I know Mr. Antle just promised a let-up in the Right From the Beginning references on this blog, but events beyond our control intervened over the weekend with Chris Suellentrop’s panning of Pat Buchanan’s new book, Day of Reckoning, in the New York Times. Here’s the relevant slice from the review midsection:
The self-serving nature of the book begins with its epigraph, a quotation from one of Buchanan’s previous books, to which the title “Day of Reckoning” alludes. (Yeats gets second billing, atop the introduction.) Buchanan titled one of his earlier books “Right From the Beginning,” and he’s eager to prove his prescience once more throughout this new book.
The first issue I have with this is, as anyone who read Buchanan’s books from the mid- to late nineties knows, the man can claim some bragging rights for having anticipated early millenial trends with some prescience. While I may seldom agree with Buchanan’s political prescriptions for those problems these days, I can say it’s more than a little disingenuous to shellac him as a self-obsessed man who doesn’t take stock of the world with some intellectual heft. (The 2000 presidential race notwithstanding.)
The bigger problem, though, is with Suellentrop’s interpretation of the title of Right From the Beginning, which is a great autobiography that begins…right at the beginning of Buchanan’s life. It’s probably also a play on the origins of his conservativism. What the book title is not, however, is simply another way of saying Correct From the Beginning or Right About Everything From the Beginning. And, actually, since Suellentrop clearly didn’t feel the need to dive into Buchanan’s canon for his review, it should also be noted that when he changes his mind on something–say free trade–Buchanan fesses up to it, acknowledges his past views and walks readers through the paces he walked to get to his new position. Clearly, that’s not the best way to make friends, left or right, but there is a difference between someone who is ruled by ideology and someone who challenges orthodoxy.