Chris Buckley: I’m With Obama
Would the late William F. Buckley approve of his son throwing his support behind the most liberal Senator EVER!!!?
Something tells me the answer to that would be: possibly.
Why? Because I think this has less to do with Obama and more to do with how far McCain has fallen.
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 Timesâ€”Iâ€™m beginning to sound like Paul Krugman, who cannot begin a column without saying, â€œAs I warned the world in my last column…â€â€”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 donâ€™tâ€”stillâ€”doubt that McCainâ€™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 â€œjerksâ€ (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 Vietnamâ€”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, â€œThe 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.â€ Your heart went out to the guy. I thought at the time, God, this guy should be president someday. […]
But that wasâ€”sighâ€”then. John McCain has changed. He said, famously, apropos the Republican debacle post-1994, â€œWe came to Washington to change it, and Washington changed us.â€ 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 â€œby the end of my first term.â€ 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?
Listen folks, I actually considered voting for McCain if Hillary won the nomination because I was very unhappy with Hillary’s tactics. But something tells me that I would have just sat this one out completely if McCain ran the same kind of campaign against Hillary that he has ran against Obama.
Yes, both campaigns have put out hacky ads, but the difference with McCain is that he has had very few problems going after Obama on a really low level. Sex ed for kindergartens? Suggesting that he’s buddies with terrorists? Really?
Case in point…we’re now hearing these words from his supporters on the campaign trail: “Terrorist” “Off with this head” “Treason” “Kill him”
It’s like Ann Coulter is up there with this venom, not John McCain. Seriously, it’s THAT incongruous.
And it’s not just Buckley that’s expressing these reservations. Former Republican Governor of Michigan William Milliken recently backed away from McCain’s campaign, citing this new, destructive tone…
“He is not the McCain I endorsed,” said Milliken, reached at his Traverse City home Thursday. “He keeps saying, ‘Who is Barack Obama?’ I would ask the question, ‘Who is John McCain?’ because his campaign has become rather disappointing to me.
Still, Buckley does cite some reasons why he thinks Obama will be a great leader…
As for Senator Obama: He has exhibited throughout a â€œfirst-class temperament,â€ pace Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.â€™s famous comment about FDR. As for his intellect, well, heâ€™s a Harvard man, though thatâ€™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.
Iâ€™ve read Obamaâ€™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, Iâ€™m libertarian. I believe with my sage and epigrammatic friend P.J. Oâ€™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 arenâ€™t going to get us out of this pit weâ€™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.