Et Tu National Review?

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

The National Review was founded in 1955 by William F. Buckley, Jr. It defined its’ purpose in a statement of intentions:

“Middle-of-the-Road, qua Middle of the Road, is politically, intellectually, and morally repugnant. We shall recommend policies for the simple reason that we consider them right (rather than “non-controversial”); and we consider them right because they are based on principles we deem right (rather than on popularity polls)…”

Bill Buckley, the son of an oil baron, was born to wealth and privilege. He was a lieutenant in the Army from 1943 until 1945 when he entered Yale and became a member of Skull and Bones, along with future President George H.W. Bush. In 1953 Buckley became prominent for his book “God and Man at Yale”. So when he founded the National Review he was already prominent in Conservative circles. Oh yes, it should be mentioned he was a CIA field agent under E. Howard Hunt, from 1951 through 1953.

“George H. Nash, a historian of the modern American conservative movement, believed that Buckley was “arguably the most important public intellectual in the United States in the past half century… For an entire generation, he was the preeminent voice of American conservatism and its first great ecumenical figure.”[6] Buckley’s primary contribution to politics was a fusion of traditional American  political conservatism with laissez-faire economic theory and anti-communism, laying groundwork for the new American conservatism of U.S. presidential candidates Barry Goldwater and President Ronald Reagan“.,_Jr.

Whether you like the National Review or not, you must admit that it is the single most important magazine of the Conservative movement in America and has been so since its’ founding. As you can see from their mission statement above they claim to eschew popularity and polls, serving higher priciples. I was therefore interested to come across a story this week that calls into question their true dedication to higher principles, or perhaps one of their principles is merely naked greed.

Nation of Change, an informative progressive web news outlet, ran a story by Lee Fang, their investigative reporter. The story dealt with cash donations given to the National Review, by PhRMA the lobbying entity of the pharmaceutical industry:  The story discloses that PhRMA  gave the National Review Institute $205,000 in 2009. This institute is the non-profit that supports the magazine. This amount constituted about one third of the institute’s income in 2009.

The time period in which PhRMA made its contribution coincided with helpful political attacks emanating from the pages of the National Review. The National Review took a leading role demonizing a cost-saving proposal from the Obama administration that could diminish millions, if not billions, in pharmaceutical company profits. In 2009, President Obama fought to deliver reform by cutting some of the waste out of the health care system. His first signature accomplishment, the stimulus, contained some initial funding of Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER). CER would set up an independent body to develop a system to find the best medical outcomes, and in doing so, save up to $700 billion by some estimates in annual health spending. PhRMA recognized quickly that CER would most likely steer medical professional towards prescribing more generic medications over branded drugs, thus slicing a sizable share of corporate profits“. 

PhRMA also launched at series of attack ads at this time all aimed at ensuring that the government not put in place these restraints on their huge profits. This is a sad, yet telling tale, of the real motives behind the modern Conservative movement, as exemplified by its most respected institution.

The thrust of the article demonstrates intertwining of the modern Conservative movement with the needs of the most powerful corporations. Going back to the quote from conservative historian Nash above:” Buckley’s primary contribution to politics was a fusion of traditional American political conservatism with laissez-faire economic theory” we can see the changes that have been made to old fashioned American conservative belief by this  overlay of a doctrine of corporate laissez-faire. For 56 years the National Review has gradually reshaped Conservative thought from one of protection of the founding principles of this country into a pro-corporate rooting section. As the world’s economy has evolved this pro-corporate stance has further evolved into a pro-multinational corporate stance. In essence this movement no longer focuses on the needs of the United State of America, but instead caters to the “Captains” of “The New World Order”.

It might be noticed that nowhere above did I use the term business. This was intentional on my part because I’d like to make the further point that the modern Conservative movement is essentially an anti-business operation. In order for Capitalism to be a workable economic system it requires a dynamic market. The dynamics must mean that people with ideas, entrepreneurs if you will, must be free to enter the market at even a rudimentary level and thus be free to succeed or fail, based on the novelty of their innovation and/or the quality of product and/or service they deliver. When one talks of businesses and markets it should include the entire spectrum of the marketplace, not just those corporations who have become gigantic by absorbing less wealthy entities. The multi-national corporations by their nature stifle a free marketplace and in truth inhibit rapid innovation wherever they can.

This is the change that Bill Buckley has wrought, an American movement whose leaders no longer strive to uplift their country. Though to be charitable, I’m not sure he foresaw where the movement he set in motion was going, in the end he must share the damnation. This damnation that is responsible for the decline of this country and the uplifting of a Multi-National Corporate Empire.

43 thoughts on “Et Tu National Review?”

  1. I think the National Review and Buckley were and always have been about marketing a form of Fascism (per Mussolini) that was palatable to American reactionaries.

  2. “Sounds an awful lot like Andrew Sullivan”


    I respect Andrew Sullivan although I have many disagreements with his take on government. However, if he represented mainstream conservative thought, there would be much room for reinvigorating our political system.

  3. OS,
    I agree with your statements concerning the Republican Party. Goldwater and Reagan would be too moderate for this bunch.

  4. OS, “The modern republican party is no longer a political party. It has become a religious movement.”

    Sounds an awful lot like Andrew Sullivan, a conservative, who says something like that every day in his blog “The Dish”.

  5. Regarding red pencil errors in a text … I speed read so I never really notice them.

  6. I have to chime in: Great post Mike!
    I agree that Mr. Buckley was an intelligent man to some degree, but he couldn’t have been too smart if it took him decades to decide that the Civil Rights movement was a just movement that was long overdue.

  7. “He has the eyes of a child who has just displayed a horrid use for the microwave oven and the family cat.”‘ (David Remnick on Buckley) Washington Post)

  8. What anon nurse said. Mike is one of the sharpest minds around here, and a fine gentleman to boot. I recall reading a study by some school psychologists that found an inverse relationship between skill at spelling and high IQ.

    Also, Leonardo Da Vinci was dyslexic and Einstein once commented that he was not all that good with simple arithmetic.

    I have no comment on the need for some people to correct the grammar of others publicly on the front page. That is what the corrections page is for.

  9. There are three good things I can say about Buckley:

    1. He despised Ayn Rand
    2. He eventually backed off of his white supremacy stance
    3. He’s dead

  10. Blouise,

    He was a brilliant sounding speaker, empty of real content. I love how he pronounced negro as “nigro”. So close to the southern pronunciation and, odd coming from a man who took such pride in his elocution. Also how condescending his tone to a man who was at the very least his intellectual equal and who was a far, far better writer. As to civil rights:

    “Q: Did he ever recant his opposition to the civil rights movement? —Chris

    A: Yes, he did. He said it was a mistake for National Review not to have supported the civil rights legislation of 1964-65, and later supported a national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom he grew to admire a good deal, above all for combining spiritual and political values.”

    From the same NY Times article I linked in my previous comment.

  11. Wanda,

    I once worked with a guy who couldn’t spell…and, yet, he was once of the brightest people I’ve ever known. It was then that I had to admit to myself that there is sometimes an inverse relationship between spelling, punctuation,etc. and intelligence.

    Arrogance is so damned unbecoming.

  12. I highly recommend that entire series of the debate between Baldwin and Buckley … it fits quite well into today’s situation of “military/para-military supremacy”

  13. Gore Vidal loved to egg him on “Just shut up a minute” … 😉

    Here’s a really great example of talking, talking, talking and saying nothing. (warning … this is the “white supremacy” Buckley at his very best)

  14. Wanda,

    I’ve confessed here years before that while learning the elements of grammar in school, my mind was elsewhere, if indeed I was even in class.

  15. Blouise,

    Thank you for the clip. I remember it well. It is interesting that near the end Buckley defends himself by wrapping his infantry service in WWII around himself like a flag, against Vidal’s charge of NAZIism. Here is the truth of his military service:

    “Q: Am I wrong in thinking that Mr. Buckley served as an infantry company commander in World War II? If so, in what unit and in which theater of operations did he serve? —Hillard Gordon

    A: He served in the U.S. Army but did not make it overseas. He did, however, oversee a sexual hygiene operation on a base in Texas.”

    It would seem that Mr. Buckley was not above dissembling the truth when it
    came to protecting his image. My guess is Gore Vidal would have kicked the crap out of him. Incidentally, my surmise is that Buckley hated Vidal, not only for his sexuality, but because he saw Vidal as a traitor to his patrician

  16. From the article: “It defined its’ purpose.”

    It’s = it is.
    Its = of it.
    Its’ = I stop reading,

  17. “I could never understand a word the guy said.” -Blouise

    Nor could I, Blouise.

    (The perfect clip, mespo.)

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