April 18, 2007


The American Conservative Crackup: Why I quit Pat Buchanan’s magazine (Alexander Konetzki, May 2007, Washington Monthly)

At this point, I should mention that I’m a progressive. I didn’t even know TAC existed until a former colleague encouraged me to apply for an assistant editor position at the magazine last November, suggesting that it might be a good first step toward a career in journalism.

This wasn’t as ludicrous a suggestion as it might sound; TAC is like no other publication in the conservative universe. To provide a right-wing counterweight to the neoconservative voices dominating U.S. foreign policy after 9/11, the magazine was founded in 2002 by leading paleoconservative Pat Buchanan, former New York Post editorial page editor Scott McConnell, and the notorious Taki Theodoracopulos, a high-society columnist for London’s Spectator and heir to a large Greek shipping fortune.(In late March, millionaire California software developer and pro-immigration activist Ron Unz took over as publisher.) From its inaugural issue, dated October 7, 2002, it established itself as the only conservative publication to oppose the Iraq War. “What magazine published the most scathing attacks on President Bush and his Iraq invasion?” asked the Washington Post’s Peter Carlson in 2004. “If you guessed the ‘Nation’ or ‘Mother Jones’ or the ‘Progressive,’ you may be right ... But the correct answer just might be the ‘American Conservative.’”

This opposition to messianism in U.S. foreign policy, I discovered, was just one of many political views espoused by the magazine that most people would never associate with the contemporary right. Over the past few years, TAC has decried the growing American wealth gap, the Bush administration’s consolidation of power in the executive branch, and even the mistreatment of animals on America’s factory farms. Bush, Cheney, the Republican Congress, the Fox News Channel—these are not true conservatives, TAC’s editors were saying. We are.

An unlikely trio of editors, of which I was one, put the magazine together every two weeks in a small, drab Rosslyn office.We made an unlikely editorial team. TAC’s editor, Scott McConnell, is an heir to the Avon fortune whose stepfather played Gen. Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove. He has veto power over just about every aspect of the editorial process, but seldom wields it, preferring to spend most days browsing newspapers and the blogs of the American Prospect’s Matthew Yglesias and the New America Foundation’s Steve Clemons. Scott is involved in the production cycle mostly by brainstorming feature pieces and writing short, snarky news items. He is skeptical of government, but also of religion. He advocates reduced immigration, but thinks aggressive environmental regulation to curb global warming might be a good idea. Each one of his conservative views seems to be countered by a liberal one. In fact, he strongly endorsed John Kerry in 2004 and may yet support Barack Obama if he faces a hawkish Republican in 2008.

Mr. Konetzki misses his own point. Scott McConnell too is a progressive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 18, 2007 7:20 PM

He quit the magazine because he believed Sailer had done a hit piece on Obama. I patently disagree that it was; it was extremely fair in my opinion.
Obama is the Messiah. Sailer questioned the religion and showed him to be a false prophet.
You can question policy, but religion is usually taboo.

Posted by: Emma at April 18, 2007 8:32 PM

Scott McConnell, is an heir to the Avon fortune whose stepfather played Gen. Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove

Sterling Heywood, who played a role perhaps more appropriate to mention, that of the corrupt Captain McCluskey in The Godfather. But we'll mention the Leftwing caricatured buffoon instead.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 18, 2007 10:10 PM

That would be Sterling Hayden.

For the 99%+ of the world that doesn't subscribe to OJ's idiosyncratic political taxonomy, McConnell can't be a "progressive" because he is skeptical of government. Progressives love government, libertarians don't. Lumping them together is not an insight, it's just muddying the rhetorical waters.

Posted by: PapayaSF at April 18, 2007 11:50 PM

Progressives hate government--when they aren't running it.

Posted by: oj at April 19, 2007 5:26 AM

Heywood, Heyden. Close enough when you can feel the oncoming senility.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 19, 2007 11:17 AM

Raoul, don't fret. We knew who you meant.

Posted by: erp at April 19, 2007 8:21 PM