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Buckley Achieves Fair And Balanced At A Cost

This week the son of the man who was the founding father of modern conservatism was labeled an NSOB — No Son of a Buckley, if you please.

Christopher Buckley endorsed Barack Obama for president, on the new blog, The Daily Beast.

Although Mr. Buckley is a much-admired author in his own right, he noted chivalrously, "The only reason my vote would be of any interest is that my last name happens to be Buckley — a name I inherited."

Mr. Buckley emphasized that he is still a conservative. He said he admires John McCain as authentic, sincere and brave, personally and politically.

But he feels Mr. McCain has diminished himself in his campaign for president, while Sen. Obama displays "a first-class temperament."

Contrary reaction surged into National Review, for which Mr. Buckley has been writing a column. To oblige the magazine his family founded, Mr. Buckley offered to resign. It was accepted — "rather briskly" as he put it.

Rich Lowry, National Review's editor, said, "We took the offer sincerely."

The incident has echoes of the way that Christopher Hitchens left The Nation magazine in 2002. Mr. Hitchens found himself increasingly at odds with the publication that first brought him to the United States. He felt that too many Nation writers and readers had become apologists for terrorists and regimes that oppress minorities, gays and women, simply because they couched their creeds as opposition to President Bush.

He resigned, saying the magazine had become an "echo chamber," not an independent voice. In recent years, Mr. Hitchens has been best known for his eloquent atheism. And although he has been sharply critical of Sen. Obama, this week he, too, endorsed him for president.

Christopher Buckley and Christopher Hitchens are two of my favorite commentators — whatever they say. I am friendly with one, and friends with the other. They make me laugh, and make me think. And, they surprise me. I don't know what end they'll reach, but know I'll enjoy the road on which they'll take me.

The Nation and National Review are opinion journals, not news organizations. They are not obliged to run viewpoints with which they disagree.

But this week, Chris Buckley pointed out how his father had often surprised his readers with unpredictable opinions. He said that most of all, William Buckley believed in argument.

Not argument as you hear it these days, with people hurling pre-fabricated conclusions like bowling pins at each other's heads, but argument as a reasoned effort to put across ideas.

Many people who follow the news these days seem to shriek at the shadow of any idea that threatens their certitude. They want only news that reassures them that they're right. Liberals just listen to liberals, conservatives only hear conservatives, and everyone can stay, cozy, confirmed and smug, in their echo chambers.

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Simon SaysSimon Says NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small