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The National Review Jumps the Shark

July 15, 2007

The National Review, the conservatives' official game day program for the war in Iraq, has finally jumped the shark. Like a long-running sitcom with declining ratings, aging stars and bereft of new ideas, the magazine has been reduced to bizarre stunts in a desperate plea for attention. This week, that desperation took the form of slandering the families of American troops going off to war in Iraq. And that was just for openers.
As Chris Kelly detailed in the Huffington Post, NRO's Michael Ledeen last Sunday unleashed a fusillade of hate towards Mary Jo Cooney, the mother of a Marine headed off to Iraq. In a Washington Post op-ed, the anguished Cooney reflected on her son's childhood and the war he must now fight. She voiced her worries about his safety and how the nation will care for him and the rest of the nation's veterans.
For Ledeen, those sincere expressions could not go unpunished. Whether it was Cooney's raising the question of a "universal draft" to help the country understand the pain service families experience or her admission that she wrote a master's thesis 30 years ago (gasp - more liberal elitism), Ledeen emptied both barrels at this military mom in a disgusting screed he titled, "It's All About Me."

There's really nothing about him at all (nor about his father, for that matter), except for dark thoughts about what might become of him. He'll be changed (of course he will), maybe he'll be wounded (the odds are against it, but yes, he might. He might be killed, as he well knows). In short, both she and her Marine are victims.
Not. He chose freely, he was not compelled to join the Corps. Why did he make that choice? Surely not because his mom told him to. And surely not, as so many would have it, because he's from the underclass and has no other way to earn a living. But he, the Marine, doesn't get a word. We get her memories of his early childhood, but nothing about the current man.
Narcissus running wild as he so often does in our world.

While Ledeen pointed his rhetorical guns on America's military families (the only martial activity with which he and his Chickenhawk brethren at the NRO are familiar), the magazines' acolytes celebrated a parallel universe where conservative ideas are ascendant and right-wing causes victorious. In The Independent Friday, Johann Hari described his mind-numbing experiences aboard a cruise sponsored by the National Review. The 500 NR supporters, literally and figuratively at sea, were treated to the collective psychosis of the conservatism's leading lights such as Bill Buckley and Norman Podhoretz.
A few excerpts from Hari's piece reveal the pathological self-delusion that now passes as the conservative movement in the United States. Robert Bork offered:

"The coverage of this war is unbelievable. Even Fox News is unbelievable. You'd think we're the only ones dying. Enemy casualties aren't covered. We're doing an excellent job killing them."

Meanwhile of Norman Podhoretz, author of "The Case for Bombing Iran," a disturbingly influential piece in the Bush White House:

Today, he is a bristling grey ball of aggression, here to declare that the Iraq war has been "an amazing success." He waves his fist and declaims: "There were WMD, and they were shipped to Syria...This picture of a country in total chaos with no security is false. It has been a triumph. It couldn't have gone better." He wants more wars, and fast. He is "certain" Bush will bomb Iran, and "thank God" for that.

And that's just the beginning. Open fondness for the Ku Klux Klan. Sending "a couple of these anti-war people off to the gas chamber for treason." You know it's bad when Rich Lowry ("The American public isn't concluding we're losing in Iraq for any irrational reason. They're looking at the cold, hard facts.") is the voice of reason.
Back at the National Review Online, the upside-down world of the American right remains proudly on display. Today's cheerleading is for the WaPo op-ed piece by Bill Kristol. Kristol, the Weekly Standard editor who last week proclaimed Bush's Iraq surge is proceeding "better than expected," has a new opinion tome predictably titled "Why Bush Will Be A Winner."
Gripped by cognitive dissonance over the cataclysmic failure of its conservative creed, the National Review and its allies have gone off the deep end to keep the die-hard right motivated and entertained. The magazine is now entering the terrain of Mork and Mindy, Bewitched, and the Flintstone's Great Kazoo, where fantasy and magic prop up flagging interest.
And why not? Fonzi jumping the shark seems a lot more reasonable than the prospect of a successful Bush presidency.
UPDATE: Just to clarify, Michael Ledeen has never served in the military. As James Wolcott put it in his Vanity Fair blog two years ago:

"Michael Ledeen? Let's just say he won't be regaling them at the VFW lodge any time soon. Indeed, the closest he's come he's come to combat has been listening to Roger L. Simon's war stories from his heroic screenwriting days."

4 comments on “The National Review Jumps the Shark”

  1. Considering that we are very likely to start bombing Iran sometime before the next presidential election, I'd say it's a bit premature to be declaring conservative ideas to be dead. (The Republican brand-name is in serious trouble, which is -not- the same thing.)


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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