Pained right-wingers ditch Bush for Kerry

By Mark Follman
Published October 22, 2004 8:51PM (EDT)

While you probably can't expect the folks over at Pat Buchanan's "American Conservative" magazine to offer their unequivocal blessing to the Massachusetts senator for the top job, they've come about as close as they possibly can. Here's how the conflicted staff is handling their official campaign endorsement:

"Unfortunately, this election does not offer traditional conservatives an easy or natural choice and has left our editors as split as our readership. In an effort to deepen our readers' and our own understanding of the options before us, we've asked several of our editors and contributors to make 'the conservative case' for their favored candidate. Their pieces, plus Taki's column closing out this issue, constitute TAC's endorsement."

That painfully mixed "conservative case" includes executive editor Scott McConnell (formerly editorial chief for the New York Post) declaring, "Kerry's the One." Not only does he actually defend Kerry from the flip-flopper charge -- "The centerpiece of the Republican campaign against Kerry seems overdone, as Kerry's contrasting votes are the sort of baggage any senator of long service is likely to pick up. (Bob Dole could tell you all about it.)" -- McConnell indicts the president without mercy:

"Bush has behaved like a caricature of what a right-wing president is supposed to be, and his continuation in office will discredit any sort of conservatism for generations.

"During the campaign, few have paid attention to how much the Bush presidency has degraded the image of the United States in the world. Of course there has always been 'anti-Americanism.' After the Second World War many European intellectuals argued for a 'Third Way' between American-style capitalism and Soviet communism, and a generation later Europe's radicals embraced every ragged 'anti-imperialist' cause that came along. In South America, defiance of 'the Yanqui' always draws a crowd. But Bush has somehow managed to take all these sentiments and turbo-charge them. In Europe and indeed all over the world, he has made the United States despised by people who used to be its friends, by businessmen and the middle classes, by moderate and sensible liberals. Never before have democratic foreign governments needed to demonstrate disdain for Washington to their own electorates in order to survive in office."

Buchanan can't quite bring himself to give Kerry the nod, but a ringing endorsement of Bush his is not.

"Iraq is the worst strategic blunder in our lifetime. And for it, George W. Bush, his War Cabinet, and the neoconservatives who plotted and planned this war for a decade bear full responsibility."

And while he says "Kerry is right on nothing," Buchanan deems Bush as wrong as Kerry "on Iraq, Sharon, NAFTA, the WTO, open borders, affirmative action, amnesty, free trade, foreign aid, and Big Government."

The magazine even signed up Justin Raimondo, editorial director of, to plug Ralph Nader (yes, you read that right) as the true voice of the "Old Right."

With the party's right flank in such shambles, maybe Nader will siphon off a few of those GOP votes that he claimed he would after all. If he does, one gets the sense that the Am Con staff probably won't be shedding too many tears in their cocktails at the end of election night.

Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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