National Review and Me

 

My father was a William F. Buckley buff.  I still prize his autographed copy of WFB’s second book,  McCarthy and His Enemies (co-authored in 1954 with L. Brent Bozell, Jr, Buckley’s brother-in-law).  One year later, Buckley founded National Review.  

By the time the sixties rolled around, it’s fair to say I was destined to be an NR reader.  For me, and with respect to Andrew Breitbart,  politics was not downstream from culture.  I saw no inconsistency in loving The Who, the Stones, MC5, and National Review, much to the chagrin of some of my contemporaries.  And I think the Buckley fandom made my father happy, which was a bonus.  You’ll still find a 1965 Buckley for Mayor of New York City poster in my home.

So let’s fast forward to September, 2022.  I am about six weeks into another renewal of my subscription to both the dead tree version of NR and National Review Online.   We are years past the infamous “Against Trump” issue, compiled during the primaries leading up to the 2016 election.  That issue alienated many Ricochet members, to say the least, and still stands as an early sign of the NeverTrump movement.  I’ve long felt that NR remains important because it has some fine writers who champion important conservative causes.  I’m also not ashamed to say that I’ve defended the magazine here in discussions with people whom I respect—and I fully recognize that some here really dislike the publication.  

This is all a prelude to my personal deep thoughts as to whether it’s time to jump ship, something that never occurred to me even in the days of  “Against Trump.”  In many ways, I think that I’m a prototypical NR subscriber:  older, conservative, Buckley fan, and a supporter of the Trump presidency who still sees some warts.  Yet, in the last several months (some would say much longer), the unremitting lack of any balance regarding Trump has significantly alienated me.  Time and space don’t permit an exhaustive count of what has pushed me to the edge of cancellation, but let’s try a short and recent list. 

I’ve generally been good with the pro-impeachment, but often knowledgeable, Andrew McCarthy, but have seriously tired of the likes of  Trump Brings Out the Worst in His Enemies, as He Undermines Himself.   Much also has been written here about the bombastic Kevin Williamson, yet his recent A Clear and Present Danger column was a new low even for me (“President Biden isn’t taking on the Trumpists’ illiberalism — he’s imitating it.” “Of course the Trump movement is semi-fascist . . .” ).  Yes, Kevin, of course.  

Messrs. McLaughlin and Geraghty are long-standing Trump critics as well, but the proverbial final straw may have come from Second Amendment stalwart and Ricochet friend Charles C.W. Cooke, a seemingly rational person who has decided 20 months after the end of the Trump presidency that Donald Trump Is Still a Lunatic.  You may have noticed that the common thread in much of the above goes beyond “Against Trump” to “Much of what we see in Biden is Trump’s fault.”

So does this story have an ending?  I know a good number of you who have read this far are saying “So cancel already, dummy!” But it’s hard for me to toss away 50 years of a reading tradition.  Still, if I’m close, I wonder how many NR traditionalists are either gone or right at the edge of the long goodbye.   

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  1. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Trump is a phenomenon.  His impact on others is remarkable.

    I don’t pretend to understand it.

    But I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone have such profound effects on people they’ve never even met.

    • #1
  2. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    “Know the dark side of the Force.”

    • #2
  3. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    I think you and I went back and forth a few times as we each were making our adjustments to living with President Trump. It certainly took me a while to get used to him and get an understanding of just what he was bringing to us. I liked Buckley and read some NR back then but not much since.

    • #3
  4. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    Fourth grade, Mrs. Smith’s class, and We were in the school library. I was browsing books when I felt Someone behind Me watching Me. I turned around and across the room on the magazine rack was President Reagan on the cover of National Review. I walked over, opened the magazine, and began to read. The first time I met anyone Who thought like Me. I felt as though I finally made some Friends. 

    I subscribed as soon as I was working and earning money. I was a subscriber for years. Bought many books over the years because of Their reviews and the Authors They published. Discovered many writers I otherwise wouldn’t have. I’ve met some prominent people, because We had National Review in common. I still sign off on letters and emails with “Cordially,” because of WFB.

    I have not been a subscribe in some time. I was never a fan of Their online site. 

    • #4
  5. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    NR is no monolith of opinion. It’s got an official stance, but has always featured writers who disagree with its editorial opinions. On the Rightwebs, there are people who will take something that one guy said, one time, and try to make it into NR’s opinion. When you filter that out, some features of the magazine stand out:

    It’s been rock-solid on abortion. It’s still a social conservative mag and site, on some issues more than I personally would like, but that’s my tough luck. It’s more than SoCon; it’s outright theocon. But that’s popular on the Right.

    It’s also more neocon than I’d like. It likes to “settle” arguments about Pentagon spending with breezy dismissals like “a few more carrier groups are always nice to have around”. But this goes back a long, long way. Let me admit up front that I went along for the ride most of the time. Fess up: did you believe Bush and Cheney in 2003? I did. Trump performed a valuable service to the country in convincing plenty of conservatives that pouring endless amounts of money into the warfare state was no saner than pouring tons of money into the welfare state. 

    It’s the FiCon side of NR that hasn’t wavered much and always troubled me, because although the pure capitalist position on jobs, imports and tariffs is generally correct in the long run, in the day-to-day world it turns into toss-granny-into-the-snow type indifference towards what big business has done to hollow out manufacturing. This is also true, of course, of the Wall Street Journal. Their attitude is, “So what if all the jobs are moved overseas? You can buy a Korean big screen TV cheaper!” This is another case where Trump broke the lock that Wall Street has on conservative thinking. That still doesn’t resolve the tension, though. Bluntly, how much heartlessness can capitalism survive? It’s not an easy question. Nobody has an exact answer. 

     

    • #5
  6. Chris O Coolidge
    Chris O
    @ChrisO

    I think it’s possible you’ll feel better breaking the connection. Re-subscribe, if you want, before the next issue, but a brief hiatus of even a single business week might demystify the whole thing. That said, what an excellent experience to have had that connection for so long and a photo of that poster would be a welcome addition to the comments or the post!

    I have no equivalent experience, though I did subscribe to The American Enterprise up to the time it ended, and still have my library of issues. There was a time I thought I couldn’t live without The Economist, but, boy, did that ship sail. Besides, that was a pricey one. 

    • #6
  7. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    It’s not Bill Buckley’s magazine anymore. It hasn’t been for quite some time. The energy expended on criticizing and hating on Trump rather than America’s and Americans’ enemies (the Left) is shameful. Inexcusable really. So stop trying. These people *don’t get it* and likely never will.

    All things are passing away. Buckley’s NR is gone.

    • #7
  8. Robert Herring Member
    Robert Herring
    @RobertHerring

    Elizabeth (@eherring) and I are in this same boat.  I started reading NR because my mother subscribed, and I took out my own subscription in 1988.  We were always happy to see the new issue in the mailbox and we went on a NR post-election cruise for our 25th anniversary in 2004.

    I wasn’t much of a Trump supporter during the 2016 primaries, but I wasn’t swayed by the Against Trump issue.  The “clear and present danger” of Hillary made a vote for Trump easy, however.  The utterly hysterical reaction to Trump’s presidency started to make me think that he was on the right track, though, and I continue to wonder what he might have been able to do if not for the Russia hoax, etc.  My real objections (reservations?) about him are that he didn’t know anyone in government that he could bring in to his administration and personnel are key to implementation (and even attempted implementation).  Of course, many good people were scared away by the constant rumors, innuendo, and attacks.  

    I too have been disappointed by NR’s continued assault on Trump and it’s doubly annoying because I have heard most of these people speak in person on NR cruises and it’s hard to square what I heard back then with what I’m hearing now. So, yes, the edge approaches.  Not quite there yet.

    [On a personal note, one of my favorite features of the old NR was the Trans-O-Gram (an acrostic puzzle) by the pseudonymous Kem Putney.  My mom liked them too, and she complained one day that she wanted more of them.  That spurred me to create some for her and now I’m up to puzzle #150.  If you would like some, give me a buzz.]

     

    • #8
  9. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    I’m a big enough fan of William F Buckley and have read enough National Review issues to conclude that Buckley would have loved Trump. Better still, he probably would have spent a good amount of time translating. As in “ I would not have put it this crudely but Trump is pointing out an undeniable fact here…

    The sad thing is no one had to take sides over Trump, unless they strongly disagreed with his agenda.

    Trump was precisely the guy in the first 100 names of the Cambridge telephone directory he was talking about, but with business and media experience.

    But, Hoyacon, you really are not supporting NR with you subscription. Perhaps in a microscopic way. They get their money and support from much bigger footprints and sponsors.

    Cancel your own subscription was a great line written decades ago.

    This was a great summation and a cogent, objective analysis. I hope this gets to the Main Feed and maybe, maybe Rich Lowrey will read it.

    But these people are now the people WFB distrusted intuitively for the same reasons.

    • #9
  10. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Robert Herring (View Comment):
    I wasn’t much of a Trump supporter during the 2016 primaries, but I wasn’t swayed by the Against Trump issue.  The “clear and present danger” of Hillary made a vote for Trump easy, however.  The utterly hysterical reaction to Trump’s presidency started to make me think that he was on the right track, though,

    I was in a very similar place. And since he entered office I’ve been saying the problem wasn’t with Trump — it is the (over)*reaction* to him. The Left used this and is using it quite effectively. 

    • #10
  11. Victor Tango Kilo Member
    Victor Tango Kilo
    @VtheK

    Serious question: Has NR ever acknowledged that the the fecklessness, the consistent pattern of failure,  and outright betrayals by the Republican Party and establishment conservatives are the reason the Republican/ conservative base has turned to “Trumpism?” 

    Or do they simply dismiss criticism of the GOP and establishment conservatism as “Trump Cult?” 

    • #11
  12. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    Twenty-plus years ago when I finished the latest snail mail version of National Review, I usually thought that I had learned something, something worth knowing. I let my subscription lapse when I realized that all I was learning at that time was how the author felt about a subject. It was a waste of my time.

    • #12
  13. kedavis Inactive
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Franco (View Comment):
    Cancel your own subscription was a great line written decades ago.

    That line was clever, but it never really made sense.  How could I cancel my own subscription?  I don’t work there!  That’s something they do when I tell them it’s what I want!

    • #13
  14. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    I’ve been a NR subscriber since 1970 or ’71, and while I don’t agree with everything in the current magazine; where would I find a satisfactory replacement?

    • #14
  15. kedavis Inactive
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    I’ve been a NR subscriber since 1970 or ’71, and while I don’t agree with everything in the current magazine; where would I find a satisfactory replacement?

    You just ignore the possibility that NR may have outlived its usefulness, and there simply is no satisfactory replacement?

    • #15
  16. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    I ditched them when it became clear they hold me in contempt. 

    What is telling are the people they have run off.

    The vitriol against Trump supporters, both in print and what I have heard from VDH tell me what I need to know.

     

    • #16
  17. Kevin Schulte Member
    Kevin Schulte
    @KevinSchulte

    I look at it this way. Franco eluded to it.

    Authors, prognosticators etc , need to get paid. I believe the vitriol they put in print represents the vitriol of those signing their checks. No more complicated than that. 

    No offense intended to you long time subscribers. 

    • #17
  18. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Franco (View Comment):
    Cancel your own subscription was a great line written decades ago.

    That line was clever, but it never really made sense. How could I cancel my own subscription? I don’t work there! That’s something they do when I tell them it’s what I want!

    I love hacking jokes. It’s rarely funny, but fun.

    Making the distinction between the letter-readers on the editorial board and the clerks in customer service.

    Buckley has read the letter and responding to it, but he’s not calling subscription cancellation department and read them your name and address. It also implies agency. As though NR is sending their issues unsolicited.

    • #18
  19. kedavis Inactive
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Kevin Schulte (View Comment):

    I look at it this way. Franco eluded to it.

    Authors, prognosticators etc , need to get paid. I believe the vitriol they put in print represents the vitriol of those signing their checks. No more complicated than that.

    No offense intended to you long time subscribers.

    “Offense accepted!”

     

    (old MASH reference)

    • #19
  20. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    I’ve been a NR subscriber since 1970 or ’71, and while I don’t agree with everything in the current magazine; where would I find a satisfactory replacement?

    We’re in a similar camp.  And I fully agree with Mr. McVey, above, that NR is “rock solid” on some issues, most notably abortion and the Second Amendment.   That carried the day for me for a very long time, but, even for someone who isn’t a “Trump or nobody” person, the attacks are now just overwhelming the good stuff.  It makes me question the judgement of those in control.   Has there ever been an unremittingly positive article about the Trump presidency?  Perhaps (Conrad Black?), but I can’t remember it. 

    • #20
  21. kedavis Inactive
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    I’ve been a NR subscriber since 1970 or ’71, and while I don’t agree with everything in the current magazine; where would I find a satisfactory replacement?

    We’re in a similar camp. And I fully agree with Mr. McVey, above, that NR is “rock solid” on some issues, most notably abortion and the Second Amendment. That carried the day for me for a very long time, but, even for someone who isn’t a “Trump or nobody” person, the attacks are now just overwhelming the good stuff. It makes me question the judgement of those in control. Has there ever been an unremittingly positive article about the Trump presidency? Perhaps (Conrad Black?), but I can’t remember it.

    Hmm, does it matter if their editorial position is supposedly “rock solid” if they’re also discouraging people from voting for candidates who would actually at least try to do those things, and encouraging people to vote for those who would do the opposite?

    • #21
  22. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    They need young folks to replace the generations aging out. They briefly had my two daughters but they got mad and decided it wasn’t worth paying for. Ditto my sister. She told us to not bother to renew her gift subscription. My parents are gone. Bob’s father is too old to be able to read it. There you have it, one of six subscriptions left. The nrplus people who comment mostly don’t see things as I do. I don’t know if I changed or they changed. Where do I stand on my subscription? I will let you know after the November cruise.

    I agree with my husband. I wonder how much more he could have done without the constant false accusations that the corrupt FBI help spread. I wonder how much more good he would have done had he been re-elected. I do know fixing the problems with the Jones Act was at the top of his agenda for a second term. The Republican leadership did us few favors. Neither did National Review.

    Yes, he wasn’t a politician who knew all the ways of Washington but weren’t we sick of politicians. DC is such a sick mess. It is clear to me no outsider could do much in four years. Heck, the bureaucrats are even content to wait out a 2-term president. Their arrogance is a cancer. They see presidents, not as our leaders, but as the temporary help while they control the power and determine the direction of the country. This problem has been festering and growing for decades. I am not sure what they, at NR, are standing “athwart” of anymore and I’m not sure what or who they are yelling “stop” to, besides me. I have questions.

    I don’t understand them now but enjoyed being with them before. I am giving them one more chance. I will find a way to have fun on the cruise and will consider it a ricochet meetup since we have a quorum of six. I’m like @JimMcConnell, I haven’t found a suitable replacement in print that could replace it. Rather than subscribing to others to test drive them, I gave two daughters gift subscriptions to ricochet.  Let’s just say NR is on probation. As for my husband, going on the cruise wasn’t his idea but he wasn’t going to talk me out of doing something I enjoy. If we are together, we will be happy. If one of the seminars bashes Trump, we will adjourn to a bar or the spa. There are already enough speakers I like to make it worthwhile overall.

    • #22
  23. Blondie Thatcher
    Blondie
    @Blondie

    What’s funny is to hear Jack Fowler and VDH talk about NR sometimes. It’s never a whole discussion, but you do get the impression they are both glad to not be there at this time. That’s all I need to know. 

    • #23
  24. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    I’ve been a NR subscriber since 1970 or ’71, and while I don’t agree with everything in the current magazine; where would I find a satisfactory replacement?

    We’re in a similar camp. And I fully agree with Mr. McVey, above, that NR is “rock solid” on some issues, most notably abortion and the Second Amendment. That carried the day for me for a very long time, but, even for someone who isn’t a “Trump or nobody” person, the attacks are now just overwhelming the good stuff. It makes me question the judgement of those in control. Has there ever been an unremittingly positive article about the Trump presidency? Perhaps (Conrad Black?), but I can’t remember it.

    Hmm, does it matter if their editorial position is supposedly “rock solid” if they’re also discouraging people from voting for candidates who would actually at least try to do those things, and encouraging people to vote for those who would do the opposite?

    I’ve not seen them boosting the campaigns of pro-choice or anti-Second Amendment candidates.  It’s certainly true that they have their preferences within the Second Amendment and pro-life camps

    • #24
  25. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Good luck with your decision, Hoyacon.

    My views on several issues have shifted significantly in the past 5-6 years, most notably on foreign policy and trade.  I’ve become something close to an isolationist on foreign policy, and no longer a strong supporter of free trade.  Interestingly, these actually seem to have been the historic Republican positions prior to . . . well, William F. Buckley, more or less.

    This has made me less favorably inclined toward NR, even if Buckley was still at the helm.

    The thing that bothers me most about WFB is his opposition to the “John Burch” folks, who were opposed to an interventionist foreign policy.  I wasn’t around at the time, but my impression was that WFB practiced something close to “cancel culture” on those who disagreed with his foreign policy.  I would describe WFB’s foreign policy as “neoconservatism,” and wonder whether he was the original neocon.  Again, I wasn’t around at the time, so I’m not sure about this.

    I’ve come to view our interventionist foreign policy of the 20th Century as a major mistake, from WWI to WWII to the Cold War and beyond.

    The only minor exception that I see to this relates to the Cold War.  I have to concede the possibility that it was better to strongly oppose international Communism, but the only reason that we faced such a monolithic international Communism was that we had foolishly and improvidently destroyed the three strongest anti-Communist buffers between us and the Soviet Union — Germany, Japan, and Italy.

    Of late, I’ve been generally impressed with the National Conservatism movement.  Rich Lowry appears to be a major figure in this movement, which is a point in NR’s favor.

    If you’re on the fence, you might think about one thing that I don’t think has yet been mentioned: the Covington kids.

    • #25
  26. Metalheaddoc Member
    Metalheaddoc
    @Metalheaddoc

    I think there is a lot of Country Club Republicanism at NR. They talk about the working man, but they don’t want to actually consort with them. KDW in particular seems to be an elitist snob. The vibe I get is that NR is a bunch of Judge Smails’, and Trump is Al Czervik who is uncouth and barging into their respectable club. They don’t want commoners in their midst. (i.e. Sarah Palin)

    And McCarthy can’t seem to get past his DOJ/FBI are full of loyal non-partisan patriots and must be given deference because he worked for them.

    • #26
  27. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    When they parted ways with Steyn, I parted ways with them.

    • #27
  28. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    Bluntly, how much heartlessness can capitalism survive? It’s not an easy question. Nobody has an exact answer. 

    We could say that capitalism is not about heart but about serving its customers. And those customers want their best deals, and probably shouldn’t care whether the capitalists do well or not. I guess I’m not feeling it for the capitalists at the moment, Gary. I’m reading Ramaswamy’s book, Woke,Inc.,and they’ve earned their criticism.

    • #28
  29. 1787Libertarian Member
    1787Libertarian
    @

    NR is compromised. Whatever it was it is t that anymore.

    https://emeralddb3.substack.com/p/how-the-national-review-sold-its

    • #29
  30. kedavis Inactive
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    I’ve been a NR subscriber since 1970 or ’71, and while I don’t agree with everything in the current magazine; where would I find a satisfactory replacement?

    We’re in a similar camp. And I fully agree with Mr. McVey, above, that NR is “rock solid” on some issues, most notably abortion and the Second Amendment. That carried the day for me for a very long time, but, even for someone who isn’t a “Trump or nobody” person, the attacks are now just overwhelming the good stuff. It makes me question the judgement of those in control. Has there ever been an unremittingly positive article about the Trump presidency? Perhaps (Conrad Black?), but I can’t remember it.

    Hmm, does it matter if their editorial position is supposedly “rock solid” if they’re also discouraging people from voting for candidates who would actually at least try to do those things, and encouraging people to vote for those who would do the opposite?

    I’ve not seen them boosting the campaigns of pro-choice or anti-Second Amendment candidates. It’s certainly true that they have their preferences within the Second Amendment and pro-life camps

    Isn’t it enough if they say “don’t vote for Trump, he’s not suitable to be president?”  If enough people believe/trust them, that means Hillary wins in 2016.

    • #30
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