William F. Buckley Questions National Review on Trump - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
William F. Buckley Questions National Review on Trump

The video is old, grainy and in black-and-white. Yet there is no mistake.

There is a young William F. Buckley, Jr. citing the American columnist Franklin Adams, saying the following (hat tip: Legal Insurrection):

As Franklin Adams once said, I think the average American is a little bit above average. And under the circumstances I rejoice over the influence of the people over their elected leaders since by and large I think that they show more wisdom than their leaders or than their intellectuals. I’ve often been quoted as saying I would rather be governed by the first 2000 people in the Boston telephone directory than by the 2000 people on the faculty of Harvard University.

Catch that line? That the American people “show more wisdom than their leaders or than their intellectuals.” 

This Buckley thought, not anywhere near as famous as the line about the first 2000 people in the Boston telephone directory, came to mind as I read the assault on Donald Trump in Buckley’s legendary magazine, National Review.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have not missed the “Against Trump” symposium at NR. In which a small army of intellectuals (to borrow from Buckley) made their case. While I don’t know everyone on the list personally I do know some, and safe to say whether known personally to me or not they all have my greatest respect and admiration for their years on the front line of conservatism. This is serious business, and every single one of these signers is a good, solid concerned conservative.

They have made their case — and in making it they deserve a responsible, hopefully thoughtful response. Now let me get my switchblade. (Just kidding!)

Among the charges hurled in his direction is that Trump supported the stimulus, auto, and bank bailouts (Glenn Beck). Has “made racial and religious scapegoating so central to his campaign” (David Boaz in a particularly exasperating and baldly untrue charge — unless, of course, one is secretly a liberal). He’s an “authoritarian” (Ben Domenech) but… wait! wait! — he’s “always been a man inclined to go along” (Bill Kristol). There’s more, but the best and most honest critique was written by my friend Brent Bozell who quoted Richard Viguerie’s wisdom that the “simple test for credentialing a conservative: Does he walk with us?” And certainly the wisdom of Ed Meese, the very epitome of a Reaganite, is to be considered.

Yet in reading all of these arguments, including those not mentioned here, the Buckley praise for the average American because “they show more wisdom than their leaders or than their intellectuals” is what came to mind.

Reading Beck, I am struck that he is writing this piece in National Review. Thisis the magazine that published a December 2007 piece featuring a bold, presidential-looking Mitt Romney, bearing the equally bold-print caption: 

Mitt Romney For President: The Editors

In 1979, says ex-Reagan aide Roger Stone, he, Stone was working with Donald Trump and Trump’s Dad as the Trump father and son duo raised money for Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential bid. Where was Mitt Romney then? As noted by NPR in a discussion of Romney’s 1994 Senate race against Ted Kennedy: 

Romney was a new face in the Republican Party, too. He changed his affiliation from independent in 1993. 

Or in other words, while Donald Trump was raising money for Reagan in 1979, Romney was an independent — and would not get around to changing his party affiliation until 1993, some fourteen years later. And it was during that very 1994 Senate race a mere year after he changed his party affiliation to Republican that Romney insisted in a debate with Kennedy that when it came to abortion:

My mother and my family have been committed to the belief that we can believe as we want, but we will not force our beliefs on others on that matter. And you will not see me wavering on that, or be a multiple choice, thank you very much.

After firmly stating that he had zero intention of changing pro-abortion laws or even making an attempt to persuade Bay Staters to a pro-life position, Romney went on to state his belief on the Reagan years — mind you this is six years after the end of the Reagan-Bush years — this way:

Look, I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush…

Message received. When Romney was finally elected as governor in 2002, he certainly proved true to his word, fathering “Romneycare” — the Massachusetts health care system that would later serve as the policy Godfather for Obamacare. Yet knowing all except the election of Barack Obama that December of 2007, there was NR proudly front-paging “Mitt Romney for President.”

Then again, a governmental take-over of the American health care system is a long time goal of American liberals, as it was of Harry Truman when he addressed Congress on the issue as he advocated a single payer health care system in 1945: 

Our new Economic Bill of Rights should mean health security for all, regardless of residence, station, or race — everywhere in the United States.

We should resolve now that the health of this Nation is a national concern; that financial barriers in the way of attaining health shall be removed; that the health of all its citizens deserves the help of all the Nation.

Truman’s 1945 speech on this came three years before he won the endorsement of someone named Ronald Reagan, who gave this speech enthusiastically endorsing Truman’s “principles” on radio in 1948, wonderfully preserving on audio tape Reagan as Bernie Sanders railing against corporations and a big oil company etc., etc., etc. I guess things changed. But like Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan too once believed in a single payer health care system.

Things seem to have changed as well for Bill Kristol. Once upon-a-time he was a big supporter of John McCain for president, Senator McCain the McCain half of the legendarily anti-First Amendment McCain-Feingold. Note well that when the Supreme Court in Citizens United upended McCain-Feingold it was saying no to a law bearing McCain’s name as co-sponsor, voted into law in a “bipartisan” fashion and signed into law by President George W. Bush. How conservative were McCain, those Republicans supporting McCain-Feingold, and Bush himself in signing McCain’s bill into law? McCain, honorable soul that he is, is no one’s idea of a conservative.

One could go on. There was that NR tirade against Newt Gingrich during the last presidential-go round, with Rich Lowry writing of this Reaganite Speaker of the House:

His volatility makes it impossible to make any statement about him as a general-election candidate with assurance. Will he enthuse the Republican base? Yes, right up to the moment he stops enthusing it with some jarring provocation. Will he beat President Obama in the debates? Yes, right up until he makes an ill-tempered comment that washes away all his impressive knowledge and brilliant formulations. Will he be the bipartisan healer, the partisan bomb-thrower, or the post-partisan big thinker? Yes, yes, and yes. All that is predictable about Newt is that he is unpredictable, and, irresistibly, an election that should be about President Obama and his record will become about the heat and light generated by his electric performance. That’s the way it was as speaker, too. Eventually, he wore out his welcome in epic fashion. Benjamin Franklin said any houseguest, like a fish, stinks after three days. With the public and his colleagues, Gingrich became the houseguest who would never leave.

Later on in the cycle, as the NR pro-Mitt, anti-Newt business rose a few decibel notches, there was an NR piece by Elliott Abrams that attempted to paint Newt as somehow a frothing Reagan critic. I answered it here but suffice to say, as someone who dealt with Newt often enough in those days I was astonished at the idea that NR — in service to Mitt Romney the “I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush” independent-till-1993 cause would even think of making such a bold charge against Gingrich when there were so many people alive and well (Nancy and Michael Reagan, Ed Rollins and me, just for starters) who were there in the day to speak to the contrary. Be that as it may, there it was.

Perhaps most egregious is the Boaz piece that talks of Trump’s “greatest offenses against American tradition and our founding principles are his nativism and his promise of one-man rule.” Boaz apparently deliberately misrepresents Trump’s position on immigration, portraying him as follows:

Trump launched his campaign talking about Mexican rapists and has gone on to rant about mass deportation, bans on Muslim immigration, shutting down mosques, and building a wall around America.

First, Trump was talking about illegal immigrants in his campaign launch, not legal Mexican immigrants. And second, it is a fact that illegals have crossed the border and committed rape. As documented here by Judicial Watch — coincidentally this story appeared the very same day Trump announced for president on June 16th of 2015 — with this headline:

Illegal Alien Rapists, Child Molesters Freed in U.S. Instead of Deported

Reported Judicial Watch in part:

The offenders are “dangerous and predatory individuals who should not be prowling the streets,” the prosecutor says in the article. “In fact, they should not be in the United States at all.”

Over at Fox News there was this story with this headline months before Trump announced for President: 

U.S. Border Patrol: Arrests of sex offenders crossing Texas border spike

U.S. Border Patrol agents in one part of Texas have noticed a disturbing trend: a spike in sex offenders trying to sneak in to the country illegally.

KRGV-TV said just in the past five months, agents from the Rio Grande Valley Sector apprehended 144 sex offenders crossing the border from Mexico. In the same period last year agents in the valley nailed 93 sex offenders trying to slip into the U.S.

The sector covers Rio Grande City to Brownsville on the border. It also includes Corpus Christi.

The station, in a report Friday, said apprehensions in December included a woman from El Salvador with a 2009 child sex assault conviction and three sex offenders who were Mexican nationals.

In February seven sex offenders were rounded up near McAllen, Harlingen, Falfurrias and Kingsville.

Less than a week later another two sex offenders were caught. A few days ago two Guatemalan men convicted of sex crimes were arrested.

Early in the month, border patrol in another border sector in South Texas, Del Rio, apprehended two convicted sex offenders.

This is but one story — there are plenty more out there like them. As the saying goes, Boaz is entitled to his opinion on Trump, but not his own set of facts.

Yet all of this and a vast information dump over the years on this subject seems to have escaped the attention of Mr. Boaz. Trump is not, as Boaz asserts, suggesting banning Muslim immigration. He is rather suggesting the sensible. In a nation composed 100% of the descendants of immigrants — with Trump himself the son, grandson and husband of immigrants — if there is an immigration problem with X, does it not make sense to stop and understand what is going on before continuing? Does Boaz seriously suggest that in investigating the murders of, say, civil rights leader Medgar Evers or the three civil rights activists killed in 1964 Mississippi that no attention should be paid to the white guys in the Ku Klux Klan? Or that in looking into the Mafia U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani should have started with Brits and the National Organization for Women? This is the height of political correctness — the contempt of which by Bill Buckley’s average Americans is now providing the rocket fuel for the Trump campaign.

To their credit — and I might add typically of National Review — they provided an opposite view from the not-quite-sold-on-Trump Mark Krikorian, who said in part this:

I think Erick Erickson was the only contributor to the symposium who said he’d vote for Trump in the general election; no one admitted they’d prefer Hillary in the Oval Office, though John Podhoretz suggested as much in a twitter exchange. (Separately, Ian Tuttle has explained why he’d vote for Trump in November.) I’ll vote for Trump if he’s nominated and hope for the best, but I can see why someone would decide differently (an easier call if you’re in a state where the outcome is a foregone conclusion). But such a decision means you think Hillary (or Bernie) would be less bad for the country than Trump — and that would be important for readers to know. Your grocery clerk or accountant are under no obligation to disclose their political biases; but those of us who are paid to bloviate on politics are. Idea: Another symposium after the GOP nominee is formally anointed at the convention in July, this one entitled “Against Trump?”

Krikorian has it right. If Trump is nominated — are all these good folks still against Trump? In fact, ex-Bush 43 aide Peter Wehner has answered that question for himself and said “yes” on the pages — note well — of the New York Times.

Respectfully, I understand the disagreements here. As Mark Levin — who has done a superb and fair job of questioning the reasoning of Trump supporters like myself — the object here is to discuss, not destroy. I want National Review to thrive, not die. Kudos to the discussion.

But in all candor, when leaders of the conservative movement have eagerly embraced John McCain and Mitt Romney, tried to deny Newt Gingrich his very real Reaganite record acknowledged by those of us who were right there in the day, who believe in open borders and engage in political correctness and (Bushies this means you) campaign and govern on what Barry Goldwater called the “dime store New Deal” (can you say No Child left Behind and “compassionate conservatism”?), then what Mark Krikorian also says in his NR piece is completely understandable. That would be this:

Dr. Frankensteins say beware of monsters. The editorial and several symposium contributors were clear that voters have good reason to be outraged at the serial betrayals by the Republican political class, even if Trump is the wrong vessel for that outrage. But a few of the contributors have helped perpetrate those betrayals — they’re part of the reason that Trump resonates with so many voters, and I’m loath to take their advice on dealing with the problem they helped create.

For the record — as here in my book (spoiler alert: shameless self-promotion here) What America Needs: The Case for TrumpI have not the slightest hesitation to make the case for Donald Trump.

But with the greatest respect to Donald Trump’s critics — my friends at National Reviewwhen it comes to being Against Trump — I dissent. More to the point, so do many Americans. Those Trump dissenters out there in those “yuge” Trump rallies being filled, in my view, with Bill Buckley’s “average American” who “is a little bit above average” and who shows “more wisdom than their leaders or than their intellectuals.” They aren’t just angry — many of them are disappointed with the conservative movement.

And I understand why.

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com. His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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