The late William F. Buckley (1925-2008) was the voice of sane conservativism in America for decades and founder of The National Review. Do not misunderstand what I mean by “sane.” As late as the 1960s, Buckley opposed national civil rights legislation and continued to support racial segregation. In an April 2021 article about continued efforts to suppress black voting, Mississippi Free Press reporter Ashton Pittman reminded readers how little had changed since Buckley’s heyday. In a 1957 National Review editorial. “Why the South Must Prevail,’ he justified the region’s right to impose Jim Crow laws.
Millions who have the vote do not care to exercise it; millions who have it do not know how to exercise it and do not care to learn. The great majority of the Negroes of the South who do not vote do not care to vote, and would not know for what to vote if they could.
This and other misguided and un-democratic positions remain a stain on an exceptional journalistic career. What he never did was describe those who disagreed as Marxists, communists or “wannabe dictators.” Nor did he encourage storming the Capitol as Congress debated and passed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in the mid-1960s. In a 2004 Time Magazine interview, Buckley admitted he had been on the wrong side of history.
I once believed we could evolve our way up from Jim Crow. I was wrong. Federal intervention was necessary.
It is one thing to initially harbor wrong views and evolve. It is another to be dishonest and unlawful.
I thought about Buckley when I saw the headline for an op-ed essay in this month’s issue of Politico Magazine by current National Review editor-in-chief Rich Lowry. In “A Trump Pardon Could Drain Poison from the System,” Lowry argues “sparing him jail time would ease our divided politics.” Lowry is entitled to his opinion, but the case he makes is factually inaccurate and intellectually corrupt.
Lowry admits, “…based on the evidence we have now, he appears to be caught dead to rights.” He then immediately pivots to a major MAGA-world talking point.
At the same time, nothing good is going to come from the political and legal warfare inevitable with the prosecution by the U.S. government of the leader of the opposition party.
Does he deny two things can be true simultaneously? Yes, he is the titular leader of the GOP, but he is also an alleged felon. Excusing him based on his position falls into the same category of Judge Aileen Cannon’s roundly rebuked claim that as president Trump deserved special consideration.
He then compares a potential pardon to that issued by Gerald Ford to Richard Nixon. And even quotes Ford’s national address in which he explains that Watergate and the subsequent cover-up was:
…a tragedy in which we all have played a part. It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must.
Forget the fact Nixon resigned from the presidency. Did not incite violence. Or what may be the most important factor, several presidential historians believe Ford’s pardon sent a message that contributed, in no small part, to Trump’s belief he had a hall pass to ignore and violate the law. Remember, Nixon told David Frost, “When a president does it, that means that is is not illegal.” Would he have uttered these words if he had spent a few years behind bars?
Lowry does not stop there. His next argument.
The conventional wisdom is that our politics is over-heated…having a former president stand trial in a federal criminal case, and potentially spend the rest of his life in jail, is only going to make things more intense and the country more divided.
Of course, Lowry ignores the individual most responsible for turning up the thermostat.
He goes on with what Kellyanne Conway aptly describes as alternative facts.
The Trump prosecution comes against the backdrop of the years-long Russia investigation by the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller that cast a pall over Trump’s campaign and early presidency and that was based on gossamer thin, politically motivated information.
Is Bill Barr his ghostwriter? Does he simply want to ignore the 140 documented contacts between Russian officials/agents and members of the Trump campaign? Did he forget Robert Mueller was named special counsel by Trump’s own attorney general Jeff Sessions AFTER the election was over.
He then picks up on another favorite MAGA talking point. “It comes after Hillary Clinton got a prosecutorial pass over her “home brew” email set-up.” Pass? Has he forgotten FBI director James Comey held a press conference, reopened the investigation and sent letters about it to Congress in violation of two FBI procedural standards: commenting on cases when the target is not charged and doing anything that could influence the outcome within 90 days of an election. All while playing blind, deaf and dumb about the on-going Trump investigation prior to November 2016, which by he way, resulted in several convictions.
But his final argument is perhaps the most laughable.
We aren’t talking about a pardon clearing the way for another White House bid, but rather as a consolation prize for someone who is vastly diminished and looking at potentially losing his freedom, too.
Does Lowry honestly believe, even after failing to regain the presidency, Trump will go away quietly? Does he think TFG will be any less an agent of chaos? Apparently not. Someone like Lowry who claims a pardoned Donald Trump will lower the temperature is as much a threat to American democracy as the cult leader himself.
If you live within shouting distance of the Saint Bernard Cemetery in Sharon, Connecticut, the tremors you feel this morning are not earthquake related. It is Bill Buckley banging his fists on the lid of his coffin and screaming, “Who gave this idiot Lowry the keys to my classic car?”
For what it’s worth.