National Review`s Conservative Summit: “Making History and Yelling Go!”—But Where?
Immigration Genie Out Of Bottle At CPAC Conference,
by Kevin Carter
For several years, publications like VDARE.com,
The American Conservative, Chronicles, and
LewRockwell.com have been warning that the
Beltway-dominated "conservative movement" is
becoming increasingly irrelevant, if not
counterproductive to the goal of "conserving" the
most important aspects of America. Since the
2006 midterm election disaster, there has been even
more discussion. Is the
"conservative movement" still relevant?
What should its relationship be with the Republican
Party and George W. Bush? In an effort to get the
conservative movement and GOP back on track, National
Review magazine hosted a "Conservative Summit"
at the JW Marriott hotel in Washington D.C. over the
weekend of January 26-27. I went along.
The official conservative movement, led by
National Review, has
reacted to its critics by calling us pessimists and
"unpatriotic conservatives" who were just
jealous that we couldn`t get President Bush to speak at
our fundraisers and should be read out of the movement.
NR took credit for the War in Iraq and GOP
electoral successes in 2002 and 2004. But unmistakably,
things are going south. Would National Review now
listen to the party poopers who were warning about the
need to reevaluate the movement when the rest were
Answer: Of course not. Even the morning after,
National Review has yet to have its moment of
And of course the rich donors who show up at events
like this would much rather be pampered by
Pangloss than chided by
Cassandra—who after all, was
still ignored even after she warned of the
Although the $225 dollar price was not exorbitant,
especially given the four-course meals and top-shelf
open bars, the crowd felt more like that at a high
priced GOP fundraiser than at any other conservative
event I`ve been to. I couldn`t complain about having
steak for lunch and dinner. But when it came to
food for thought, I asked myself at the end of the
Where`s the Beef?
Rather than address the biggest failures of the
conservative movement and Republican Party, National
Review barely even acknowledged that there was a
One of the biggest mistakes of the conservative
movement has been embracing a
neoconservative foreign policy that entangled us in
unpopular and interminable war in Iraq. Virtually
all analysts agreed that the major reason for the
2006 Democratic takeover was the War in Iraq. Yet
National Review`s symposium on foreign policy did
not include a single critical voice.
With their panel on a New Agenda of conservative
foreign policy, former NR editor
John O`Sullivan gave a genuinely intriguing portrait
of the state of the world and the many challenges
America faced across the globe. Nonetheless, he insisted
that we stay in Iraq for quite some time, and felt that
we must continue to be actively involved in the Middle
Cliff May of the
Foundation For Defense of Democracies (formerly
EMET, which means "truth" in Hebrew) and Bush I/
David Rivkin added little other than giving more
emphasis to the struggle against "Islamofascism"
and, somewhat paradoxically,
The other foreign policy debate, on the merits of
in Iraq, was between
William Kristol and
Lawrence Korb. Kristol, of course, represented the
troops—and Korb gave a number of reasons to oppose
it. What was odd is that Korb works for the
left wing Center for American Progress and has
absolutely no conservative credentials whatever. (Not
Kristol has any either, but still…) That National
Review chose not to get a single
"unpatriotic conservative" is very telling.
Not surprisingly, Korb received the coolest reception of
In contrast to conservative pet causes like
privatizing social security—to say nothing of the War on
Terror and the like—immigration restriction is one issue
where an overwhelming majority of the public agrees.
Peter Brimelow`s 1992 National Review cover story
"Time To Rethink Immigration?" is sometimes
credited with restarting the current debate, and the
magazine led the challenge to
Wall Street Journal
Open Borders dogma until William F.
Buckley fired editor John O`Sullivan and
purged immigration critics in 1998. Sometime after
9/11, National Review
half-heartedly re-entered the debate. What now?
As one conservative journalist who attended the
conference told me: "A real conservative debate on
immigration should be between
Pat Buchanan and
Tom Tancredo." But instead we were given Center
for Immigration Studies`
Mark Krikorian, imported as National Review`s
immigration beard in response to VDARE.COM`s relentless
ridicule, and…the appalling
Tamar Jacoby. Krikorian is the first to admit that
to the left of Peter Brimelow on immigration, and he
has a long history of
triangulating against VDARE.COM to curry
Establishment favor. That he is now on the restrictionist end of the NR debate (why was
there a debate at all?) shows how far the magazine has
fallen over the last decade.
This is not to say that Krikorian does not have many
good things to say or that he cannot hold his own in a
debate. Tamar Jacoby—whom one student attendee said gave
off the aura of his feminist literature professors—made
a case based solely on a purported economic rationale.
Nevertheless, at one point, she claimed that the law of
supply and demand does not apply to immigration. She
insisted that our economy needed more low-skilled
workers and bemoaned the low number of native-born high
school drop-outs. When Krikorian asked: "So you`re
saying we want to import
high school dropouts?" the audience burst out in
laughter and applause. When Jacoby claimed that
"natural Republicans" with
family values, Krikorian noted that
they certainly do not live that way, instancing
Even among this group of
Country Club Republicans, Jacoby received the
coolest reception of all the speakers next to Korb.
Outside of this debate, the only speaker who brought
up immigration without being prompted by audience was
A number of politicians and Presidential candidates
showed up to sell their conservative credentials to the
conference audience. Among them were Jeb Bush, Mitt
Mike Huckabee, and Newt Gingrich. Notably absent:
Duncan Hunter, and
Ron Paul—the only restrictionists in the race.
None of the candidates who spoke said anything
substantive on immigration. But it was on the audience`s
Jeb Bush was so hounded by questions about
immigration that he finally responded that all
are assimilating and the only problem is that there
are some people who don`t like people who have accents!
Perhaps he`s thinking of
John Podhoretz, who claimed that once, in an
immigration debate including Peter Brimelow,
O`Sullivan, John Derbyshire, and George Borjas, he was
the “only person speaking with an American accent"—a
familiar form of xenophobia.]
Along with immigration,
opposition to affirmative action a.k.a. racial and
gender quotas is one of the most popular conservative
positions among the general public. Unlike immigration,
this is an issue where conservatives of all stripes, be
they libertarians, neoconservatives, paleoconservatives,
or traditionalists, agree. In fact, it may be the only
policy issue that
unites all strands of conservatives. But,
while I have yet to see a conservative defense of
affirmative action, the Republican Party and its
conservative movement mouthpieces are nevertheless
rapidly retreating on the issue.
Michael Steele, the black former GOP Lieutenant
Governor of Maryland,
Ward Connerly, and
Abigail Thernstrom spoke in a symposium,
"Trumping the Race Card", on how the GOP should be
the party of
African Americans. Of course, a true conservative
debate about race would wonder if
minority outreach is counterproductive because it
may alienate the white vote—the real prize in American
politics, as VDARE.COM`s
Steve Sailer has pointed out in his
"Sailer Strategy" articles. A true conservative
debate would also wonder
whether there are limits to how much we can improve
their situation in American life. And of course, as
a starting point, one would expect everyone to be for
dismantling affirmative action and the rest of the
racial spoils system.
But only Connerly, who has heroically led two
successful state wide ballot initiatives against
affirmative action, made opposing the policy a top
priority. Michael Steele said affirmative action was a
side issue—we needed to revitalize the black culture and
it will go away. Thernstrom said it was pointless to
until the testing gap disappeared.
Of course the entire "Race Card" symposium was
filled with adulatory references to Martin Luther King.
When one member of the audience mentioned
King`s leftism, Thernstrom acknowledged he was
a socialist, but insisted the true outrage was that
people ignored how deeply religious he was. She then
humbly asserted that she "worshipped the ground
he walked on".
While there was a great deal of talk about the need
to reach out to African Americans, there was no
discussion at all about
reaching out to working and middle class whites.
Fewer than 10 percent of blacks voted for the GOP in
2006, but this has always been the case, even in the
Reagan-Bush landslides. However, the alienation of
Middle Americans, who felt that the GOP was serving the
interests of corporate America was a major cause of
conservative failure in 2006. A significant number of
populist Democrats were able to oust conservative
Republicans—Bob Casey Jr., Jim Webb, Heath Shuler.
Nowhere was this topic, or related issues like
outsourcing, even addressed. The closest anyone came
was radio talk show host Laura Ingram who made a very
quick aside comment about how Republicans needed to get
out of the country clubs and needed to find
a new strategy in confronting candidates like Webb.
The only response was Mona Charen`s questioning of Webb`s
So, rather than addressing why conservatives are
alienating middle America with their support of a globalist foreign policy,
complete retreat on issues like affirmative action
and immigration, and slavish support for the Republican
Party, National Review instead invited the most
prominent Republicans it could find,
globalist agenda, and said nothing new on the
Does this mean the conservative movement is finished?
Maybe not. It`s hard to imagine the
Democratic Congress accomplishing much good. If
Obama get elected president, and when Americans
finally get fed up with them, no doubt they will turn to
the Republicans again. And the Beltway-based
"conservative movement" will be whooping it up, and
raising money from gullible businessmen.
Still, when National Review was founded in
1955, William F. Buckley told its readers in its
inaugural editorial, that the magazine aimed to “Stand
Athwart History Yelling Stop!" At the
Conservative Summit`s final lunch, White House press
Tony Snow told a cheering audience that now
"Conservatives make history, and we yell go!"
Yelling stop may not have been as profitable, and
Bill Buckley could not have gotten as many high
profile politicians to speak at his meetings in 1955.
But at least they were conserving something.
him mail] is the founder
of the Robert A Taft
Club and the executive director of the
Team America PAC. A selection of his articles can be seen
views he expresses are his own.