I was getting pretty excited about this “National Conservatism” conference in Orlando coming up next month. Some of my favorite people are going to be speaking: Austin Ruse, Rod Dreher, Sohrab Ahmari, Daniel McCarthy, Patrick Deneen, Robert Royal, Thomas Spence, Miranda Devine, John O’Sullivan… What a lineup.
The last of these ought to be first. Mr. O’Sullivan is a longtime (and often lonely) voice for nationalism as a legitimate expression of American conservatism. He was an early champion of the Trump movement, placing DJT within the Burnhamite tradition. He was also one of the first non-Hungarians to recognize the virtues of Viktor Orbán, and his Danube Institute has done much to encourage the “Orbánophilia” sweeping the American Right today.
Mr. O’Sullivan was prophetic. He was (and is) consistent. He has never wavered from his principles, despite intense professional backlash. He has always been hated by the Swamp. That’s why his is the voice we need to hear from now.
So, yes, I was getting pretty excited about this conference. Then I saw this:
What on God’s green earth is Rich Lowry doing at a conference on “National Conservatism”? Seriously, who invited this guy?
Now, I know there are a lot of ex-Trump critics on that list. But Mr. Lowry is different.
For those who need a refresher, check out Mr. Lowry’s January 2016 appearance on The Kelly File. He went on Fox to boost his magazine’s infamous “Against Trump” issue. Here’s that Mr. Lowry had to say:
If you truly are conservative, you believe in ideas and principles. It’s not just attitudes. It’s not just who you dislike. It’s limited government, it’s the Constitution, it’s liberty. Those are the things that truly make this country special. And they are basically afterthoughts to Donald Trump.
And he seems to believe what this country needs is a really effective strongman to make the trains run on time when what we really need is the government to be cut down to size, restored to its rightful role, and then focus on the really important things like the borders and like creating the conditions for growth.
So, look. Mr. Lowry isn’t just some journalist who happened to not like Mr. Trump, but then ended up coming around. As the editor of National Review, he devoted America’s most prominent conservative magazine to an all-out war, not only on Mr. Trump, but on the principles of nationalism.
Limited government, the Constitution, and liberty: those are the only things Mr. Lowry purported to care about. But Mr. Trump also believed in reviving American industry, securing our southern border, bringing home our troops, resisting Chinese global dominance, etc. And he wasn’t going to wait until the government was “cut down to size” before he tackled those problems.
Mr. Trump’s defiance of the Buckleyite orthodoxy so incensed Mr. Lowry that he later went back on the Kelly File to gloat about how Carly Fiorina “cut his balls off” (rhetorically) during a primary debate.
Well, all right. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion (allegedly). And, as I’ve said many times before, I have more respect for folks like Bill Kristol who hated Trump in 2016 and have gone on hating him to this day. At least you know where those folks stand. (Mr. Kristol even did us the kindness of publicly swearing allegiance to the Democratic Party. Which was like throwing a coming-out party for Elton John. Dude, save it. We know.)
Anyway, that’s not Mr. Lowry’s style. In November of 2019, he came out with a book called The Case for Nationalism. It was about as convincing as July 1941’s bestseller The Case for War Against Hitler by Joseph Stalin.
Seriously, who bought that?
I’m telling you, I would have no beef whatsoever with Mr. Lowry (on this point) if he was sincere and consistent. Rod Dreher has been a Trump critic almost from the very beginning—though he always acknowledged that, on principle, “Trumpism” (national conservatism) is an improvement on the GOP’s prevailing neoconservative orthodoxy.
That’s fair. I may not see eye-to-eye with Mr. Dreher on this issue, but argues in good faith. We can have an honest disagreement.
You can’t even have an honest agreement with a man like Mr. Lowry. Whoever’s popular with Beltway cocktail-party circuit, is popular with Rich. Principles don’t matter so much as ensuring all the staterooms are booked for National Review’s annual cruise.
Once again, this isn’t about Trump vs. Never-Trump. It’s not even about nationalists vs. neocons. It’s about integrity.
Mr. Lowry fought with the Never-Trumpers for the whole of 2016. Then he switched in 2017—just in time to help himself to a share of the Trumpists’ spoils. Why would anyone, regardless of their political convictions, want to hang around with a guy like that?
This is what I call The Grift. Early on in my media career, I realized that 99.9% of journalists have no interest whatsoever in the truth. They certainly have no interest in giving a voice to the concerns of ordinary Americans.
They don’t care about you. They don’t care about me. All they care about is getting paid (about half a million dollars, in Mr. Lowry’s case ) and staying on the cocktail circuit. That’s it. And they’ll do anything to achieve those goals.
I hope the National Conservatism movement is different. I hope it’s not just another excuse for D.C. hacks to hang out in sunny Orlando, get drunk, and take home a nice fat “speaker’s fee.”
But I’m slowly learning not to trust anyone—anyone—connected with Washington or New York City. It’s like Chernobyl. The disease is in the soil. You can’t spend any amount of time there without being corrupted. Don’t even try.