National Review's Weird Endorsement of Romney

by John Seiler by John Seiler


In one of the weirder endorsements in recent memory, National Review backed ex-Gov. Mitt Romney for president – while explaining why he and the other pro-war GOP candidates should not be elected. Anti-war Rep. Ron Paul isn't mentioned by name at all, but his presence lurks everywhere.

The endorsement's second paragraph begins, "Our guiding principle has always been to select the most conservative viable candidate." But this is flatly wrong.

In 1972, NR endorsed John Ashbrook, the Ohio senator who opposed President Nixon's socialism and detente. Ashbrook never had a chance against an incumbent who went on to win a landslide that November. (Ashbrook is not to be confused with Bush's Vyshinsky, John Ashcroft.) It turned out Nixon's approach to the Soviets was right, but his wage-and-price controls and going off the gold standard were, and remain, disasters. "No vote for John Ashbrook will be wasted," NR insisted.

And in 1992, NR endorsed Pat Buchanan's campaign against President Bush Uno, even though Pat never had a chance of winning in the primaries.

In 2008, Ron Paul is not just a maverick running against a sitting president, as were Ashbrook and Buchanan, but a maverick in a crowded field with a great chance of winning the whole burrito. He also has a much stronger base of enthusiastic supporters than had either Ashbrook or Buchanan. And the Internet, that catalyst of liberty, has given Paul a fighting chance.

Of course, Paul isn't a "conservative," whatever that means nowadays, but a libertarian. But the unstated key for NR is that he isn't in thrall to the "neoconservatives" – that is, "ex-"Trotskyists or other "ex-"Leftists covered in a veneer of Wilsonian hyper-interventionism.

So in this NR endorsement, Paul is a non-person, stuffed down the Orwellian memory hole. The closest NR's editorial comes to mentioning him is when it says, "Since almost all of the candidates have the same foreign-policy principles, what matters most is which candidate has the skills to execute that vision."

"Almost all" means not Ron Paul. And "that vision" means the nightmare of endless wars of conquest and domination, leading to the further and perhaps final destruction of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and our residual liberties.

However, by not mentioning him by name at all, Paul comes out the only major Republican candidate not actually criticized in the NR editorial.

It maintains of its darling, Romney: "He still has some convincing to do with other conservatives. Romney has been plagued by the sense that his is a passionless, paint-by-the-numbers conservatism." That is, he's flip-flopped on every issue. "It is true that he has less foreign-policy experience than Thompson and (especially) McCain…."

On Sen. John McCain: "He sponsored and still champions a campaign-finance law that impinged on fundamental rights of political speech; he voted against the Bush tax cuts; he supported this year's amnesty bill, although he now says he understands the need to control the border before doing anything else."

Ex-Mayor Giuliani would alienate "the social conservatives" and have the party abandon "moral standards."

Ex-Gov. Huckabee would alienate "economic (and foreign-policy) conservatives" and abandon the push for "limited government." (Abandon? When did Republicans, other than Ron Paul and a handful of others, ever really advance limited government?)

Ex-Sen. Fred Thompson "has never run any large enterprise – and he has not run his campaign well, either. Conservatives were excited this spring to hear that he might enter the race, but have been disappointed by the reality. He has been fading in crucial early states. He has not yet passed the threshold test of establishing for voters that he truly wants to be president."

Even President Bush Secundo, usually an NR favorite, is attacked for his "federal activism…overspending," an inability "to defend conservative positions in debate," and an unwillingness "to demand performance from his subordinates." Is the last part a criticism of Bush's failure to "win" the Iraq War? Who knows. As in the old Cold War days of reading between the lines of Pravda, something always remains mysterious.

But NR has provided a service in showing us why all the Republican candidates mentioned directly, including their beloved Mitt, are unfit for the presidency.

That leaves Dr. Unmentionable, Ron Paul, as the last man standing.