2008-10-10 15:43:09 UTC
Sorry, Dad, I'm Voting for Obama
by Christopher Buckley
October 10, 2008 | 7:33am
The son of William F. Buckley has decided-shock!-to vote for a Democrat.
Let me be the latest conservative/libertarian/whatever to leap onto the
Barack Obama bandwagon. It's a good thing my dear old mum and pup are no
longer alive. They'd cut off my allowance.
Or would they? But let's get that part out of the way. The only reason my
vote would be of any interest to anyone is that my last name happens to be
Buckley-a name I inherited. So in the event anyone notices or cares, the
headline will be: "William F. Buckley's Son Says He Is Pro-Obama." I know, I
know: It lacks the throw-weight of "Ron Reagan Jr. to Address Democratic
Convention," but it'll have to do.
Dear Pup once said to me, "You know, I've spent my entire life time
separating the Right from the kooks."
I am-drum roll, please, cue trumpets-making this announcement in the
cyberpages of The Daily Beast (what joy to be writing for a publication so
named!) rather than in the pages of National Review, where I write the
back-page column. For a reason: My colleague, the superb and very dishy
Kathleen Parker, recently wrote in National Review Online a column stating
what John Cleese as Basil Fawlty would call "the bleeding obvious": namely,
that Sarah Palin is an embarrassment, and a dangerous one at that. She's not
exactly alone. New York Times columnist David Brooks, who began his career
at NR, just called Governor Palin "a cancer on the Republican Party."
As for Kathleen, she has to date received 12,000 (quite literally)
foam-at-the-mouth hate-emails. One correspondent, if that's quite the right
word, suggested that Kathleen's mother should have aborted her and tossed
the fetus into a Dumpster. There's Socratic dialogue for you. Dear Pup once
said to me sighfully after a right-winger who fancied himself a WFB protégé
had said something transcendently and provocatively cretinous, "You know,
spent my entire life time separating the Right from the kooks." Well, the
dear man did his best. At any rate, I don't have the kidney at the moment
for 12,000 emails saying how good it is he's no longer alive to see his
Judas of a son endorse for the presidency a covert Muslim who pals around
with the Weather Underground. So, you're reading it here first.
As to the particulars, assuming anyone gives a fig, here goes:
I have known John McCain personally since 1982. I wrote a well-received
speech for him. Earlier this year, I wrote in The New York Times-I'm
beginning to sound like Paul Krugman, who cannot begin a column without
saying, "As I warned the world in my last column..."-a highly favorable
Op-Ed about McCain, taking Rush Limbaugh and the others in the Right Wing
Sanhedrin to task for going after McCain for being insufficiently
conservative. I don't-still-doubt that McCain's instincts remain
fundamentally conservative. But the problem is otherwise.
McCain rose to power on his personality and biography. He was authentic. He
spoke truth to power. He told the media they were "jerks" (a sure sign of
authenticity, to say nothing of good taste; we are jerks). He was real. He
was unconventional. He embraced former anti-war leaders. He brought
resolution to the awful missing-POW business. He brought about normalization
with Vietnam-his former torturers! Yes, he erred in accepting plane rides
and vacations from Charles Keating, but then, having been cleared on
technicalities, groveled in apology before the nation. He told me across a
lunch table, "The Keating business was much worse than my five and a half
years in Hanoi, because I at least walked away from that with my honor."
Your heart went out to the guy. I thought at the time, God, this guy should
be president someday.
A year ago, when everyone, including the man I'm about to endorse, was
caterwauling to get out of Iraq on the next available flight, John McCain,
practically alone, said no, no-bad move. Surge. It seemed a suicidal
position to take, an act of political bravery of the kind you don't see a
whole lot of anymore.
But that was-sigh-then. John McCain has changed. He said, famously, apropos
the Republican debacle post-1994, "We came to Washington to change it, and
Washington changed us." 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
All this is genuinely saddening, and for the country is perhaps even tragic,
for America ought, really, to be governed by men like John McCain-who have
spent their entire lives in its service, even willing to give the last full
measure of their devotion to it. If he goes out losing ugly, it will be
beyond tragic, graffiti on a marble bust.
As for Senator Obama: He has exhibited throughout a "first-class
temperament," pace Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.'s famous comment about FDR. As
for his intellect, well, he's a Harvard man, though that's sure as heck no
guarantee of anything, these days. Vietnam was brought to you by Harvard and
(one or two) Yale men. As for our current adventure in Mesopotamia, consider
this lustrous alumni roster. Bush 43: Yale. Rumsfeld: Princeton. Paul
Bremer: Yale and Harvard. What do they all have in common? Andover! The best
and the brightest.
I've read Obama's books, and they are first-rate. He is that rara avis, the
politician who writes his own books. Imagine. He is also a lefty. I am not.
I am a small-government conservative who clings tenaciously and
old-fashionedly to the idea that one ought to have balanced budgets. On
abortion, gay marriage, et al, I'm libertarian. I believe with my sage and
epigrammatic friend P.J. O'Rourke that a government big enough to give you
everything you want is also big enough to take it all away.
But having a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect, President
Obama will (I pray, secularly) surely understand that traditional
left-politics aren't going to get us out of this pit we've dug for
ourselves. If he raises taxes and throws up tariff walls and opens the
coffers of the DNC to bribe-money from the special interest groups against
whom he has (somewhat disingenuously) railed during the campaign trail, then
he will almost certainly reap a whirlwind that will make Katrina look like a
balmy summer zephyr.
Obama has in him-I think, despite his sometimes airy-fairy "We are the
people we have been waiting for" silly rhetoric-the potential to be a good,
perhaps even great leader. He is, it seems clear enough, what the historical
moment seems to be calling for.
So, I wish him all the best. We are all in this together. Necessity is the
mother of bipartisanship. And so, for the first time in my life, I'll be
pulling the Democratic lever in November. As the saying goes, God save the
United States of America.
"One good thing about music,
when it hits, you feel no pain."
"One good thing about music,
when it hits, you feel no pain."