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The Conservative Tradition

Isn’t it great to know that the intellectual bodyguard of the party currently in power in Washington stands for limited government and individual liberty? So much so that when Ted Kennedy–one of their most hated opponents, but also a man a man whose presence on an aeroplane poses no threat to anyone else–is prevented from boarding a plane because of a secret, unaccountable, government no-fly list forced on private airline companies by the fiat of the Executive Branch of government, and which has been repeatedly used in acts of political harassment, one can certainly count on them to make a bold, principled denunciation of this shameless invasion on civil liberties by a overbearing government. For example, here’s National Review Online on the incident:

TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE [Steve Hayward]

Ted Kennedy on the no-fly list? Supply your own punchline.

Posted at 08:12 PM

Ho, ho, ho. Nor is this the first time that American conservatism has extended this sort of charity towards Mr. Kennedy:

So, I ask the question – is Senator Kennedy a traitor who says things which give aid and comfort to the enemy, or is he just plain and simple stupid? There are no other options on this – pick one, or the other.

Let us be clear about this — there are legitimate criticisms to be made about the liberation of Iraq; about whether or not we should have gone in, and about the manner in which we went in, and about how we have performed since we went in; there are, however, no legitimate criticisms to be raised about the reason we went in, nor can there be any legitimate point for an American to make other than that we should be doing more to win this fight. To criticise the reasons we went in and/or to do anything which indicates an unwillingness to see this thing through to final victory is the statement of a fool, or a traitor. No two ways about it.

We’ve given the left a pass long enough — its [sic] time for those who are of leftwing opinion to make their final call: which side of the river are you on? If you’re on America’s side, then you want total and overwhelming US victory — and just to really spell it out; this means that our enemies are dead or begging for mercy. I challenge you — choose, and let you be known for what you are by what you choose — patriot, or traitor.

— Blockheads for Bush 2004/04/09: Is this treason, or stupidity?

I have to disagree, though, with Jeffrey Tucker’s suggestion that this sort of good-hearted charity and principled defense of liberty is a new trend in modern-day conservatism. It is actually a long-standing tradition of the Right, from the Old Right’s defense of peace and prosperity for all:

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to abolish the Negro race, proper methods should be used. Among these are guns, bows and arrows, slingshots and knives…. All whites are created equal with certain rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of dead niggers.

— Senator James Eastland, addressing a rally of the White Citizens Council in 1956

… to the vigorous defense of liberty and principled opposition to all forms of invasive power by the leading lights of the New Right, such as the folks behind the National Review:

the thus far invincible aggressiveness of the Soviet Union imminently threatens U.S. security, … we have to accept Big Government for the duration–for neither an offensive nor defensive war can be waged given our present government skills, except through the instrument of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores…

And if they deem Soviet power a menace to our freedom (as I happen to), they will have to support large armies and air forces, atomic energy, central intelligence, war production boards, and the attendant of centralization of power in Washington — Even with Truman at the reins of it all.

–William F. Buckley, The Commonweal, 25 January 1952

Thank God Above for the Right: they’ve been staunch defenders of an orderly freedom for lo these many years. And by orderly freedom, of course, I mean the freedom to take orders from an all-powerful righteous government. Or else.

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