Christopher Buckley -- son of (recently deceased) "father of modern conservatism," intellectual giant, and founder of National Review William F. Buckley, Jr. -- resigned today from that magazine after its readers' response to his endorsement of Barack Obama last week.
Buckley isn't with Obama on most of the issues; his endorsement consists mostly of a catalog of the ways in which he feels McCain (a man he's admired greatly) seems to have been changed by this campaign. He believes what many Americans have come to believe: that when it comes to temperament, the admittedly less experienced Obama's is first class (and that his intellect isn't too shabby either), while McCain's just isn't. "What on earth can he have been thinking?", Buckley wonders about McCain's Palin pick; "self-dramatizing and feckless," he says of McCain's abortive campaign suspension a few weeks ago; "inauthentic" is what he believes McCain has become.
I agree with him (including the bit about formerly admiring McCain, political views aside), and I'd like to think that I'd agree with him if I were a Republican.
"It’s a good thing my dear old mum and pup are no longer alive" to see him endorsing a Democrat, Buckley says: "they’d cut off my allowance." I'm not so sure (and I don't think he's so sure either); I wonder if William F. would have been on the list of conservatives who've been so critical of McCain recently (the Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer, WSJ's Peggy Noonan, George Will, Times columnist David Brooks, Bush 43 speechwriter David "axis of evil" Frum, etc.), especially regarding his reckless and baffling pick of Sarah Palin as his running mate. The elder Buckley was a thinking conservative, after all, and thinking conservatives are the ones who have (at least publicly) been willing to voice concerns about McCain. It's hard for me to imagine that the senior Buckley would have approved of Palin potentially being "a heartbeat away from the presidency"; whether he would have voiced that opinion, I really don't know.
Anyway, so the younger Buckley is out at National Review, his father's magazine. In a Daily Beast piece, he explains why he resigned (or was fired; sort of unclear exactly what happened): "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," he says, based on hate mail he's received. He continues:
I'm not sure, anyway, that National Review was the place for Buckley. Like his father, Buckley is sharp as a tack; like his father, his brand of conservatism doesn't consist of mindless patriotism or brain-dead nationalism. But I'm not even sure that the Buckley son's politics qualify as "conservatism" as it's now defined; I'd describe him as "libertarian" rather than a "conservative," and his description of himself in his Obama endorsement as a "conservative/libertarian/whatever" makes me think that he might too.
And he shares with his father a keen wit, but a softer, more empathetic, less cutting, more satirical wit. I don't read National Review much, and when I do, it's usually online. Online, at least, I don't see much inclination toward wit (there are exceptions), and certainly not any inclination to poke fun at the silliness, hypocrisy, or self-righteousness on the right. But Buckley seems to enjoy skewering the right as well as the left (and there's plenty to skewer on the left); as a libertarian, I suppose he often gets if from both sides, and has come to enjoy giving it right back, to both sides.
But the issue, of course, is bigger than National Review, or it seems to me that it is, anyway: if there's much of a political home at all for thoughtful conservatives and libertarians (who might occasionally challenge the party line, which is what thoughtful people do on occasion), I'm not sure where it is. Republicans seem to have become anti-thought (I'm aware that I'm not the first person to point this out): people who seem to have too many facts at their fingertips or in their pointy heads, who can speak properly, who know big words, who read the papers, who show signs of intellectual curiosity, are eyed with suspicion, while willfully anti-intellectual just-folks types drive the crowds wild (Palin obviously being the current Exhibit A, like Bush before her).
Anyway, good for you, Chris! Right on. I'm not sure what you thought of your father's politics; I wasn't a fan at all. But I wonder if he's turning in his grave as his watches what his "modern conservatism" has become.