Politics & Policy

Conservatism vs. crudity, &c.

National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr.
The nature of the Right, a Nobelist in physics, a college football game, and more

A Fox Sports personality went on a CNN show and said, “I’m a First Amendment absolutist. I believe in only two things completely: the First Amendment and boobs.” The anchorwoman could not quite believe what she was hearing. The Fox guy confirmed it. And the anchorwoman cut short the segment.

On Twitter, many conservatives — or many on the right, let’s say — exploded in joy. The Fox guy had struck a blow against political correctness. And he had done it on that Fake News network, CNN.

A lot of us, for many years, have been campaigning against political correctness, which is a scourge of the land. But the opposite of PC is not boorishness and vulgarity. (Maybe I should say boobishness?) And if conservatives don’t stand for good manners and decency, who will?

National Review’s founder, William F. Buckley Jr., labored for decades to disassociate conservatism from crudity. Under his leadership, conservatism acquired something of a reputation for elegance, erudition, and panache. And a lot of people aspired to be like WFB.

Now, he was no violet. Far from it. He could be very aggressive, very sharp-elbowed. I often remind people that there was a reason he called his TV show “Firing Line.” Toward the end, yes, it got rather genteel. But, throughout his life, WFB could be as slashing as he was charming.

Always, he prized good manners. Sheer decency. On one episode of Firing Line, a right-wing type was rude to another person. WFB swatted him down like a slow, fat fly.

While swatting, Bill was cool. But one time, he lost his cool on television — lost it badly. That was in his famous showdown (1968) with Gore Vidal. His fans often brought up this incident to him, excitedly. I observed this several times. And nothing could make Bill change the subject faster.

He was deeply ashamed of that moment. He never repeated it. His fans, some of them, may have thought it a high point — but he regarded it as a low point.

Conservatism has many aspects, obviously, but, traditionally, they have included self-restraint and respect for others — even a dash of chivalry. Is belligerence the conservative style? Crudity? Loutishness? A lot of people think so, on left and right.

Consult those of us who have received hate mail — and hate tweets, and hate “comments” — from the Trumpite-populist-nationalist Right. These attackers often question our … manhood, let’s say. And their message — in cleaned-up language — is “Grow a pair, ya big [rhymes with wussy].”

In recent years, I have noticed that political perception is bound up in style. I particularly noticed this during the 2012 Republican primaries. The more belligerent or crude a candidate was, the more “conservative” he was held to be.

Rick Santorum pushed a manufacturing policy. Mitt Romney pushed a free economy, saying he would not “pick winners and losers.” Santorum bludgeoned Romney for not supporting the federal government’s bailout of General Motors (“a slap in the face to every Michigan worker”). (Romney had favored a normal bankruptcy procedure.)

And who was judged the more “conservative” candidate? Santorum. Why? Style. Romney was often slammed as a wimp and a priss.

Recently, I heard a panel of conservatives. One said that Romney was no conservative. Another said that John McCain was no conservative. But Donald J. Trump? Listen, he could nationalize industry and institute single-payer health care, and much of the Right would regard him, and hail him, as a conservative.

Anthony Daniels, the writer who sometimes works under the name “Theodore Dalrymple,” has said this: “Trump, by his crudity, will wind up strengthening the forces of political correctness.” Possibly. And what a rotten outcome that would be.

Are there worse things in the world than saying “boobs” on television? Why, of course. I say worse things every hour (though not on television). I believe in “Lighten up.” I also believe in judgment and taste — in time and place. And I don’t think the Fox guy’s ode to boobs should be celebrated as some conservative victory.

‐Back to Twitter: Someone retweeted a tweet by Donald J. Trump from December 2014. The soon-to-be president wrote, “Obama has admitted that he spends his mornings watching @ESPN. Then he plays golf, fundraises & grants amnesty to illegals.”

You know what they say: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

‐Have another tweet — this one by Sebastian Gorka, late of the White House. Gorka wrote it last month:

#FAKENEWSindustrialComplex — & all others who don’t believe in #MAGA — have no idea what’s about 2 happen.

Buckle up Establishment!

Given the president’s recent deal on DACA and immigration with “Chuck and Nancy” — Schumer and Pelosi — does the president “believe in #MAGA”? Has he joined the “Establishment”? Does he wish to please the “#FAKENEWSindustrialComplex”?

In the wake of DACA-gate, Trump has sought to reassure his “base.” Here is his message on the “Official Website of Donald J. Trump for President”:

Let Me Be Clear

We will BUILD A WALL (not a FENCE) along the southern border of the United States of America to help stop illegal immigration.

Liberals in Congress and the Fake News media need one more reminder that building the wall is non-negotiable.

Contribute now and together, we WILL Keep America Safe!

There was a Disney song: “Someday My Prince Will Come.” Perhaps this Wall will come, someday. I wouldn’t wait up nights, frankly. I have a feeling the Wall was the most classic “boob bait” in the history of boob bait.

(Has that word appeared in this column before? In a different context?)

‐The following joke makes no sense in the digital era, but, in the past, it was a winner: Did you hear about the man standing in line at the Kodak store? He was singing, “Someday my prints will come.”

‐With the White House, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R., Kremlin) has tried to arrange a pardon for Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks villain. Word of his efforts was leaked. Rohrabacher was upset about the leak.

Which is odd, given that the very word “leak” is in “WikiLeaks.”

One of the strangest developments — of many — in our politics of late has to do with WikiLeaks: Not so long ago, the Left generally defended it and the Right generally attacked it. Now you see the opposite. Rohrabacher is an ally of Assange and WikiLeaks. So is Nigel Farage. So are other stalwarts of the Right. Assange has been treated with great respect on Fox News.

The Right was right the first time, really.

And you recall what Donald Trump said in the middle of the 2016 campaign: “I love WikiLeaks!”

All conservatives denounce Chelsea Manning, the traitor-traitoress — but to whom did she give the intel? Why, to WikiLeaks, of course. I wonder whether this dissonance is felt by the pro-Assange Right.

‐On Thursday, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain, tweeted this: “America’s now losing more troops in training than in combat. This is madness. We must repeal sequestration & rebuild the military.”

I agree.

‐I loved reading about Nicolaas Bloembergen, an American physicist, born in the Netherlands, who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1981. He died earlier this month at 97.

Get this: “He graduated from the municipal gymnasium as valedictorian in 1938, giving his speech in white tie and tails. Little did he know that he would wear the exact same suit to accept, at 61, a Nobel Prize in Stockholm many years later.”

I loved that detail.

‐I have a new favorite name. It belongs to the British air marshal who was just elected the senior military officer of NATO. He is Sir Stuart Peach.

‐On the subject of names: National Review has David Pryce-Jones. The Michigan football team has Donovan Peoples-Jones. I’m a big fan of them both.

‐On Saturday, Michigan played Air Force, and Michigan won, as expected: Michigan is a highly ranked team, Air Force is not even close. But Air Force played very well and gave Michigan a hell of a fight. Indeed, Air Force could have won the game.

Afterward, a Michigan defensive end, Chase Winovich, had a comment: “I feel bad for the terrorists those guys are eventually going to go up against.”



Rudeness is Not a Conservative Principle

Political Correctness is Killing Honest Discourse

Trump and Lena Dunham: Political Correctness in a House of Mirrors

A word from the National Review Store: To get Digging In: Further Collected Writings of Jay Nordlinger, go here.


The Latest