Rush: Remember when National Review was the voice of conservatism?

CNS News catches Rush Limbaugh in a reflective mood yesterday after National Review’s anyone-but-Newt-or-Perry editorial earlier this week.  Instead of railing about the attack on two of the Republican candidates in the field, Rush muses on how little influence NR has these days, and how it’s much more the voice of Beltway Republicanism than actual conservatism, and questioned whether it has any real impact at all anymore:

“National Review used to, indisputably, it was the voice of conservatism. There was no question. Now, it’s not so much that, as it is the voice of Republicanism, which could also be said to be the inside the beltway or Washington-New York conservatism.” …

Limbaugh began the segment by debating whether or not he should be discussing the op-ed because of his uncertainty as to the influence of National Review in today’s media:

“So I wasn’t going to really talk about it (the Op-Ed) because I’m not convinced that it (National Review) has that much impact. … They’ve got great people there; there’s some nice people. But it’s changed a bit from what it was.”

Actually, I think it was more the voice of conservative fusion than the voice of conservatism.  Buckley’s brilliance didn’t just manifest itself in a certain brand of conservatism, but uniting all of the brands into one movement, and putting NR at the front of that movement.  The movement and the instruments for communicating it have changed in the decades that have gone by since Buckley’s fusion, and Limbaugh himself is one of the best assets to arise from the evolution of both.  However, I think NR still has a leadership position in that fusion, and it still has a great deal of impact among conservatives of many stripes — even when the editors get something wrong, as I also think they did in that editorial.

Jonah Goldberg addresses the anger among conservatives in a piece at The Corner today:

I recognize that feelings are running hot about NR’s editorial. I have no desire to lend support to some of the overheated charges being hurled at NR — including from some of our longtime friends. So I will simply say that I don’t see perfectly eye-to-eye with it myself. But that’s often the case with NR editorials. Indeed, it’s the nature of editorials. Perhaps because I know and respect my colleagues, I see no need to attack their motives nor would it occur to me to question their commitment to conservative principles. Did we get this one wrong? It’s perfectly reasonable for some to think so. It’s certainly happened before. Indeed some of the criticisms strike me as entirely fair — why not just endorse Romney if it’s a two man race? Why even consider Huntsman? etc — and there are fair rebuttals to them as well. I will let the editorial speak for itself in that regard.

Now on to some of the unfair, hyperbolic and just plain weird charges.

First of all, what is with this complaint that we are trying to “dictate” who people vote for? I don’t get it. We are, as always, an opinion magazine sharing our opinion. It is not binding.

More substantially, the notion that NR isn’t a conservative magazine anymore (a charge our friend Rush Limbaugh seems to be flirting with these days)  or that William F. Buckley would be “appalled” (in Brent Bozell’s words) is just so much nonsense. Under William F. Buckley National Review made many questionable endorsements — a point he would happily concede. NR endorsed no one in 1960 — neither Nixon nor Goldwater. There were heated arguments on every side of that decision. In 1968 the magazine endorsed a much more liberal Nixon (to the considerable dismay of Bill Rusher). In 1971, National Review “suspended support for Richard Nixon.” In 1972 we endorsed the great John Ashbrook for president. In 1973 we essentially endorsed Spiro Agnew for president, even as George Will was savaging him in the same magazine, indeed, the same issue (largely prompting Stan Evans to quit the magazine, I believe). In 1980, WFB kept the magazine from endorsing Reagan (Bill loved the Gipper but had grave concerns about his age). We endorsed Mitt Romney in 2008, for many of the same reasons some of our biggest detractors today did — to stop John McCain.

The Corner has actually had a robust debate over the editorial all week, which lends some support that NR still represents a focal point for conservative dialogue.  If they’ve gotten a few things wrong over the years (and I’d count this editorial among those), it still has a great record of getting things right — and providing a platform for the great, sweeping, and diverse community of conservatives.  There is a lot of value in that still, even if it may be hard to discern at times during presidential primaries.