In my recent article on Pat Buchanan’s dismissal from MSNBC, I stated that there had been “near universal outrage from conservatives” over the incident. VDARE’s editors added the note, “This does not include National Review, where there seems to have been complete silence.” (The link goes to a Google search of recent NR posts for Buchanan that at the time gave no results)
National Review did end up putting up a short item on the firing—see below. But I unfortunately missed a number of smears from the pseudo-Right.
At National Review, Victor Davis Hanson said we must “deplore that Buchanan was booted from MSNBC.” However, he made clear that he was no Buchananite, by prefacing this with noting “I have often been on the receiving end of Patrick Buchanan’s American Conservative magazine attacks” on foreign policy. “ (Hanson did not mention that Peter Brimelow had praised his fairly good book Mexifornia in TAC’s pages.)
Hanson then goes on to come up with an interesting theory as to why Buchanan was hired at MSNBC in the first place, and why he was fired:
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.”…
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. [Buchanan Was No Longer Useful? - By Victor Davis Hanson February 21, 2012]
This is actually not altogether crazy. While I agree with Paul Gottfried that most leftists are far too fixated on “anti-racism” to give paleoconservatives any credit for opposing aggressive wars, Pat’s old friends within the liberal establishment were certainly happy to agree with him when they had a chance.
For example, Democratic strategist and frequent Buchanan debating partner Peter Fenn defended Pat after his dismissal:
“There were plenty of disagreements, immigration and social issues for example, but plenty of times when our political analysis was in sync or our opposition to the Iraq War was equally intense.”
But even conceding that Hanson has a point, he still ignores the importance of fanatical left wing flash mobs like Media Matters and Color of Change. Their power has grown exponentially in the last few years. And, in the age of Obama, “anti-racism” is the Left’s biggest issue.
I could certainly do without Hanson calling Pat a “useful idiot.” Unfortunately, however, his analysis was far more thoughtful than some of the smears by some putative conservatives supposedly dedicated to fighting liberal media bias. You would think that these groups would defend a respected conservative commentator who was forced off of the most liberal news network after a pressure campaign from left wing groups. You would be wrong.
Andrew Breitbart’s BigJournalism carried an op-ed by Ben Shapiro, 28, Editor-At-Large of the Breitbart.com sites, attacking MSNBC not for firing Buchanan, but for hiring him in the first place. Shapiro came up with an interesting conspiracy theory: MSNBC only hired Buchanan
“because he was a racialist, anti-Semitic, radical nut job. They wanted to caricature conservatives as Pat Buchanan types, despite the fact that Buchanan had been alienated from the Republican Party for years by the time they hired him.” [MSNBC Never Should Have Hired Buchanan, Never Should Have Fired Buchanan, February 18, 2012]
BigJournalism’s editor Dana Loesch, 33, criticized Media Matters and Color of Change for their campaigns against Buchanan. But she agreed with Shapiro that Pat was “designed to be a off-putting stereotypical caricature”. Apparently, she just felt that she had to speak out because “these groups have enacted such action against numerous individuals for years, even individuals far less controversial than Buchanan.” [Controversial Pat Buchanan Forced Off of MSNBC, February 18, 2012]
BigJournalism also linked to a piece by on Pajamas Media called MSNBC Fires Antisemitic Contributor Pat Buchanan For the Wrong Reason, by David Swindle, 28. No prizes for guessing the right reason.
The Media Research Center, founded by Buchanan’s former finance Chairman Brent Bozell III, has been virtually silent on the MSNBC affair. The sole mention came from its Director of Media Analysis Tim Graham, who simply reported on the firing without condemning MSNBC or the groups attacking Buchanan.
Graham did note, however, that “Buchanan's fears about the ‘end of white America’ might seem awfully overblown.” And, while not as conspiratorial as Shapiro, he also argued that MSNBC used Pat in partly to be “a friendly sparring partner to make Maddow more ‘mainstream.’ Now they just don't care at all how radical they look.” [Pat Buchanan admits I’ve been dumped, February 17, 2012)
These Establishment conservative media watchdogs are obviously in a bind. They are too afraid (of what?) to defend Buchanan, but at the same time, they do want to attack their favorite enemies at MSNBC and Media Matters. Hence this conspiracy theory that MSNBC hired Buchanan just to make conservatives look stupid and racist.
Which of course ignores the distinct possibility that Pat was hired because he was one of the best-known and most respected political commentators in the country, who founded, some of the most popular and long lasting televised political shows—Crossfire, McLaughlin Group, Capital Gang, et cetera.
Moreover, Pat’s commentary on TV has almost always been more restrained than it has been in his books, columns, or as a guest on talk radio. If you look at the long indictments against him, virtually none of it actually comes for things he said on MSNBC. Usually he was simply giving straightforward political analysis there. But apparently that doesn’t matter,
One conservative media watchdog that has stood up for Buchanan: Accuracy in Media. Its director Cliff Kincaid (57, and can prove it) took BigJournalism and other conservative critics of Buchanan to task, noting: “Conservatives should be able to disagree with his views and conclusions, without using the language of the left to vilify him.” [Free Speech for Conservatives, February 20, 2012]
At least BigJournalism’s Dana Loesch acknowledged that Buchanan’s fate awaits other conservatives if they do not stand up against the left wing smear machine.
If they are unwilling to defend the bravest and most articulate conservative commentator of his generation, then the smaller conservative fish don’t stand a chance—they will get swallowed up.
Alexander Hart (email him) is a conservative journalist.