The Good And Bad Sides Of WFB

Jeremy Lott is interviewed on the book he wrote about William F Buckley:

Did Buckley’s anti-communism during the Cold War hide, to a degree, his more libertarian side?

WFBMarioTama:Getty To a degree, it did. When you are concentrating on using one national security apparatus to grind down another, more threatening one, you are going to appear less libertarian.

But there’s also the fact that his libertarian side emerged from a political theory, dubbed “fusionism,” that was really developed in the 1960s. Fusionism said virtue that is coerced is not virtue, and so government should get out of the virtue-promotion business. This eventually inspired his call to end the war on drugs, but it took awhile.

How is the National Review of today different from the magazine WFB created and ran for so many years?

It’s more reliably Republican. In 1956 and 1960, NR declined to endorse the GOP nominee, and Buckley regularly criticized Eisenhower and Nixon. That started changing in 1968 when the magazine threw its weight behind the Nixon-Agnew ticket. In 2008, it endorsed Mitt Romney in the primaries and John McCain in the general.

And on a critical moment in NR history:

How significant (both short and long term) was the damage from the ill fated NR Civil Rights editorial? The almost immediate reversal seems to be forgotten.

I was shocked to learn that National Review’s stance in favor of barring blacks from the ballot lasted for only one issue. In the very next issue, NR reversed itself. And yet this is often cited as some long-standing policy of the magazine. Very odd.

It did a lot of damage, obviously. It helped defenders of the Civil Rights Act to brand all of its critics as racists. The professional anti-racists really haven’t changed their script since.

Another way to put this is that by publishing its abhorrent editorial, National Review managed to illustrate that much opposition to the Civil Rights Act was racist. But I have to say I never realized it was reversed a fortnight later. Pretty staggering I didn't know that. My fault, of course, but I wonder how many others remain under the impression that the magazine stood by its civil rights low-point (until the era of gay equality, that is)?

(Photo: WFB by Mario Tama in 2005.)