On Sunday, I wrote about Matt Latimer’s misuse of Margaret Thatcher to further his view that contemporary Republicans are unwilling to entertain and appreciate thoughtful dissent. Today, I want to add a comment about one of the examples of alleged Republican intolerance cited by Latimer.
What a contrast [Thacher and Reagan were] to the so-called conservative GOP that followed them. A few years later, when Buckley questioned the wisdom of the Iraq war and George W. Bush’s 2008 surge, he was all but drummed out of the conservative movement. “If you had a European prime minister who experienced what we’ve experienced, it would be expected that he would retire or resign,” Buckley once said of Bush. For such apostasies, Bush aides threatened to ban Buckley from the radio airwaves. (I know because I was there.)
But Buckley made the comment Latimer quotes in February 2009, by which point the Bush administration was out of power and unable to “ban” anyone from the radio airwaves. Nor does Latimer explain how, even while Bush was in office, his aides could have banned Buckley from the air. I don’t see how they could have, and I doubt that anyone seriously contemplated the attempt.
Moreover, by the time of the surge (which occurred in 2007, not 2008 — how did that get by the Washington Post fact-checkers?), the Bushies had no ability to “drum” anyone, much less Buckley, “out of the conservative movement.” By then, Bush was essentially a lame duck president who had been repudiated by the voters in the 2006 elections and in the polls.
At this point, if anyone was drumming someone out of the conservative movement, it was Buckley drumming out Bush. The article Latimer cites regarding Buckley is called “Buckley: Bush Not A True Conservative.”
Generally speaking, conservatives are better served by commentary that focuses on the merits of particular policy disputes than by commentary that stridently calls foul on those with whom one disagrees for being too strident. If someone truly crosses a line, it’s worth pointing that out. But one should do so with more specificity and, more plausibility, than Latimer has done.