August 28, 2006 IssueCopyright © 2006 The American Conservative
Patrick J. Buchanan
Home from the beach Saturday last, I picked up The Weekly Standard. Within the magazine some still regard as the parish bulletin of the Beltway Right was an essay by one Noemie Emery furiously contesting Peter Beinart’s claim to Harry Truman.
Harry belongs to us, insisted Ms. Emery. He was “heir to a great wartime president,” she wrote. Would that be the same FDR who “lied us into war,” whose regime was honeycombed with treason, who at Tehran and Yalta betrayed Poland and all of Eastern Europe to the barbarous tyrant he called “Uncle Joe”?
Freedom was “expanded by Roosevelt and Truman, who extended the welfare state,” Ms. Emery continued. Good to know.
As for Ronald Reagan, he was “an original Truman Democrat and New Dealer [who] ... brought the Truman DNA into the Republican Party with a cadre of Scoop Jackson Democrats …” To Emery, Reagan will go down in history as the Moses who led the neocons out of Egypt to the Promised Land: power. Reagan himself used to tell us Barry Goldwater was the John the Baptist of our movement.
And why is Emery “wild about Harry”? Operation Keelhaul? The defense of Alger Hiss? The loss of China to Maoism? The firing of General MacArthur? The offer to send the battleship Missouri to Russia to pick up Stalin and bring him over to respond to Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech? The “no-win war” in Korea?
No. Ms. Emery reveres FDR and Harry because they “planned, executed, and blessed a campaign so completely hair-raising that the horror remains to this day.” FDR and Truman, you see, had the true grit to do Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. And so a “conservative” magazine claims Harry for our side.
What Ms. Emery’s piece reveals is that conservatism today is as shot through with corruption as the Church of Pope Alexander VI, two of whose brood of bastards were Lucretia and Cesare Borgia.
We are in need of a Council of Trent to redefine who we are.
Still “conservative” remains a respected term and the right term for those who devote their lives to family, faith, community, and country. We ought not give up our good name to cross-dressers. As for Left and Right, they retain much of the meaning they have had since the French Revolution. And we are of the Vendée.
A few years ago, when called a “neo-isolationist,” I wrote,
Most of us ... are not really ‘neo-’ anything. We are old church and old right, anti-imperialist and anti-interventionist, disbelievers in Pax Americana. We love the old republic, and when we hear phrases like ‘New World Order,’ we release the safety catches on our revolvers.
As in New Deal days, our Cultural Revolution, and the high times of the Great Society, a conservative today must be a counterrevolutionary. While Bush’s judges and Supreme Court justices have been top of the line and his tax cuts conservative, his democracy crusade and his open-borders immigration policy, his Big Government conservatism and free-trade-über-alles globalism owe more to FDR and LBJ than Goldwater or Reagan.
But the returns are now coming in from the Bush experiment with a Rockefeller Republicanism that he calls “compassionate conservatism.”
The rising casualties and soaring costs of an unnecessary war in Iraq, an overstretched military, immense trade deficits that must bring down the dollar, the loss of sovereignty and economic independence, a bloated federal bureaucracy to which Bushites have added as much as LBJ, an unresisted invasion over our southern border, the selling of the party of Reagan to the money power—all are the marks of an empire at the end of its tether.
What can save this Republic is the restoration of authentic values and policies of conservatism, imposed at some cost and hardship upon a people who may have lost the capacity and belief in the need to sacrifice to save what their fathers gave them.
In 1968, in The Southern Tradition at Bay, some of the writings of the conservative philosopher Richard Weaver were published. In the foreword, Donald Davidson wrote that his friend had, upon reading John Crowe Ransom’s God Without Thunder, been taken with the idea that an “unorthodox defense of orthodoxy” might be feasible.
Weaver “was suddenly troubled by his realization,” wrote Davidson, that “many traditional positions in our world had suffered not so much because of inherent defect as because of the stupidity, ineptness and intellectual sloth of those who ... are presumed to have their defense in charge.”
Conservatives have seen their movement hijacked by ideological vagabonds and hustlers who are redefining it to mean what it never meant. We need to find who sold the pass. Before we can take back our country, we must take back our movement.
August 28, 2006 Issue