National Review and All its Many Ways of Insulting Conservatives
The writers and columnists at National Review just had a great week. Joe Biden was inaugurated, President Trump is gone, and their writers can scratch off their calendars the upcoming rush week at the Lincoln Project frat house and get back to pretending they are conservatives. It's been four years since they last parroted the Paul Ryan/Mitch McConnell if-only-we-were-in-power shtick, and they made up much lost ground with a slew of articles critical of Biden's first days in office.
But prior to that, they collectively unloaded on the Trump presidency in a manner that dropped all pretense of detached objectivism (implausible as it was) and chortled with unrestrained glee.
Here is a recap of some of last week's articles:
1) Dan McLaughlin calls Biden’s inauguration a “day of liberation” for “conservative thinkers, planners, advocates, and policy-makers.” Great. Now they can finally get back to successfully promoting and implementing conservative ideas just like they did back in…back in…remind me again?
2) Rich Lowry mocked Michael Anton and his famous "Flight 93 Election" article, and insinuated that nobody can simultaneously agree with the core tenets of Anton's argument and oppose the Capitol riot. He called Anton's article "hysterical" (it wasn't), claimed the 2018 GOP House loss was predictable (it wasn't), and minimized Trump's achievements as "tax cuts with tariffs on top" (which would be news to Amy Coney Barrett and Qassem Soleimani, among others).
3) Matthew Continetti demanded Trump be tried immediately in the Senate, true to Stalinist form in which the verdict is already assured and just needs rubber stamping by a kangaroo court composed of the defendants' bitterest enemies. He confidently declared, "All the facts are in evidence." Except that they weren't. A few days after Continetti's allegation that Trump was responsible for the Capitol riot (which he repulsively equates with Pearl Harbor and 9/11), evidence arose that the attack was planned in advance, and began before Trump supposedly incited it.
4) Then there’s the talented yet insufferable Kevin D. Williamson, who sneered back in 2016 that poor white communities deserved to die. In his latest doubledown, which reads more like an essay contest winner for Jacobin, Williamson compares Trump’s 74 million supporters to…you guessed it…Nazis, conspiracy kooks, disease spreaders, coup planners, inbred hicks, and Saddam devotees. Yawn. Tawdry attempts to shock detractors with shopworn cliches are unlikely to drive them to some sort of humbling, come-to-RINO moment that Williamson feels they should.
5) An article, penned by a mysterious man known only as The Editors, defended the McCains against a censure from the Arizona GOP by asking, “What is the point of a political party bent on renouncing its own members”?
Good question. Had The Editors any integrity, he might have asked John McCain himself that question when he referred to his fellow Republican senators as “wacko birds.” Or when he said he regretted choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate. Or in the instance from the annals of Cindy McCain. when she banned Palin from his funeral. Or Meghan McCain when she used her eulogy to attack Trump and later tore into Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner for attending. Or when Cindy McCain spoke at the DNC at Biden’s nomination (the reward for which, it should be noted, is reportedly an offer of the ambassadorship to the United Kingdom).
But hey, let’s not renounce our own members.
6) Another article, again by that cryptic man known as The Editors, defends Liz Cheney for her “stunning act of political courage” in voting to impeach President Trump. By defending her vote as a “vote of conscience, a word and a concept that some of her critics need to reacquaint themselves with”, The Editors insinuates that Republicans who opposed impeachment are unconscionable. He launches ad hominem attacks on Republican representatives (forgetting his aforementioned exhortation not to renounce our own members).
The Editors ends his article with the declaration, “Brava.” Not “bravo,” but “brava.” See what he did there? Isn’t that clever? Because nothing says principled conservatism like cheap identity politics. Bravx!
This obstinateness at the National Review began when it stepped on the wrong rail back in 2016 with its infamous “Conservatives Against Trump” article, in which various conservative writers gave their reasons for voting against Trump. In fairness, it was during primary season, and the authors weren’t advocating a vote for Hillary. They were advocating for one of the several remaining Republican contenders.
They also were assuming the worst about Trump who, at the time, was unknown, untested, and unpredictable. Their fears ran the gambit from Trump the Dictator, to Trump the Closet Liberal, to Trump the Manchurian Candidate, all of which were legitimate possibilities at the time.
But then Trump won. And he spent four years proving to be the most successful conservative president since Reagan. Many of the Never Trumpers, as they came to be called, had the decency to admit their fears were overblown, even if they remained exasperated by his character.
But many didn't. And during the entirety of Trump's tenure, National Review took a very cowardly posture. A significant portion of its writers sat on the fence and kept their fingers in the wind. The rare times they gave Trump credit for anything, they made certain to lace their articles with cheap shots at him, the same cheap shots they denounced as classless and uncivil when Trump lobbed them at the radical Left. And as far as giving any credit to the base that ignored their warnings and voted him in? Please. They could barely contain their bile. Bill Maher has shown more empathy towards Trump voters than some of the “conservatives” at National Review.
National Review apologists will claim that what National Review did was resist the sp-called Always Trump cult by staying objective and rational, by offering Trump begrudging but qualified praise when due while still retaining the moral authority to fairly criticize his leadership deficits, Twitter rants, and personality quirks. That might have passed muster had National Review not behaved the way it did during the week of Biden’s inauguration.
National Review tried to harangue us last week from a smug, I-told-you-so posture. But nothing they warned us about in their 2016 admonition came to pass, and almost everything they shooed away in the interim as paranoia or worse has come to pass, is coming to pass, or will very shortly come to pass.
To be fair, National Review isn’t the only opportunistic weathervane which instantaneously about-face at the slightest shift in breeze. There actually is a gaggle. Here’s a short list of fellow travelers:
Bret Stephens, Jennifer Rubin, Jeffrey Goldberg, David Brooks, and Max Boot, all of whom beat the National Review to the punch by jumping the S.S. RINO long before anyone in their right mind ever thought that Joe Biden could ever be elected president of anything.
William Kristol, who went spelunking down the Cave of Incoherent Irrelevance, never to be heard from again.
David French, hyperventilating to anyone who will listen about how Auschwitz guards were Swedish masseuses compared to how American police treat black people.
Lincoln Project co-founder John Weaver, who wrongly figured that doing his best Harvey Weinstein impersonation wouldn’t be controversial if the victims were men.
Michael Medved. Who?
Alexander Vindman, a cog in the machine who felt his personal opinion on Ukraine policy overrode that of the elected president.
Jim Mattis, John Kelly, and John Bolton, all careerists whose neocon theories of permanent war are as ossified as the Marxism they once claimed to oppose. They all happily served in Trump’s cabinet until he spurned their advice on both the wisdom and morality of unconstitutionally using other peoples’ money to send other peoples’ kids to fight other peoples’ wars while hindered by other peoples’ rules.
If they constitute the Swamp, then National Review is the dishrag brochure advertising to gullible tourists that the Swamp is a great place to visit. The Swamp Cruise? Even better.
The eminent Victor Davis Hanson, David Harsanyi, and Conrad Black are the only forces keeping National Review somewhat afloat, and God only knows what inexplicable sense of benevolence moves them to do so. But like the barrels harpooned to the shark in Jaws, even their combined efforts to buoy a Leviathan bent on sinking it will inevitably fall short.
In Dante's Inferno, Virgil leads him to a group of damned souls who nonetheless have been refused entrance into hell. In Canto III, he writes:
This miserable way is taken by the sorry souls of those who lived without disgrace and without praise. They now commingle with the coward angels, the company of those who were not rebels nor faithful to their God, but stood apart. The heavens, that their beauty not be lessened, have cast them out, nor will deep Hell receive them – even the wicked cannot glory in them.
No, NR readers, I’m not comparing Donald Trump to God. I'm using the allegory to illustrate how National Review and its cruise ship effrontery is perceived by we flyover conservatives for whom Trump's 2016 victory carried very real blessings and for whom his 2020 defeat carry very real consequences. It's not an exercise in theoretical gymnastics for us, nor some virtue-signaling performance to see who can, on paper, convey the most "principle." For us, it's a matter of feeding our families, of practicing our religion, of keeping our jobs, of defending ourselves, of raising our children, and of peacefully expressing our opinions without fear of being fired, cancelled, or beaten in the street by leftist thugs. You experience none of these fears, and you loathe us for supporting the only politician in living memory who not only lent an ear to our concerns but actually followed through on his promises.
So take a break from soliciting us for money with your increasingly periodic Beg-A-Thons, and give President Trump credit for the four years he was our president, which is three years and 51 weeks longer than Kevin Williamson lasted at The Atlantic.