October 10, 2008

Buckley Beds Banality - but Will They Wed?

Hatched by Dafydd

Buckley -- that's Christopher Buckley, of course -- has just published a brief, self-indulgent note on a cybermagazine called the Daily Beast announcing that he is going to vote for Barack H. Obama.

His "reasoning," if I may so dub his excuse-making, is obscure, to say the least. He argues that he once liked John S. McCain, but that was back when McCain was "authentic." During this campaign, however, McCain has become inauthentic (says Buckley); the only specific Buckley gives us is that McCain now says he can balance the budget in four years, when we all know that is an "unrealistic" promise. "Who, really, believes that?" chuckles Buckley.

Ergo, he will vote for Obama -- who (Buckley crisply admits) is not really as bad as he seems, because he won't really do all the horrible things he threatens:

But having a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect, President Obama will (I pray, secularly) surely understand that traditional left-politics aren’t going to get us out of this pit we’ve dug for ourselves. If he raises taxes and throws up tariff walls and opens the coffers of the DNC to bribe-money from the special interest groups against whom he has (somewhat disingenuously) railed during the campaign trail, then he will almost certainly reap a whirlwind that will make Katrina look like a balmy summer zephyr.

So Obama is a "lefty," Buckley says, who has called for raising taxes, throwing up tariff walls, and opening the treasury of the Democratic Party to "bribe-money from the special interest groups" that he has railed against -- "disingenuously;" but worry not, because he doesn't really mean it and won't actually enact it. Its only purpose is to get him elected by promising everything. And after all, "Who, really, believes that?"

But at least Obama is authentic.

Christopher Buckley shows his hat anent the real reason he will be voting for Obama early in the piece: He is appalled by the trailer-trash Sarah Palin and will never forgive McCain for choosing her, when he could just as easily have chosen some Yalie, or even a Harvard man. Someone of the right sort, the kind one might find at the better affairs, if you know what I mean. While Mrs. Palin may be droll, you certainly wouldn't take a moose hunter home to meet "dear old mum," would you?

For a reason: My colleague, the superb and very dishy Kathleen Parker, recently wrote in National Review Online a column stating what John Cleese as Basil Fawlty would call “the bleeding obvious”: namely, that Sarah Palin is an embarrassment, and a dangerous one at that. She’s not exactly alone. New York Times columnist David Brooks, who began his career at NR, just called Governor Palin “a cancer on the Republican Party”....

And finally, not to belabor it, there was the Palin nomination. What on earth can [McCain] have been thinking?

One wonders what Christopher Buckley would have made of that earlier cancer on the Republican Party, that gangly, homespun, cornpone man of halting speech and curious ugliness -- much remarked upon at the time -- who never attended Harvard or Yale (or anywhere else) and never lost his back of the woods demeanor... but who nevertheless achieved historical significance and undisputed greatness as our sixteenth president.

Mr. Buckley's father was just as elitist as the son, but pere William had the saving grace of having lived through times of crisis so visceral that the nation truly did pull together; everyone had to make terrific sacrifices, even those born to privilege.

William F. Buckley, jr. was born in 1925; the market crash occurred when he was four, and he grew up during the Great Depression. Even though his family wealth shielded him from personal privation, he could not help but see the populace around him unemployed, broke, waiting in line for bread and soup -- not because of any personal failing, but due to a worldwide economic crisis compounded by staggering government nonfeasance and malfeasance, starting under the leftist Republican Herbert Hoover and continuing under the liberal fascist Franklin Roosevelt.

Later, like nearly all men in his cohort, he served in the military during World War II -- another venue that made no allowance for wealth or privilege. Rich and poor served alongside each other, and virtually no one was exempted.

These shared experiences forced upon W.F. Buckley a deep understanding of the range of human experience... and he must have learnt from his years in the service what Thomas Gray meant in "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard": that the potential for greatness was not confined only to those who speak in a cultured drawl, bore easily, join preposterous "secret societies" at university, and summer in the Hamptons. Sometimes, the only element lacking in those who never achieve greatness is opportunity. (Imagine if John McCain had never been shot down; who would have heard of him? Greatness requires both potentiality and opportunity to manifest itself.)

Fils Christopher had no such leavening experience. He was born in 1952, the beginning of a period of great economic prosperity; he never lived within sight of otherwise fine, decent men and women struggling simply to survive.

One would think, given his birthyear, that he would have served ably and honorably in Vietnam one way or another; but he got himself a medical deferment in 1971 for asthma. (Was that the year that the Senate Armed Services Committee gave President Nixon authority to reject student deferments?) I have no reason at this point to suspect skulduggery; I've struggled with asthma, though it didn't stop me joining the Navy.

Christopher Buckley wrote about his decision in the September, 1983 issue of Esquire, in an article titled "Viet Guilt," but I haven't yet obtained a copy of that number (it's not available online, and the local libraries here close on Fridays). But the relevant point is that, unlike his "pup," C.J. Buckley never had to fight, to kill or be killed, alongside soldiers of all classes and degrees of greatness, which might have taught him that there is rarely any connection between those two qualities. There are other ways to learn it -- Gray himself never served in the military -- but that's a good one.

Thus he appears unable to consider Sarah Palin in the light of understanding. I don't know his exact reasons; but those who harbor such puzzlingly harsh feelings about a woman they barely know (if at all) are often terribly offended by her small-town origin, her participation in beauty pagents as a teen, her uncultured and sometimes disjointed style of speech, by the fact that her governmental experience is entirely local -- and very frequently by her dining on moose and tearing about on snowmachines, rather than dining on foie gras and playing squash. I cannot say for sure, of course; but it would not surprise me if Christopher Buckley looked down upon Palin, condescend to her.

I don't believe his father would have done so. In too many ways, Christopher Buckley reminds me of Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger, current publisher of the New York Times and anemic shadow of his father, "Punch."

But Christopher, having never experienced the same wide swath of life that William F. Buckley, jr. perforce imbibed, including the leavening effect of shared sacrifice for one's country, and with no financial worries, is free, should he choose, to indulge the worst excesses of lifestyle libertarianism: the idolatry of ideology; a passionate belief that all one's whims and desires are natural rights; the uncomprehending rejection of corresponding duties; the unshakable faith in one's own mental superiority; and a precious and irritating narcissism.

Not every libertarian suffers from these deep character flaws; the best recognize the danger and fight against it. But the tendency is always there and must be resisted, the way a Baptist must deafen himself to the siren song of Satan. Easier by far for the lazy man to wallow in self-serving libertinism and dub it a virtue. Having from his teenaged years cultured the habit of avoiding combat, it's not surprising that we don't see Christopher Buckley battling the libertarian Devil; his surrender to decadence appears voluntary and absolute.

For these reasons, I'm utterly unmoved by his snarky announcement that he's voting for Barack Obama; he has only lived down to my expectations. But he is right to fret about what his immediate forbears would think:

It’s a good thing my dear old mum and pup are no longer alive. They’d cut off my allowance.

Let's take a page from Christopher Buckley himself and call this "Vote Guilt." Howeer, unlike his "Viet Guilt" failure in 1971, Buckley's moment has not yet passed; he still has the opportunity to not wallow in folly by endorsing, voting for, and even campaigning for a far-left radical, merely (I believe) to be outrageous for its own sake.

Christopher Buckley has now slept with the Devil; but he hasn't yet exchanged vows. Will he come to his senses before finding himself trapped in a dreadful marriage from which there is no divorce?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 10, 2008, at the time of 3:00 PM

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Tracked on October 30, 2008 5:27 PM


The following hissed in response by: BarbaraS

These people are so full of themselves. They think they are a cut above the rest of us and look down on us as "the little people" or peons, if you like. We don't live in the rarified atmosphere that they do and aren't as privileged as they are. Mostly because of money but also social status. They are "better than we are". I have a cousin (whom I never see anymore) whom I visited years ago. She had married a doctor with a rich practice and lived in a very nice semi mansion. She took me on a tour and showed me where the "little people" lived. The "little people" had houses that cost a lot more than mine did. I wanted to remind her that she grew up in a concrete block two bedroom house but I restrained myself but didn't visit her again. She had become a snob and the nouveau riche are the worst kind of snobs. However, that would not be Buckley's excuse. His is old money but his father was a snob too and a former communist as he admitted on numerous occasions.

The above hissed in response by: BarbaraS [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 10, 2008 3:41 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


However, that would not be Buckley's excuse. His is old money but his father was a snob too and a former communist as he admitted on numerous occasions.

Bill Buckley was actually not a snob, as proven by the fact that he was friends with Brad Linaweaver, of all people. And he certainly was never a Communist or even a liberal; I suspect you may be confusing him with Irving Kristol, father of Bill Kristol.

Buckley was raised a rock-ribbed, old-line, country-club conservative; late in life, he sometimes called himself a libertarian -- but like Brad, he was a right-wing libertarian.

Robert A. Heinlein was never a Communist, but he was a socialist in his youth; he ran for Congress in 1932 on the EPICrat ticket (End Poverty In California -- a movement started by Upton Sinclair).

Ronald Reagan was an antiCommunist Democratic centrist, rather like Harry S. Truman; but in the course of time, his commonsense positions migrated to the right by more or less standing still: That is, the scale moved to the left. Reagan often said, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party left me." That said, he did probably get more conservative with age... but then, so do most of us.

Michael Medved, David Horowitz (the other one, not the consumer advocate), the lads at Power Line, and many other neocons began as anti-Vietnam war radicals, then were turned into Reagan Republicans by (surprise) Ronald Reagan. That was in fact the original definition of "neoconservative."

But Bill Buckley was a staunch conservative since a week or so after the signing of the Treaty of Ghent.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 10, 2008 6:05 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Actually, now that I think on it, I believe that "Treaty of Ghent" date is bogus; I recall Bill Buckley launching a strident, one-man protest against Magna Carta.

My mistake.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 10, 2008 6:07 PM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

Look, I just heard McCain twice today. He sounds old, tired and has no fight.
He refuses to go after Obama except for the superficial Ayers pap.
I have spent the last eight years fighting for GW Bush. I am not going to keep fighting for leaders that won't themselves fight.
McCain asked us all to fight with him.
Well, I thought part of the deal was he would bother to fight himself.
When he decides to come out and fight, let me know.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 10, 2008 7:26 PM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

The final stages of degeneracy are when one sees the enemy- Buckley knows Obama is a lefty- but simply cannot be bothered to care. Buckley is too worried about his allowance and that horrid Palin woman, to worry about the implications of letting the guy who leads the party that looted FNMA and wrecked it and prevented any possible cure run the country.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 10, 2008 11:24 PM

The following hissed in response by: Da Coyote

Sounds like the acorn (hate using that word right now) not only fell from the tree, but launched itself in a ballistic trajectory far, far from the tree.

The above hissed in response by: Da Coyote [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2008 7:39 AM

The following hissed in response by: Karmi

I’ve already predicted that the McCain/Palin ticket will win…primarily because of Sarah Palin, i.e. the incredible focus shift to her ever since she was picked. Thus, I don’t really care what Christopher Buckley has to say.

The race is now in the hands of America’s “Silent Majority” - a place that MSM and pollsters have no access to – and they will not elect a communist or a bigot like Obama.

The ‘Signs’ of the “Silent Majority’s Voice” have been there since the discovery of the racist Rev. Wright and the racist TUCC, and again when Obama was caught bashing middleclass America. Even the Dems and MSM saw those early ‘Signs’ which is why those stories vanished so quickly. Most everyone has been awed by Obama’s quick rise to power; however, that rise paled in comparison to Sarah’s immediate impact and rise.

Another ‘Sign’ that points to a McCain/Palin win is the sheer desperation of MSM in this race. MSM has been in a serious decline for years…‘someone’ has certainly been rejecting them – besides just the “Right-Wing” - and they are now at the point where they will need a government ‘bailout’ in order to survive.

The above hissed in response by: Karmi [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2008 8:06 AM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

If Sen. McCain was at least making a vigorous campaign, I would more easily be agreeing with you.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2008 9:31 AM

The following hissed in response by: BarbaraS

You know, dafydd, you sometimes get carried away with rehtoric. I did not mention any of the people you wrote about in your retort. Indeed, I have never heard of some of them. All I said was Buckley was a former communist and I got that from him. Several years ago he said everyone at National Review was a ex communist with emphasis on the ex. He might have said it in jest but I do remember him saying it and it left an impression. If I misunderstood, I apologize to Buckley's memory.

The above hissed in response by: BarbaraS [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2008 9:33 AM

The following hissed in response by: Karmi


Not sure how to put or phrase this…

McCain was dead-in-the-water before he picked Palin. Palin is now the key here. McCain may have only been able to muster enough “vigor” (WINK) for his pick of Palin, but that was one heck of a ‘wad’…so to speak.

Sure, I would like to see him attack Obama on his 20 year friendship/membership with the racists Wright and TUCC, etc., but apparently McCain isn’t into doing it. Again, Palin is now the key here, and I don’t think that McCain matters that much anymore.

The above hissed in response by: Karmi [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2008 10:26 AM

The following hissed in response by: Mikey

Gov. Palin is a Jacksonian. Christopher Buckley is not.

The Democrats may hold Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners, but they do not honor Old Hickory, and no elite - left or right - respects that part of the American legacy.

The above hissed in response by: Mikey [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2008 11:15 AM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

My point exactly.
It is completely unfair of the McCain campaign to drag out a rising and effective talent and have her go through a multi-year vetting process in ~30 days.
No VP has ever won a campaign for a Prez before, and as much as I think she is good, I do not think she is going to be historic in that sense.
McCain wanted this friggin' nomination.
He can still win it.
But *he* has to decide he wants it bad enough to kick the furniture around some.
Short of Rezko rolling over and showing Obama in some incredible light, or Wright doing the same, or ACORN people letting out a tape of BHO directing them to commit fraud and to steal the election- in time for people to hear and beleive and react to it- the only raod to victory will be driven by McCain.
He has to do what he can do well:
Get in Obama's face and drop the facts on him:
He and the people he is with are racist, corrupt, and have destroyed the American economy.
McCain will have to show how he is going to kick ass and take names and get the economy going inspite of hwat Obama and his pals have done.
So far, that is not happening.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2008 2:42 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


It wasn't a "retort;" I was correcting some misinformation you had.

The exchange to which you refer began at the rollout of NR, when one of the reporters at the presser noted, with some astonishment, that "half the staff are ex-Communists!"

To which Buckley quipped, "Yes... ex-Communists."

That half did not include Buckley himself, who was a solid, old-line conservative his entire life, until he took to calling himself a libertarian (betimes) in -- oh, I'm so tempted to say 'in his dotage!' -- in his seniority.

While I was at it, I simply tossed in a bunch of others about whose political history I was informed, just for information's sake. Honestly, Barbara, it was not an attack on you; I find such political movement interesting.

For a counterexample, Isaac Asimov wrote in one of his 217 autobiographies (I've read 'em all!) that -- this is from memory, but it's a near exact quotation -- "the election of Franklin Roosevelt made me a New Deal Democrat, and I have never wavered from that since."

Roosevelt was elected in 1932, when Asimov was 12 years old. Thus, I conclude he maintained a 12 year old's understanding of politics for the remainder of his life.

I myself began as a conservative; in high school, I discovered libertarianism through David (son o' Milton) Friedman's the Machinery of Freedom; thence I read much of libertarianism, found a lot to recommend it, and began thinking of myself as a small-l libertarian.

After university, however, I began seeing the flaws in pure or "movement" libertarianism (the curse of genius)... and I also began reading more of, e.g., Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson; I became convinced that the biggest flaw in all economic systems is that they were, at core, nothing but economic triage: Every system, from Marxism to libertarianism, assumed irreducible scarcity.

Each sought only the fairest way to distribute resources when there wasn't enough to go around... and they always expected that there would never be enough to go around.

But I do not believe in irreducible scarcity; I see wealth continuously expanding (with occasional brief contractions, when we all catch our breath, as we're experiencing today). I compare the rise of wealth from, say, the days of the Egyptian empire to the glory days of Rome (about 3,000 years) -- an astonishing leap of wealth; from Rome to the Renaissance (1,500 years) -- an even more staggering leap, in despite of the four-century setback of the Dark Ages; from the era of Galileo, Magellan, and Newton to that of Fulton, Maxwell, and Edison (400 years); from 1900 to 1950 (50); from 1950 to 1985 (35); from 1985 to 2000 (15); from 2000 to today (8).

I see each period being shorter, yet nevertheless yielding much greater advances in global wealth -- which correspond and track very well advances in technology, science, and intelligence (what kind of computer did you have in 1985? how advanced was your cell phone in 2000?)

Robert Anton Wilson calls this the "Jumping Jesus" phenomenon, where one jesus is the amount of wealth (information) available at the time Jesus was born: Information technologists debate how long it was until we had two jesuses (two jesae?), then four jesuses, then eight, and how many we have now; by now, we must have hundreds of thousands of jesuses, perhaps millions.

What will life be like when we have a trillion jesuses? How many of us will live to see it? Probably more than you think, right where you are sitting now.

The name for this kind of curve is exponential; and being a mathematician, I extrapolate into the future along that curve -- not in an abrupt, horizontal straight line (static analysis, which assumes no future change at all), or even in a positive-slope straight line.

No economic system ever invented (yet) can cope with the era of zero scarcity, also called the "post-economic society." Hence, I must perforce become politically non-Euclidean, as Wilson so aptly put it. (Sadly, at the end of his life -- and I will say "in his dotage" -- Robert Anton Wilson reverted to the Hugh Hefner liberalism of his youth.)

And before you get angry, Barbara, I'm not directly responding to anything you said in this section of my comment... I'm riffing off the central idea that "change is the only constant."

In Isaac Newton's day, he realized that we lacked a mathematics of change or flux; yet recent scientific observations (Galileo, Kepler) demanded one: So he invented fluxions, the first mathmatics of movement (although we know it under the name given by another mathematician who independently invented it at the same time, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and called it "calculus").

We have had many philosophies over the aeons, but they have all been static-based philosophies: They assume a changeless world, when in reality, as above, change is the only constant. We don't even have the language to discuss a philosophy that assumes constant change.

We need a calculus of philosophy -- philuxions? Only with such a calculus can we begin to create a political, social, and economic philosophy to guide us into the brave, new world we face.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2008 3:30 PM

The following hissed in response by: JenLArt

Christopher Buckley has plainly been cast at sea since his father's death; not only do we have this half-hearted, disingenuous endorsement of Obama, but he's been involved in a nasty child support case, where he refuses to pay more money for the care of his illegitimate son (a grandchild of whom even William F. Buckley said in his will, "treat this grandson as if he had predeceased me.")
The rich really are different and in the case of the Buckleys, very, very different.

The above hissed in response by: JenLArt [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2008 11:43 PM

The following hissed in response by: freebootrr

Wm. F. Buckley, Jr was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant (Infantry) through Army OCS in 1944 (when he was 19 years old) and served two years active duty (1944 - 1946). He didn't matriculate at Yale until after his army service.

He did not, however, (as Dafydd asserts) serve in combat, since the war was (more or less) over by the time he completed his training.

In one of his memoirs he mentions that he served in the military honor guard during Franklin Roosevelt's funeral in Washington in April, 1945. As far as I can make out, Buckley never left the continental U.S. while in the army.

The broader point Dafydd makes is still correct. I seem to recall that Buckley's older sister wrote somewhere that his army service was, indeed, something of a revelation for him. After years in various exclusive prep schools, he was forced to rub up against a spectrum of ordinary American folk and was the better for it.

Buckley was a patrician, but he was never a snob. It was he who famously said that he would rather be governed by the first one hundred names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard.

Also, Buckley's outlook contained an element of libertarianism from the beginning. It was not a late acquisition or foible. Buckley's father, was a good friend of the early libertarian thinker Albert J. Nock (author of _Our Enemy, The State_) and encouraged young WFB to read his works. The adolescent WFB had a friendly relationship with Nock until Nock's death in 1947, and Buckley in later years often made respectful reference to Nock's work and influence.

The above hissed in response by: freebootrr [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 12, 2008 4:46 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Thank you for the information anent William F. Buckley, jr.'s military experience; I shall make the correction instanter.

However, as far as libertarianism, I'm quite certain I never said that Buckley had no exposure to libertarianism until late in life; I said that late in life, he took to calling himself one -- as in his 1993 collection of columns, Happy Days Were Here Again: Reflections of a Libertarian Journalist.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 12, 2008 5:57 AM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

The net effect, however, of this latest example of the effects of in-breeding is a net loss to Conservatism as a political movement,and to Republicans in the voting booth.
I think if WFB's reaction to Reagan's son in betraying the Republican party and Conservatism in 2004, and know that what we see in Chris is much deeper than it appears.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 12, 2008 7:33 AM

The following hissed in response by: brutepcm

Two days before our wedding my missus -to- be went hunting and brought down a buck. The local parish priest beside her fired a second later. "I got a buck!" he cried, as her kill hit the ground. We were both in school and broke at the time, but without hesitation she said: "Nice shot!"
I married her,November 26, 1969.
We're still together.
THAT'S the sort of woman Sarah Palin is.

The above hissed in response by: brutepcm [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 12, 2008 2:42 PM

The following hissed in response by: TerryeL

I think Buckley is more worried about what dinner parties he will attend than anything else.


As for McCain being an old man and too tired or whatever, remember it was McCain who took the risk of making Palin his VP. He put her on the national stage. So all those people out there sniffing at McCain for not having enough fire in him, should remember he picked the pit bull with lip stick.

The above hissed in response by: TerryeL [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 13, 2008 4:48 AM

The following hissed in response by: Xpressions

Oh, if the liberal illuminati politicians take charge of the government, you are going to be right about one thing. That one thing is the tax issues that will create more job loss and more financial crisis for Americans struggling to make ends meet.

The above hissed in response by: Xpressions [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 20, 2008 7:32 PM

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