GLEN COVE, NY — In August 1945, Time
a letter from William F. Buckley, Jr., that made a connection between
Catholicism and anti-communism. Buckley eventually became chairman
of the Yale Daily News and founder of National
Review, the catalyst
for late-twentieth-century conservatism. Many people believe that the
magazine’s mission ended with the
election of Ronald Reagan as President; the truth is that its mission
faded long before that.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, many social scientists viewed
American conservatism as a product of a Calvinist “Protestant
ethic” and viewed Catholic social teaching as requiring statist
measures such as minimum wage laws and land redistribution. Furthermore,
they considered American conservatism to be the exclusive product of
eighteenth-century liberalism and saw contemporary liberals as the
heirs of Burke and Hamilton.
Catholics played a strong role in founding National
challenged these views. The new magazine created a synthesis of free
enterprise and tradition. Buckley skillfully employed incisive analysis
and biting commentary to expose the absurdities of contemporary liberalism.
Morrie Ryskind and Aloise Heath wrote brilliant humorous articles.
Russell Kirk articulated the roots of our culture. Frank Meyer put
forward a rigorous explanation of the relation between liberty and
tradition under our Constitution. L. Brent Bozell, with his uncompromising
opposition to tyranny, was in some ways the best of the lot.
Something started to go wrong as early as 1961. The Blessed John
XXIII, concerned about the danger posed to the Church by increasing
rejection of its teaching authority, published his encyclical, Mater
et Magistra, defending that authority. Buckley criticized the encyclical
in National Review, charging that it did not address the real problems
of the day. He termed it a “venture in triviality.” Although
he had a clear right to do this, the liberal press tried to paint his
criticism as apostasy.
Buckley, who seems to have never really been interested in the internal
affairs of the Church, had simply missed the point. His real mistake
was to have Garry Wills write a book-length defense of him. Wills eventually
became one of the major rebels against the Church’s authority;
under his influence, National Review began to become a home for dissident
Catholics, especially on the issue of contraception.
In 1964, Barry Goldwater was nominated for President and lost badly.
In retrospect, many conservatives believed that they had tried to take
in one bite what they might have attained if they had tried two bites.
For this approach and other reasons, Nixon was elected President in
L. Brent Bozell left National Review and in 1966 founded a strongly
Catholic and strongly conservative magazine, Triumph. In 1969, Triumph published a two-part series called “Letter to Yourselves.” In
the series, Bozell argued that the conservative movement had embraced
Nixon and abandoned anti-statism, nationalism, anti-communism, and
constitutionalism. National Review did not even wait for the second
part of the series before launching a scathing attack on Triumph.
This argument not really about anti-statism, nationalism, anti-communism,
and constitutionalism; it was really about National Review.
National Review was creating a form of conservatism that would be acceptable
around the fashionable dinner tables of Fifth Avenue and Georgetown.
Sensing that Bozell had seen through it, National Review struck out
Over the years, National Review tended to make peace with American
degeneracy. In the process, it chased away a number of real conservatives
in the traditions of Taft, MacArthur, McCarthy, Bricker, and Thurmond.
One such person was Pat Buchanan, a conservative who understands
and appeals to the American people. While Buchanan does not fully appreciate
all the consequences of his tariff policies, that was not National
Review’s objection to him. Instead, the magazine engaged in a
campaign of defamation and falsely tried to depict him as prejudiced
Similarly, National Review fired Joe Sobran, one of today’s
best writers and soundest Catholics, pulling out the same false charges
of anti-Semitism. The magazine also fired Ann Coulter. Her offense
was that she exposed the lies of liberalism with sarcasm. Indeed, she
speaks much like Buckley had when he was as young as she.
National Review may be the favorite conservative magazine of the
ruling class, but to true conservatives it is the real venture in triviality.
The Confederate Lawyer column is copyright © 2010
by Charles G. Mills and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com.
All rights reserved.
Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the
New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in
many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles
about the law.
See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.
To sponsor the FGF E-Package, please send a tax-deductible donation
Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation
P.O. Box 1383
or donate online.