When Christopher Buckley endorsed Barack Obama in a column for The Daily Beast last week, news traveled fast. As he accurately predicted, “the headline will be: ‘William F. Buckley’s Son Says He is Pro-Obama.’” It reads a bit more anti-McCain than it does pro-Obama, but it is an interesting piece from a longtime McCain friend and supporter.
This campaign has changed John McCain. It has made him inauthentic. A once–first class temperament has become irascible and snarly; his positions change, and lack coherence; he makes unrealistic promises, such as balancing the federal budget “by the end of my first term.” Who, really, believes that? Then there was the self-dramatizing and feckless suspension of his campaign over the financial crisis. His ninth-inning attack ads are mean-spirited and pointless. And finally, not to belabor it, there was the Palin nomination. What on earth can he have been thinking?
Buckley opted not to air his opinions in his back-page column for the National Review, the conservative magazine his father founded in 1955; he took them to The Daily Beast instead, hoping to avoid the deluge of “foam-at-the-mouth hate-emails” that his fellow National Review columnist Kathleen Parker received when she criticized Sarah Palin (including one that, according to Buckley, "suggested that Kathleen's mother should have aborted her and tossed the fetus into a Dumpster").
It didn’t save his job, though. Just four days after the Obama endorsement, he was back at The Daily Beast to report that, in response to his own deluge of hate-email from National Review readers, he’d offered his resignation. “This offer was accepted—rather briskly!—by Rich Lowry, NR’s editor, and its publisher, the superb and able and fine Jack Fowler.” (Lowry claims that the National Review only received about 100 emails regarding Buckley’s endorsement—“a tiny amount compared to our usual volume.”)
So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, and the magazine that my father founded must now distance itself from me. But then, conservatives have always had a bit of trouble with the concept of diversity. The GOP likes to say it’s a big-tent. Looks more like a yurt to me.