Flipping through an old National Review (July 9, 1982, to be precise), I came upon this note to William F. Buckley from publisher William Rusher, relating a gathering of movement conservatives as discontented with Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy as their descendents are today with the prospect of Chuck Hagel in the Pentagon:
… how often do you see Richard Viguerie and Irving Kristol hobnobbing in a corner, or find Midge Decter, Paul Weyrich, and Allan Ryskind sharing a joke over their cocktails? [What on earth was that joke?–WFB] It isn’t so much that the conservative movement is divided as that its components are geographically dispersed: the Old Right mostly clustered around the flanks of Capitol Hill, the New Right scattered amid the sylvan splendors of Washington’s Virginia suburbs, and the neoconservatives ensconced comfortably in Manhattan, two hundred miles away to the north….
Luckily, the culture-shock wasn’t as great as some pessimists had feared. The heavyweights of the New Right, it turned out, not only look but feel perfectly comfortable in neckties. The neoconservatives, mercifully, displayed none of that superciliousness that is supposed to be their hallmark. Even those of us on the Old Right agreed to set aside, for one evening only, our ongoing investigation into Who Promoted Peress.
The theme of the occasion emerged unbidden even before the entree arrived: a pervasive dissatisfaction with the direction and accomplishments of the Reagan Administration. Here, the various forces represented did differ: some of those present stressed Policy, while others tended to zero in on Personnel. Every now and then the two emphases merged in dissatisfaction with a single personality: e.g., Secretary Haig…
Along about dessert most of those present decided they had to Do Something to justify the occasion. A subcommittee of two therefore, comprising Midge Decter and Stan Evans, was appointed to draft a list of objections to the Reagan Administration’s foreign policy. Fifteen or twenty, it was suggested, would be enough.
That was a more innocent time, and Alexander Haig was nobody’s idea of charmer. But it’s worth remembering that what success Republican presidents met with during the Cold War had to be won in the face of opposition from the movement right. And the roots of right-wing folly in foreign policy run much deeper than the neocons or 9/11. There was an untested, confrontational ideology already entrenched in the movement when George W. Bush took office — an ideology that Reagan, no less than Bush’s father, rejected.