James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘Charles Krauthammer’

More conservative disarray: National Review loses founder’s son

Posted by James McPherson on October 14, 2008

After endorsing Barack Obama in a piece titled, “Sorry, Dad, I’m Voting for Obama,” Christopher Buckley felt compelled to leave the National Review, perhaps still the best conservative magazine in American despite its unfortunate descent into neoconservatism. Buckley’s endorsement and resulting departure are most noteworthy, of course, because “Dad” in this case founded the National Review at the remarkably tender age of 29.

Indeed, William F. Buckley was one of the founders of the modern conservative movement, and as such gets a fair amount of ink in my new book. As the younger Buckley points out, “The only reason my vote would be of any interest to anyone is that my last name happens to be Buckley—a name I inherited.”

There’s another reason to be interested in Buckley’s vote, however: because he is the latest in a line of conservative intellectuals to jump from the sinking McCain/Palin ship. Much of the blame is directed a Sarah Palin, about whom George Will, Charles Krauthammer, David Frum and Ross Douthat all have expressed reservations. David Brooks has called her a “fatal cancer” for the Republicans. Kathleen Parker has called on her to drop out of the race, prompting conservative critics to call her a traitor and an idiot whose “mother should have aborted me and left me in a dumpster, but since she didn’t, I should ‘off’ myself.” Gotta love those family values.

On the other had, though it seems fairly clear that unless something dramatic and unexpected happens McCain will lose by a significant margin, it is worth remembering that many conservatives warned before the nomination that McCain “couldn’t win” the general election. My own suggestion back in June that McCain pick Palin as a running mate now looks a bit silly, though at least I can argue that I only spent a couple of hours on researching the issue and didn’t have a staff or tons of campaign funds to vet her (assuming the McCain camp did so). Still, Palin’s pick did energize the conservative base, and gave McCain a boost that perhaps no one else would have. Had he picked someone else, he might have been this far behind even sooner.

And did you notice that the day after Obama offered his economic plan and the stock market soared, McCain offered his plan this morning and the Dow fell by 302 points to close 76 points lower than where it started the day? Just coincidence, I’m sure. And the one argument that many conservatives have been trying to make, about Obama’s “associations,” may have taken a serious hit with today’s Huffington Post revelation that McCain’s presidential transition chief was a lobbyist for Saddam Hussein.

By the way, unlike some of my liberal friends, I don’t consider the term “conservative intellectual” to be an oxymoron–at least not yet, though Brooks is among those who points out that we may be headed that direction, noting, “What had been a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole.” Brooks also notes accurately that the anti-intellectual conservative criticism of virtually all educated groups–journalists, educators, doctors, lawyers–gives young conservatives little incentive to enter those professions.

I would argue that other factors such as more education, a higher regard for public service, and less regard for personal wealth contribute more to the more relative (though far from absolute) scarcity of conservatives in journalism and education, but Brooks’ central point remains valid–if you favor leadership by stupid people, you’re more likely to get stupid policies.

Incidentally, the erudite William F. Buckley–who held relatively little regard for neoconservatives and once suggested that George W. Bush should resign over his inept foreign policy–would have made the same argument. With Buckley’s wit and wisdom, I wouldn’t put it past him to have died earlier this year just to avoid having to endorse Obama himself.

Saturday update: In her Wall Street Journal column, former Reagan staffer Peggy Noonan writes: “In the end, the Palin candidacy is a sympton and expression of a new vulgarization in American politics. It’s no good, not for politics and not for the country. And yes, it is a mark against John McCain, against his judgment and idealism.” Noonan said she expects criticism from the same anti-intellectual conservatives who have attacked Buckley, adding, “At any rate, come and get me, copper.”

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Hillary’s convention speech and her “supporters”

Posted by James McPherson on August 27, 2008

As expected, Hillary Clinton came out in full support of Barack Obama in her Democratic Convention speech last night. As I also predicted, Fox News wasted no time in questioning whether Bill Clinton would do the same tonight.

Hillary gave an excellent speech, and after she finished speaking I spent a couple of hours flipping back and forth among the various network talking heads for their reactions. Even Chris Wallace of Fox News praised Clinton’s performance, after the other three Fox commentators had taken turns bashing her for giving a speech that was “all about her.” Most condescendingly dismissive, as might be expected, were Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol. Can anyone really watch those two preening clowns and still call liberals the “elitists”?

At least scared Foxes have some bitter company among the most diehard PUMAs, who have sought and achieved enough attention to be the focus of a segment ridiculing them on last night’s “The Daily Show.” Some PUMAs now are thrashing Hillary on the Web, and saying they will not follow where she has chosen to lead (so maybe she’s not as effective a leader as they maintain?).

Read the comment sections of a blog or two to see how much some of them are willing to twist their previous logic. (The latter of those two declares that Clinton’s message to PUMAs was to “keep running.”). Here are quotes from one PUMA who was live-blogging during Clinton’s speech:

WOW! She is really pushing Obama! Sorry, Hill. I own my vote! …

OH MY GOD! She used the Politics of FEAR! She did follow up with Universal Health Care. WOmen’s rights, civil rights, and GAY rights. Hell yeah!

Oh, no she di-in’t! Michelle can suck it!

FUCK. This is SO disheartneing! PUMAs are weeping all over the place!

She just lied about John McCain.

But at least she moved on to Seneca Falls.

Okay, that was nice. “MY mother was born before women could vote. My daughter got to vote FOR her mother.”

Nope. Not gonna do it. NOBAMA for me. No deal. Not even for you, lady.

On the other hand, many of the comments on blog posts suggested that many PUMAs will come around and vote in their best interests (again, assuming they weren’t conservatives to begin with). Another PUMA site offers this:

If anyone can make me for him, it’s her and only her. Fanboys, assholes, fauxgressives—if your asshole wins, you can thank Hills. She’s magnificent, magnanimous, and thrilling. She even manages to be kind to McCain. “Four more years of the last eight years.” …

I see her and I’m proud to be a liberal. You’re goddamned right I’m a liberal. I’m a liberal because I believe in moments like this: a woman standing on the podium at the DNC, surely thinking ahead to her next—and victorious!—run for President.

Hillary’s my President and one day I’ll see her take the oath of office. But, damn, what she stands for means enough to me to abide by her gracious wishes. She’s got more courage and class than I’ve ever had or will have, and hope never to need. …

God, I feel hope again. I feel like things can change. It’s not fear of the Them that I’m feeling; it’s the knowledge that as an American I’m part of something that’s meant to be bigger and better and nobler than what we have now.

I love the “bigger and nobler” line, which captures the essence of Clinton’s speech. And I am again reminded that seeing people strongly disagree–often with considerable justification–but still manage to come together for the greater good when the chips are on the line is one of the things that makes me most proud to be an American.

Posted in Journalism, Politics, Women, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »