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Friday, September 23, 2011

National Review Chases Its Tail

At least one thing can be said about Kevin Williamson’s National Review cover story about Ron Paul: It could have been worse.

It’s not difficult to understand which candidates National Review prefers. In late 2007, the conservative movement flagship endorsed Mitt Romney and pasted a dignified, stoic looking painting of the former Massachusetts governor on its cover.

Their March 7, 2011 issue featured a boyishly handsome Tim Pawlenty in a hockey uniform. In the April 4, 2011 issue Williamson himself penned a fawning essay on the Republicans’ latest savior, Rick Perry. There the Texas governor is grinning and kneeling in his cowboy boots Captain Morgan-style which have emblazoned upon them “Liberty” and “Freedom.”

Ron Paul, on the other hand, is depicted haggardly carrying an olive branch and a cracked greenpeace shield astride a petrified-looking horse. There is no gray area over who National Review considers acceptable and unacceptable Republicans.

Indeed, the article is not as bad as it could have been. Williamson’s gripes don’t compare with Jeffrey Lord’s infamous attack piece in The American Spectator where the one-time Reagan administration bureaucrat pathetically tried to paint Paul as a neoliberal, whatever that is. Williamson has a few thoughtful criticisms of Paul’s campaign but the author does try his fair share of guilt kookery by association and a few other tricks.

Williamson informs his readers that Paul’s Iowa campaign chairman is a man named Drew Ivers. Forty years ago Ivers worked on the independent presidential campaign of John G. Schmitz and Schmitz was the father of a teacher involved in a student sex scandal. Don’t look now but here comes Reverend Wright!

Williamson’s article ends up as yet another example of why National Review is practically worthless as a bulwark against liberalism and statism. It also shows that there is no amount of Republican hypocrisy too great to keep phonies like Williamson from supporting the GOP.

The author quotes:

“’I want to totally disassociate myself from the policies that have given us unprecedented deficits, massive monetary inflation, indiscriminate military spending, an irrational and unconstitutional foreign policy, zooming foreign aid, the exaltation of international banking, and the attack on our personal liberties and privacy,’ [Paul] wrote in a letter offering advice to the Republican Party: not a letter about the Obama administration – a letter about the Reagan administration. . . .

“He still remains at odds with much of the GOP and the conservative movement, telling his supporters in Iowa that the nation is suffering from ‘too much bipartisanship – from big-spending conservatives and big-spending liberals!’ as though there were no difference.”

Williamson makes no attempt to dispute the merits of Paul’s advice and his response implies he would have had no problem were it levied at Obama. But since the “unprecedented deficits” and “massive monetary inflation” were Reagan’s nobody should be bringing this up.

But that proves Paul’s whole point about “bipartisanship from big-spending conservatives and big-spending liberals.” What does it say when Paul’s complaints twenty years ago about Reagan could just as easily be applied to Obama?

And there is no difference between big spending at home and big spending abroad. Does Williamson think Washington will police the world without policing us at home?

Williamson claims in his article that he doubts there’s “anybody at National Review who is closer to Ron Paul politically than I am,” although John Derbyshire might beg to differ. The author glosses over empire, fiat money (of which he says “Blah-blah, fiat money” ) and takes Paul to task over the income tax and for his supporters’ insufficient love for Dick Cheney. Kevin Williamson may be the closest NRchik to Ron Paul but that's like saying one is the best baseball players on Mars.

Williamson says of Paul’s Ames, Iowa speech:

“But for Ron Paul, every issue is every other issue, and his pro-life speech ended up being a foreign policy speech . . . as though sending the all-volunteer U.S. military into military action were morally indistinguishable from slaughtering the unborn in the womb . . .”

In other words, he doesn’t like that Paul’s policy positions are intertwined. Of course, Williamson wants politicians to compartmentalize their policy positions because that’s what he does. He doesn’t want a candidate that subscribes to a particular philosophy because consistently following the philosophy may lead to bucking the party line and that cannot be tolerated.

What Williamson would prefer is for Paul or any other GOP candidate to treat the abortion issue as a mere talking point. Williamson would rather candidates stick to ambiguous statements about “a culture of life” or some other non-point. If he thinks one’s position on life should bear no influence on other policy positions then Williamson can only believe abortion is a campaign talking point and nothing else.

Most of the volumes in the Politically Incorrect Guide series are excellent and very well-written but after reading this article I feel better about not reading Williamson’s contribution, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism. I hesitated to pick up his book because, and this may not have been the author’s doing, the cover depicted Karl Marx wearing an Obama “hope” button. Judging the book by its cover, it looked to me like Williamson’s tome would only be a partisan screed disguised as an instructive layman’s guide.

Indeed, his article was a partisan attack disguised as thoughtful analysis.

Carl Wicklander,
Regular Columnist, THL
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