing, blue-blooded mama’s boy, who treats those whom he considers his intellectual and social inferiors with haughty disdain, and never tires of basking in the rays of his imagined self-importance.
Unfortunately, Buckley is not the lone elitist political talking-head, pundit, or commentator who belittles Sarah Palin in the minds of voters in saying that she’s out of her league, unfit to assume the presidency, and a huge mistake. The Beltway smart-set, who literally cannot separate good from evil, right from wrong, or better from worse, include George Will, Charles Krauthammer, David Brooks, David Gergen, Ed Rollins, David Frum, Peggy Noonan, and Kathleen Parker. During an interview David Brooks compared Palin’s anti-intellectualism to President Bush’s and said that the Governor “represents a fatal cancer to the Republican party.” Brooks went on to describe John McCain and Barack Obama as “the two best candidates we’ve had in a long time.”
On the one hand, this group of elitist snobs knows that Palin is the campaign’s tough, sassy, anti-elite, maverick who stands outside the Beltway establishment poised to attack the New York–Washington media elite, the liberal elite, and the Anglo-American elite who don’t believe in getting their hands dirty with work; yet, these prominent Republican “conservatives” continue to use such reproachful rhetoric in attacking their own party’s ticket while it is engaged in a political battle for the presidency, the Congress, and its very existence.
On the other hand, they persist in their agreement with the head of the Democratic Party’s ticket, heaping praise upon the man who, when trying to explain Pennsylvania’s blue-collar working class culture to San Francisco’s upper class culture, said, “each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
Again, the answer is as bloody obvious as the “leadership class” they constitute. They are the members of an Eastern establishment elite class who think that everyone outside their circle of desirable social contacts is stupid and should defer to their judgment because they are the entitled, privileged class whose breeding and wealth have determined they deserve to run things.
Buckley’s judgment for supporting Obama may be problematic, but it’s consistent with his self-perception. Parker, Brooks, Will and the rest of the New York/DC Beltway elite have far more cultural connections to Barack Obama than they do to Sarah Palin or blue-collar America whom they ridicule for being intellectually and socially inferior.
Should the Republicans lose in November, the fault will not lie so much with McCain/Palin or even with the Republican elite, as it will with “ourselves, that we are underlings.”