CBS Misquotes Buckley: 'Bush Not a True Conservative'

July 23rd, 2006 2:13 AM

It is pretty amazing that CBS News can misquote, in headline form, someone they not only personally interviewed, but one that they themselves provided video clips of proving the inaptness of their headline. I guess they imagined that no one would actually take the time to watch the video clip?

But there it was in black and white.

CBS News - "Buckley: Bush Not A True Conservative"

Worse, the part of the video clip where William F. Buckley addresses Bush's status as a conservative isn't until the last two minutes of a 10-minute interview. Could they have assumed that many people would never stay with the interview all the way until the end to find out that the CBS headline is mere hyperbole and that Buckley never really said that Bush wasn't a "true conservative"?

Even the sub headline takes liberties with Buckley's words.

"In Exclusive Interview, Buckley Criticizes President For Interventionist Policies", goes the bolded line under the header. Yet, Buckley really didn't say he is as against intervention in and of itself as this misleading line might make one think. Indeed, he agreed that if Iran had a warhead ready to go a first strike would be unavoidable.

"If we find there is a warhead there that is poised, the range of it is tested, then we have no alternative", Buckley asserted.

Yet, the bolded line under the header would make one imagine that Buckley was against "interventionist policies", when he is merely against some of those policies currently being undertaken, as opposed to all that might be necessary. Buckley's position was far more complex than this simple sub-headline leads one to believe.

But, what did Mr. Buckley say of Bush's conservatism? Well, he didn't say that Bush wasn't a "true conservative", that is for sure. In fact, the words "true conservative" do not once come out of Buckley's mouth.

Buckley did scold both Bush as well as Congress for their backsliding from conservative values and he did state that there seems an "absence of conservative ideology". But he did not make the bold statement foisted upon him by the article's headline. Buckley has, for instance, been quoted in the past saying that "Bush is conservative, but he is not a conservative", revealing Buckley’s more nuanced feeling about Mr. Bush’s ideology.

Again, Buckley's was a serious discussion of the failures of Bush and Congress to uphold conservative ideals in his opinion. But it was no mean, vitriolic claim that Bush is not a Conservative. Buckley was not vulgar enough to doubt president Bush's heart, only his policies.

It should be remembered that no president has met with Buckley's complete approbation on strictly conservative principles. Even Reagan came in for criticism from the dean of Conservatives. It should also be remembered that Buckley has never had to put his conservative principles to the test of real government, as well.

Here is a full transcript of that last few minutes in question of the interview. After reading it, it becomes clear that CBS' screaming headline goes much farther than did Buckley.

"I think Mr. Bush faces a singular problem best defined, I think, as the absence of effective conservative ideology. He's a man who ran as a conservative, was accepted as a conservative alternative. And when he took power he had a Republican congress and a Republican senate and a mostly Republican Supreme Court. But, he then failed to refine conservative purposes with the result that he ended up being very extravagant in domestic spending, extremely tolerant of excesses by Congress, and in respect of foreign policy, incapable of bringing together such forces as apparently were necessary to conclude the Iraq challenge, that simply hasn't happened. As a result of that there is a kind of perplexity about what... what are Conservatives supposed to do when they come to power? Given the fact that they spend and spend and spend and do not consummate a broad, uh wage a trillion dollar war with no conclusion in prospects. So that is extremely humbling and extremely vexing for Mr. Bush."

As always, a complex argument is beyond anyone in the media's ability to follow.