As someone who once counted himself as a member of the so-called Old Right, I've been curious as to how Pat Buchanan's political movement would handle President Bush's re-election. The American Conservative, the magazine Buchanan edits along with Taki Theodoracopulos and Executive Editor Scott McConnell, handled the run-up to the election in a somewhat clumsy manner; their 2004 endorsement was split five ways, with advocacy for Bush, Kerry, a couple of third-party candidates, and for complete abstention from the process itself.
Bush won the election handily, which undercut those conservatives who sought to undermine Bush using arguments lifted, in part, from the magazine's own pages. Many at The American Conservative painted Bush as an inveterate tax-and-spender and an ineffectual globalist, urging his ouster. But as the election approached, Pat Buchanan started writing his syndicated column in the voice of a mainstream Republican. As the results came in last month, I assumed that his publication would embrace reality, enter the conservative mainstream, and stop using arguments lifted from the left-wing newspapers of London, Paris, and Berlin to advance their brand of “conservatism.”
It didn't take me long to be proven wrong. Even before the Electoral College made the 2004 results official, the American Conservative was back at its Old Right tricks. In “Realists Rebuffed,” the featured story in the December 20 issue, Scott McConnell's byline made one of its infrequent returns to the magazine, bemoaning the “vulgarized neoconservatism in the saddle in Washington.” McConnell, who endorsed his boyhood chum Howard Dean and then John Kerry for President in the magazine he edits, goes on to compare neoconservatives to Nazis. “Realists,” he writes, “were like the German Jewish bourgeoisie, saying 'it couldn't happen here.'”
If such pitched rhetoric sounds familiar, it should.
The 2004 election was the Mother of All Policy Debates, and it was won handily by Bush. In the aftermath, the re-elected President made reference to his newly minted “political capital,” and he was right: Bush's reelection was a resounding vote-of-confidence and mandate. But this is beyond the understanding of American Conservative editor Scott McConnell.
“Realists Rebuffed,” the aforementioned McConnell piece, proceeds from a couple of simple assumptions. One of them is that “neoconservatism is a spent force.” The other is that “realism” [read: Isolationism] should result naturally from the “restoration of a natural order,” because the “neoconservative ascendancy was almost too bizarre to be believed.”
Translated into English, that means that the neoconservatives shouldn't have won the policy argument in the first place because, well, they aren't McConnell's kind of people. They aren't WASPs, and what's more, their foreign policy arguments are dangerous – especially in the hands of the “wrong” people.
“As alarming as the neoconservatism of Rumsfeld, Cheney, Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Danielle Pletka, and John Bolton is, more alarming is the spirit that has spread in its wake – a kind of neoconservativism without a graduate degree. You see it on certain blogs and hear it in the rants of some of the most widely listened to right-wing talk-radio hosts. If the Arabs don’t want to be democratic, we should nuke them. We have no choice but to nuke them for our own safety. It’s a vulgarized neoconservatism – no one from the American Enterprise Institute speaks like this (in public). But this talk is around in the heartland and growing, and it is wind in the sails of the new administration.”
Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Pletka – these names have been invoked time and again, and usually for no honorable reason. This case presents no exception. It's offensive, though predictable, that McConnell would participate in the time-honored “neocon Jew rollcall.”
McConnell is a gifted writer with an impressive array of publication credits. So one must assume he is serious when he compares President Bush unfavorably to Josef Stalin: “While Pinochet and Franco and for most of his reign Stalin kept within their own borders, Bush has ambitions of global scope,” which can only be set into play by “an aggressive, reckless, militarized foreign policy, viewed as lawless by much of the world.”
Scott McConnell, globalist? He's certainly come a long way from the passionate arguments he made for American sovereignty pre-9/11; this writer remembers fondly McConnell fighting the good fight against Puerto Rican statehood in 1997 when he headed the New York Post's editorial page. McConnell's argument – that statehood for the colony would be destructive to American society at large – was sound then and now, even if it occasioned his departure from the paper. He was right. American sovereignty, and the protection of the U.S. national interest, trumped all other P.C. considerations in that case. And it should in this one.
His criticisms of “neoconservatism without a graduate degree” are certainly misguided. Is McConnell claiming in Buchanan's “populist” publication that only academic credentials give someone a right to make political considerations, particularly if their top concern is to protect the American homeland?
And why should neoconservatives be the only ones held accountable for their semi-educated followrs? What about vulgarized paleoconservatism? The kind we find among people who rage that “them Jews” run everything in Washington, or that Halliburton started the war in Iraq to run up its profit ledger, or – following McConnell's lead – claim the Bush administration is populated with Jewish Nazis? Which follower is more dangerous to American interests?
Educated paleocons like Scott McConnell would rather rail against “Scoop Jackson Democrats” than confront the central issue of why democracy must be exported to the Middle East. They would rather not acknowledge America's real and formidable adversaries, rivals, and enemies. The War on Terror, fought in Iraq or anywhere else, won't end no matter how many times men like McConnell compromise themselves with vile insinuations about Danielle Pletka and the other folks at AEI. Our nation is at war, and will be until that war is won. Our sovereignty demands it, and those who insist on maintaining a moribund “antiwar” position only signal their irrelevance in future policy debates. And now they feel a need to take their frustration out on unknown bloggers in their pajamas – an ignoble end to an ignoble argument. Conservatives deserve better.