In Memoriam: Robert L. Bartley
Robert L. Bartley, who
died December 10 at the tragically early age of 66,
was one of the greatest journalists in American history.
His discreet 1972-2002 direction of the Wall Street
Journal`s Editorial Page, which is in effect a
Magazine piggy-backing on what for years was the
country`s only national daily newspaper, will be studied
as long the trade of opinion-molding matters—and as long
as Ronald Reagan`s twin triumphs,
Cold War and ending the world`s inflationary slide
socialism, continue to resonate.
Bartley and the Wall Street
Journal Editorial Page played a real role in those
triumphs. Unfortunately, he also played an equally
decisive role in the subsequent tragedy: the
degeneration of the American conservative movement
careerist Republican boosterism, curiously combined
dishonest commitment to
Why did this happen? Certainly
there was a sociological aspect. Bartley was the last in
a long tradition of
Midwestern executives at the Wall Street Journal.
He presided, apparently quite happily, over its
capture by the same urban, East-coast-oriented,
elite-educated types who run the rest of
U.S. Big Media. Under these circumstances, the
Editorial Page`s increasing
“neoconservatism” was the closest thing
available to its former, no doubt unfashionable,
But also the failure may also have
been Bartley`s. I`ve told
before the circumstances—discreditable, I believe,
to him—in which Bartley came to observe to me that "I
think the nation-state is finished.” It`s
unfortunate that Bartley never engaged in public debate
on this vital, post-Cold War issue. I suspect that he
never really thought it through. For a journalist,
however, this shy and apparently gentle man was
surprisingly uncomfortable with argument.
Bartley played a key role in my
own career, asking me to come down from
Canada to be a summer “guest” on the
Editorial Page in 1978. At one time, I saw him regularly
in the small world of New York conservative journalism.
Yet at the end we had drifted so far apart that I
realized only very recently that he, like
my own family, was threatened by the terrible curse
cancer. I made a mental note to write him a letter
of commiseration. I bitterly regret that I did not.
Our condolences to his family, both
personal and—despite our grave
Brimelow is Editor of
and author of
Alien Nation: Common Sense
About America`s Immigration Disaster
(1995), which the Wall Street Journal reviewer
described as the "natterings of a neo-nativist."
here to read
Bartley`s reaction to Brimelow`s 1992 National
Review "Time To Rethink Immigration?"
cover story and Brimelow`s response.