Kevin recalls the 1962 Palm Beach meeting at which Bill Buckley, the conservative philosopher Russell Kirk, William Baroody of the American Enterprise Institute, and then-senator Barry Goldwater sat down to discuss the problem posed by the John Birch Society. Buckley, of course, would eventually exile the society’s founder, Robert Welch, and his ideological brethren, from the conservative movement.
Things look a little different today, as the conspiracy theorists, the nuts, and the haters attempt to stamp out the conservatives and wrest control of the GOP. It’s one of the most fascinating and consequential political and ideological developments in decades.
But consider how the media, for the most part, have covered Donald Trump. Because he rates on television and drives clicks online, he has been allowed to play by his own rules: to phone in to primetime and Sunday shows while his challengers have been required to show up on set; to violate the rules of a presidential debate without consequence; and to seat reporters behind ten rows of rich windbags at self-parodic press conferences.
You’d think this would be cause for some shame in the press corps, but you’d be wrong. CBS News president Les Moonves said in late February that Trump’s candidacy “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” You know, profit over principle.
That’s why the media, both in print and in television, have devoted an inordinate amount of time to covering the Trump freak show. (Not much has changed since Tom Wolfe in The Right Stuff likened the press in America to “an animal made up of countless clustered organisms responding to a single nervous system” determined “that in all matters of national importance, the proper emotion, the seemly sentiment, the fitting moral tone should be established and should prevail; and all information that muddied the tone and weakened the feeling should simply be thrown down the memory hole.”)
Our reporting at National Review aims to do something different — to challenge some of those emotions, that sentiment, and that moral tone with deeply sourced pieces that present a clear-eyed view of what’s happening in Republican politics from the people closest to the action. It’s why we were the first to tell you about Marco Rubio’s weak ground game, and, correspondingly, his dependence on luck, narrative, and media buzz, and why we had the most comprehensive account of Ted Cruz’s victory in Iowa, predicated on a strategy that aimed to unite tea partiers and Evangelicals. It’s why we were able to poke holes in Cruz’s claims that he’ll turn out a giant conservative base in a general election, but also to sift through all the detail and figure out why a contested convention will probably work in his favor.
We aren’t operating on the theory that Trump is bad for America, but good for National Review. That means we may not be as profitable as CBS News — and that’s’ why, particularly at a time when the Birchers are threatening to seize the levers of the GOP — we’re grateful for your support.