Jacob Heilbrunn reflects on news that Reagan’s favorite newspaper is going out of print:
Younger, more aggressive conservative websites have captured much of the audience that might once have thronged toHuman Events, which used to be a lodestar of what conservatives were thinking—a kind of tip sheet to the mind of the right. In the end, it couldn’t move fast enough to keep up with the morphing of conservatism into its current incarnations. Human Events was no shrinking violet, but on a more elevated plane, the end of the Hoover Institution’s Policy Review suggests some of the dilemmas of conservatism as a calming rather than a raging intellectual force.
It’s worth pointing out that years ago Human Events itself made the decision to enrage rather than calm. A few years after its launch two of its three founders decided to take a more hawkish anticommunist tack to boost readership, against the wishes of Felix Morley, the noninterventionist Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of the Post. Morley resigned the earlier position in the run-up to World War II, likening wartime newspaper writing to “intellectual prostitution.” Imagine Jennifer Rubin or the current editorial board doing the same over Iran. Bill Kauffman describes how he was forced out of Human Events by Henry Regnery and Frank Hanighen in Ain’t My America:
Human Events was a collateral casualty of the Cold War. Oh, it lived on, and publishes still today, with all the rhyme and reason of a Republican Party cheerleader. But the Human Eventsof Felix Morley, the weekly imbued with the spirit of 1776, died in February 1950, when Henry Regnery, who with Morley and Hanighen controlled one-third of the stock after incorporation, threw in with Hanighen. The issue was the Cold War. Let Morley tell the tale: “Hanighen and I had come to differ over its policy. He thought, correctly, that to achieve financial success we would have to push our paid circulation well above the 5,000 mark where it had seemed to settle. To do this, he wanted to exploit the popular mistrust of Russia that was daily becoming more apparent. I argued that this line could only encourage militarization and further centralization of power in Washington. It would run counter to our agreed purpose of seeking to reanimate the country’s original political thought.”
Hanighen prevailed. When in the course of human events a conservative crosses the empire, that conservative is given a one-way ticket to his own Siberia.
Joseph Stromberg has a good, if a little dated, essay explaining Morley’s beliefs in greater detail, as well as what his case says about today’s Republican Party:
Like Hoover and Taft, Morley feared communism. But these old right figures had never had any great illusions about our heroic Soviet ally and were, therefore, not thrown into interventionist hysteria when World War II ended in a civilizational train-wreck. They had expected it. Keeping their balance, they made out a critique of the emerging cold war.
In December 1944, Morley asked how the British could prove “to a large number of Greeks that while they were ‘patriots’ to resist a German puppet government they become ‘gangsters’ if they oppose a British puppet government.” In March 1947, when President Truman proposed that the United States take over the British role in Greece, Morley wrote that “[i]t is a reality attested by all history that if a republic assumes imperial functions it will not remain a republic.” Inflation, conscription, higher taxes lay down that road. We would see “our Federal Republic” become “a strongly-centralized empire.”
A year later, Morley stated that “the so-called isolationists were essentially right. They knew that American can run its own affairs reasonably well. They knew that in pontifically declaiming on the world stage we would be likely to prove ourselves blundering fools.” Our system rested on “foregoing the path of empire, on developing those private ventures in which the American genius is brilliant….” Of Truman, he said: “It is not unnatural for a ward politician to be President of the United States. But it becomes grotesque when a man of parochial outlook, inferior training and deficient ability attempts to push a reluctant people down the dangerous road of imperial rule.” It was a bitter thing to realize that “during the past few years, [America] has led the world in smashing the fabric of civilization”; we had dismantled German factories but also “the whole structure of American ideals.”
See Sam Goldman’s post on the shuttering of Policy Review for more on how, with Bush, the social and cultural damage of decades of militarism finally became a political problem for Republicans.