For a long time now, I’ve thought of George F. Will as one of the freest conservatives in America. He writes what he thinks, with abandon. He is not burdened by calculation. He simply writes what he thinks is true, letting the chips fall where they may.
He has a brilliant mind, yes, and a brilliant pen, yes. But his special ingredients are honesty and fearlessness, I think.
In The Weekly Standard, Andrew Ferguson has written a tribute to Will, called, straightforwardly enough, “The Greatness of George F. Will.” Last month, I did a podcast with Will, here. That little ’cast will give you a taste of his thought, on topics pressing and timeless.
(True, some topics are pressing and timeless at the same time.)
Will has uncorked another one: a column written with abandon, here. It begins, “With eyes wide open, Mike Pence eagerly auditioned for the role as Donald Trump’s poodle. Now comfortably leashed, he deserves the degradations that he seems too sycophantic to recognize as such.”
Speaking of corking and uncorking, this is what Will says about Senator Bob Corker, who, on deciding to retire from the Senate, found his tongue: “The axiom that ‘Hell is truth seen too late’ is mistaken; damnation deservedly comes to those who tardily speak truth that has long been patent.”
On Twitter today, I have seen two kinds of attack on Will, both coming from the Trump Right. The first is that Will is a “globalist.”
I’m not exactly sure what they mean by this. Will has always been eloquent and staunch on American sovereignty, and on the concept of the nation-state. I suspect they mean that he is too friendly to trade, too friendly to alliances, and too friendly to a leading American role in the world.
He is also too friendly, according to this view, to American ideals, which are also universal ideals, according to those of us who hold them:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
And at Gettysburg, Lincoln affirmed that we are “dedicated to a proposition.”
Populist-nationalist anti-globalists may want to note what Nigel Farage said, while campaigning for Roy Moore in Alabama. Farage, a Briton, had been in Germany, where he campaigned for the German alt-Right — the literal alt-Right, calling itself the Alternative für Deutschland (“Alternative for Germany”).
Farage told Alabamians that they needed to cast their votes for Moore, rather than the incumbent Republican Luther Strange, because “it’s important for the whole global movement across the West that we have built up and we have fought for.”
Global movement, huh? Le Pen, Orbán, and the gang? Sounds a little … globalist.
The other attack on George F. Will? It’s that he is a “dinosaur,” whose “day is over.”
Dinosaurs have been on my mind lately, and not because I’ve been to a natural-history museum. I am more interested in natural rights at the moment (and always).
Yesterday, Bill Kristol was on C-SPAN, serving as the guest on a call-in show, and one man phoned to say this:
“I used to call you guys, Mr. Kristol, ‘RINOs.’ Today I call you ‘dinos’ — because you’re dinosaurs. You’re done. You don’t even know why. You never get it, you can’t get it, you won’t get it. And good for you, you know? I’d love to see Trump reelected, and the next one after him Rand Paul. Have a good day.”
Kristol responded that he was happy to lose, as long as he went down swinging. As long as he went down fighting for the principles he believes are right and true. He also said that he never liked the charge “You don’t get it.” He first heard it from the feminist Left. They wielded it as a cudgel against those who balked at their program. Now we hear the same thing, every day, from the Trump Right.
Maybe we do, in fact, “get it” — their point of view — but have our own point of view, which is different?
Anyway, back to dinosaurs: It seems to me that conservatives — real conservatives — have always been called “dinosaurs”: relics of the past, not nearly with-it enough to “get” the present.
I’m no Russell Kirk, but I think I know this: A healthy respect for the past has always been a component of conservatism.
Tell you something light. Our great friend — National Review’s great friend, Bill Buckley’s great friend — Van Galbraith was a banker, among other things. When he was a quite senior banker, he and some other eminences had their offices in a certain wing of the bank. One and all liked to call this wing “Jurassic Park.”
Well, I’m happy to be in the park with them.
And remember this, dear ones, dear conservatives: The remnant is not just what’s left over. The last of the Mohicans. It’s the standard — the bit of fabric — by which the whole can be reconstituted.
Keep the light on.