Buchanan Was No Longer Useful?

I have often been on the receiving end of Patrick Buchanan’s American Conservative magazine attacks, especially in the old days of the surge. I thought his book on World War II made little, if any sense. But all that said, we all must deplore that Buchanan was booted from MSNBC, and recognize why it happened now. Yes, he has another controversial book out, but most of his critics have not read it, and it is no more inflammatory than his other work. He certainly says or writes little that is any more extreme than others at that network (an Al Sharpton or Chris Matthews, for example; the former has incited violence, the latter in gleeful fashion predicted “someone” might blow up Rush Limbaugh). Buchanan’s personal life is as sterling as most in the business are suspect. Why, then, is he now a liability? During the Iraq War, Buchanan was a valuable paleo/libertarian critic of the war who helped MSNBC cement the image of an adrift Bush, and was roundly criticized by both left and right. In those days, Buchanan’s anti-Bush rhetoric on the war, and to a lesser extent on his excessive spending, was inseparable from his leftist co-guests, and allowed MSNBC to claim to be “fair and balanced.” But now, were he to continue a libertarian attack on the war in Afghanistan or the War on Terror, it would be a de facto criticism of Obama who embraced or expanded all those policies, which is why MSNBC went from covering Guantanamo as a veritable gulag to complete silence on everything from predators to renditions.

Now that there is no Bush to criticize, and given that Obama did not turn out to be a left-wing version of a Ron Paul isolationist, anything Buchanan might say about foreign policy will be critical of Obama — and he will probably say it well and often, given that he is better read, sincere in his convictions, and more informed than the other guests. The Obama agenda at home is the antithesis of everything Buchanan has ever said or written. In the network’s view, the days of Buchanan as a useful idiot are over; and now, in a changed climate, he offers no utility at all.

So a book here, a quip there — it wouldn’t matter what the written or oral pretext, since as the election heats up and Obama stays on the razor’s edge, a guy like Buchanan had become a lose-lose proposition. Note I omit any mention of fairness, loyalty, professionalism, or balanced analyses, since these are issues that matter nothing to the network; but surely Buchanan knew the transient mutually beneficial arrangements when he signed on — and which would abruptly cease when no longer beneficial to either of the parties?

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

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