To his credit, National Review editor Rich Lowry has apologized more than once for his and the publication’s initial response to the flap at the Lincoln Memorial involving the kids from Covington Catholic. He has much to apologize for.
In his initial response, without any apparent fact checking, Lowry commended the knee-jerk mea culpa of the Covington diocese, tweeting, “A necessary and appropriate apology.”
In a later tweet, having seen just a little bit of the video, Lowry still felt obliged to condemn the “obnoxious, dumb, and disrespectful behavior of the teens.”
National Review’s deputy managing editor, Nicholas Frankovich, meanwhile weighed in with his own piece, grotesquely titled, “The Covington Students Might as Well Have Just Spit on the Cross.” In it Frankovich describes the boys as “evil.”
Soon after, with the evidence mounting in the kids’ favor, Lowry wrote, “I deleted my original tweet and we also took down a strongly worded post by my colleague Nick Frankovich that relied on the incomplete video.”
He continued, “It’s another reminder – even for an old hand like me – that it’s best not to make snap judgments and to wait for all sides of a controversy to have a chance to be heard.”
That’s not the reminder Lowry needed. The reminder he needed was one that told him to stop groveling, to stop allowing the left to dictate what constitutes a “controversy.”
What made the Covington kids story newsworthy, like virtually all such stories – Duke lacrosse, UVA rape, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown – was the perceived violation of the left’s totems by white men. Without that spin, no story about teens doing anything short of murder would have made the national news.
In truth, National Review editors have been dancing to the left’s tune since its founding in 1955. To justify its condemnation of the John Birch Society in the early 1960s, one of its editors gave away the game, writing, “We can’t afford to jeopardize the grudging status we’ve earned in the liberal community.”
For all of founder William Buckley’s virtues, he overly worried about the “status” the liberal community begrudged him. As Lowry once noted, “Mr. Buckley’s first great achievement was to purge the American right of its kooks.”
For Lowry, “kook” is a mighty inclusive category, and I suspect it includes me. If memory serves me, I first met Lowry in 2001. He had come to Kansas City to speak to a group of which I was a board member.
Over dinner with Lowry and just one other person, I talked about the documentary I was working on at the time. The subject was TWA Flight 800. He gave me the look I would come to recognize from my conservative betters. It was the “kook” look. He showed zero interest in the subject.
In September 2008, I introduced the theory, for which the evidence was overwhelming, that Bill Ayers had a major role in the writing of Obama’s memoir “Dreams from My Father.”
At “The Corner,” on National Review Online, Andy McCarthy called my analysis “thorough, thoughtful and alarming – particularly his deconstruction of the text in Obama’s memoir and comparison to the themes, sophistication and signature phraseology of Bill Ayers’ memoir.”
The “liberal community” quickly turned on McCarthy and the National Review. In the Atlantic, the now celebrated Ta-Nehisi Coates extracted a McCarthy quote in my defense and introduced it with the slur, “How desperate can it get? This desperate.”
The Atlantic added another quick review that began thusly, “At The Corner, Andy McCarthy evaluates Cashill’s argument and proves himself to be an idiot.”
These exchanges took place a month before the 2008 election. As New Yorker editor David Remnick later observed about my theory and McCarthy’s endorsement, “if ever proved true, or believed to be true among enough voters, [it] could have been the end of [Obama’s] candidacy.”
That was not about to happen. I am told that McCarthy caught a lot of heat internally for jeopardizing National Review’s “grudging status” among liberals. What I know for sure is that the link from Coates’ article to McCarthy’s goes nowhere.
I suspect McCarthy’s review was scrubbed almost as quickly as Frankovich’s. I was unaware of it until I read Remnick’s attack on it two years later.
In the month after McCarthy’s spanking, no conservative of influence dared even consider the possibility of Ayers’ involvement in “Dreams.” Fearing criticism from the left, the respectable right all but invited Obama to win the election.
I next approached National Review in 2016 upon publication of my new book, “TWA 800.” By now, the evidence was overwhelming that U.S. Navy missiles accidentally shot down the plane in July 1996.
In 2016 this information had political value. The Clinton administration covered up the 1996 crash lest the truth interfere will Bill Clinton’s re-election. In 2016, Hillary Clinton was running on Bill’s record.
National Review Publisher Jack Fowler had gone to the same New York City high school I did. Working that connection, I was able to get Fowler on the phone in the summer of 2016 and keep him there for a half hour.
When I explained the political value of the book, I sensed hesitation on his part and said, “But you guys want Hillary to win, don’t you?” Fowler exploded. In rather heated terms, he tried to explain the difference between not backing Trump and wanting Hillary to win.
True, we went to a Jesuit high school, but this reasoning was too Jesuitical for me to follow. In closing, I just asked that someone on the staff give the book a fair review. Not surprisingly, I got no review at all. A review might have jeopardized the publication’s “grudging status.”
As a side note, Judicial Watch’s Bill Marshall went to my high school as well. He and Judicial Watch have been working to expose the truth behind TWA 800’s demise.
How much evidence will they need to get National Review’s attention? Hard to say, what with a world full of 16-year-olds itching to be scolded.