By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
On the subject of the possible war with Iraq, I note that the magazine seems fixated on Israel’s influence on American foreign policy. But if one wants to be cynical about U.S. motives, isn‘t getting our hands on Iraqi oil a far greater inducement than pleasing the Likud?
“I think it’s oil, and I think it‘s Israel, 50-50,” Taki replies. “Look, Israel has the right to do as much as they can in order to get their side across. If I were Sharon, I’d be doing exactly what he‘s doing. I think that the Israelis have convinced the administration after 911 that the best way to settle the terrorist question is by imposing themselves. In other words, they really want to drive the Palestinians off. And they think that if America takes over Iraq and stays there, then Iran will be quiet. So this is a plan that is not necessarily Israeli, but it’s an Israeli way of thinking.”
As for Iraq, Taki doubts whether, for the average citizen, Saddam‘s dictatorship is quite so nightmarish as it’s said to be in the media. “I‘ve been to Iraq many times, and I don’t think if you mind your own business Saddam bothers you. I do think that if you get involved in politics you‘re finished. The Iraqi people are the only Arab people with a middle class, a serious middle class, and they are suffering and blaming the Americans for the embargo. They’re not blaming Saddam. That‘s the truth the way I see it. The rest I see as bullshit. Will they be happy if Saddam is overthrown? They’ll be in the streets screaming and yelling, the way they would if Saddam had won. Exactly the same thing. The Arabs act like that. Whoever‘s in power is good.”
And what happens to the magazine if we do invade, and we win easily, and the Iraqis are happy?
“We’ll have egg on our faces,” Taki concedes, “and I, for one, will write that we had it wrong. And I like to do that, because no other journalist ever does it! What will make the magazine save face is that there will be terrorism -- unfortunately. Believe me, I don‘t want it. What I’d like to see is Bush pull back, Saddam let in the inspectors, and then for us to say, ‘We told you so. This was the right thing to do.’ Then all the neocons will go after Bush, and we‘ll come to his aid. Then we’ll really go get ‘em.”
So is The American Conservative any good? Despite being bankrolled by Taki, the magazine is very much a shoestring operation. With its circulation of 15,000, it also gets far less exposure than The Weekly Standard (60,000) or The Nation and The New Republic (100,000 each). Taki, McConnell and Buchanan all work for free. The layout is uninspired, the paper cheap, the cartoons so-so, and the text peppered with an embarrassing number of typos. On the bright side, there have been long, closely argued articles against the war, as well as some informative, hard-hitting pieces on immigration, multiculturalism and “greed is good” capitalism. There have also been some surprises, such as Mark Gavreau Judge’s dissection of the work of the popular social historian Haynes Johnson, in which, by comparing Johnson‘s early and later work, he reveals the corrosive effect of political correctness on journalism.
Overall, the impression is of a publication still struggling to find its voice, hardly surprising given it is only seven issues old. A recent cover story, an interview with Norman Mailer conducted by Taki, McConnell and managing editor Kara Hopkins, had an unintentionally worshipful tone, as if a group of bad-boy right-wingers had sought out a renegade liberal cardinal in hope of benediction. Immigration (“Open borders mean the end of the country,” says Taki) also seems to weigh heavily on the editors, since it’s hard to ask for even a temporary slowdown without appearing mean or out of touch. Many people, of course, think they are out of touch.
“I just think the world has changed and Pat has not,” says Bill Press, who likes Buchanan personally despite their many onscreen dustups. “Immigration is just not the issue that it was in the 1980s, or the 1990s, either in California or in the nation. You could not organize a Prop. 187 today, because even in these bad economic times, the fear of all these illegal immigrants taking over just doesn‘t exist anymore. People accept they’re here, they‘re not going back, they’re working, they‘ve got jobs, they’ve got families, they‘ve got homes, and so there has to be some other solution. Pat still feels we ought to close all the borders, put them all on buses and send them back. It’s not going to happen!”
The New York Press‘ Russ Smith, a Republican in the free-trade, open-borders vein, says that “white supremacist” is too strong a term for the magazine, but thinks that Buchanan would like to erect a Great Wall of China around the country. He is also bothered by what he sees as Buchanan’s anti-Semitism, a charge that, to a lesser extent, he levels at his pal Taki as well. “Taki tosses off one-liners, whereas Buchanan has a whole treatise,” he says. “Which isn‘t to excuse it.”