John Brennan, a former C.I.A. director and a self-declared supporter of the Communist Party candidate for president in 1976, claims that he knows that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. To my mind, in making this claim, he provided ample evidence of why he should not possess a security clearance. Because if he does actually know this — and if his knowledge is based on information gained through the use of his clearance — then he is guilty of a grave security breach. If not, well, then he’s just a windbag. But one who is coddled and promoted, if not taken totally seriously, by Trump haters. Which makes me wonder when the progressive left got comfortable with the national security state and its spies. It’s just such contortions — on the left and on the right — that have me thinking differently about politics.
I’m a cradle conservative. My father first subscribed to National Review in the early 1960s. He volunteered for Barry Goldwater in 1964. While I was still in junior high, I saved my lawn-mowing money to buy a ticket to see William F. Buckley Jr. debate John Kenneth Galbraith in Phoenix — where I was raised and where I still live. The next ticket for which I saved money to buy was to see George Carlin. Maybe that reflects some cognitive dissonance in my personality, but I hope not.
The conservative movement of Buckley, Goldwater and Ronald Reagan was ideas-oriented, energetic, iconoclastic, and — most important — politically potent. That died sometime during the late 1980s. Newt Gingrich and the Class of 1994 tried to reinvigorate the movement, but it was too late. It was like trying to get a great band back together with a new singer. They play the hits, but it’s never the same, and there are no new hits. Conservative institutions and intellectuals became curators of the legacy of late 20th-century conservatism rather than proponents of political liberty and American distinctiveness. Even though the rest of the world had moved on, for them it was always 1984.
Who knows what the future — or, for that matter, this week — will bring. Perhaps Mr. Brennan will describe for us, under oath, the source of his information about the alleged collusion. That would be interesting. Since I’m the only contributing opinion writer at The Times who is consistently pro-Trump, many of you (but maybe not all) will find lots of reasons to disagree with me while I fill in for David this week. But I’ll make some arguments you might not have heard before. And, in any case, there’s more to life than politics, so along the way I’ll try to point out some of the scenery we can enjoy together.
This article is part of the Opinion Today newsletter. David Leonhardt, the newsletter’s author, is on a break until Aug. 27. While he’s gone, several outside writers are taking his place. This week’s authors is Chris Buskirk, a contributing Op-Ed writer for The Times and the editor of American Greatness, a conservative publication. You can sign up here to receive the newsletter each weekday.
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