BC: I used to read a great many of your articles and was somewhat surprised, at least initially, when I heard that you had joined The American Conservative. I guess I always considered you to be more of a mainstream party guy. Was their a marked difference between their outlook and your own? Also, do you think the old paleocon vs. neocon debate had any legitimacy?
WJA: You’re right that I started out as more of a “mainstream party guy;” I even (very briefly) worked in Republican politics. But as time wore on, I began to doubt the Republican Party’s commitment to conservative principles. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, I didn’t leave the GOP—in fact, I’m still a registered Republican. Instead, the GOP left me.
After 2001, I was disappointed to discover that many conservatives were reluctant to hold George W. Bush to the same standards we applied to Bill Clinton. If Clinton had proposed the largest new entitlement since the Great Society, a record expansion of federal education spending, amnesty for illegal aliens, or democratic nation-building in the Middle East, conservatives would have been outraged. But when these policies were espoused by a Republican president, too many conservatives rolled over. I liked the fact that The American Conservative didn’t.
I was never in favor of invading Iraq and by 2004, when I went to work for TAC, I had come to regret not speaking out more forcefully against the war when it counted. My partisan loyalties didn’t keep me from criticizing the administration on Iraq, but it certainly made my criticisms more muted than they otherwise would have been.
That doesn’t mean I agree with TAC’s editorial positions 100 percent of the time. I am more sympathetic to free trade and somewhat less optimistic about Palestinian intentions, for example. And my domestic-policy priorities probably leave me more common ground with mainstream conservatives. But I don’t agree with any magazine’s positions all the time, and I was on board when it came to the main ones—Iraq and immigration. ~The Constant Conservative
Via Jeremy Lott