National Review

National Review
National Review

National Review cover of December 22, 2003
Editor Rich Lowry
Categories Editorial magazine
Frequency Biweekly
Publisher Jack Fowler
Total circulation
First issue November 19, 1955
Company National Review, Inc.
Country United States
Based in New York City
Language English
ISSN 0028-0038

National Review (NR) is a biweekly magazine founded by the late author William F. Buckley, Jr., in 1955 and based in New York City. It describes itself as "America's most widely read and influential magazine and web site for conservative news, commentary, and opinion."[2]

Although the print version of the magazine is available online to subscribers, the free content on the website is essentially a separate publication under different editorial direction.



Prior to National Review's founding in 1955, some conservatives believed that the American right was a largely unorganized collection of individuals who shared intertwining philosophies but had little opportunity for a united public voice. They also wanted to marginalize what they saw as the antiwar, noninterventionist views of the Old Right.[3]

In 1953 moderate Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, and many major magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post, Time, and Reader's Digest were strongly conservative and anti-communist, as were many newspapers including the Chicago Tribune and St Louis Globe-Democrat. A few small-circulation conservative magazines, Human Events and The Freeman preceded National Review in developing Cold War Conservatism in the 1950s.[4]


Early years

In 1953, Russell Kirk published The Conservative Mind, which sought to trace an intellectual bloodline from Edmund Burke[5] to the Old Right in the early 1950s. This challenged the popular notion that no coherent conservative tradition existed in the United States.[5] A young William F. Buckley, Jr. was greatly influenced by Kirk's concepts.

William F. Buckley, Jr., the founder of National Review

Two years before, Buckley published God and Man at Yale, criticizing his alma mater for its abandonment of its founding principles. Buckley, a Skull and Bones secret society member, champion debater and former editor of The Yale Daily News, soon rose to national prominence. After a short stint in the CIA, he toured the country debating for The Intercollegiate Society of Individualists (ISI), contributed to The American Mercury, and soon decided to start his own magazine.

Buckley first tried to purchase Human Events, but was turned down. He then met Willi Schlamm, the ex-communist editor of The Freeman; they would spend the next two years raising the $300,000 necessary to start their own weekly magazine, originally to be called National Weekly. (A magazine holding the trademark to the name prompted the change to National Review.) The statement of intentions read:

Middle-of-the-Road, qua Middle of the Road, is politically, intellectually, and morally repugnant. We shall recommend policies for the simple reason that we consider them right (rather than “non-controversial”); and we consider them right because they are based on principles we deem right (rather than on popularity polls)...The New Deal revolution, for instance, could hardly have happened save for the cumulative impact of The Nation and The New Republic, and a few other publications, on several American college generations during the twenties and thirties.


On November 19, 1955, Buckley’s magazine would take shape. Buckley assembled an eclectic group of writers: traditionalists, Catholic intellectuals, libertarians and ex-Communists. They included: Russell Kirk, James Burnham, Frank Meyer, and Willmoore Kendall, and Catholics L. Brent Bozell, Harry V. Jaffa and Garry Wills. Whittaker Chambers, the former Time editor who had been a Communist spy in the 1930s eventually became a senior editor. In the magazine’s founding statement Buckley wrote:[6]

Let’s Face it: Unlike Vienna, it seems altogether possible that did National Review not exist, no one would have invented it. The launching of a conservative weekly journal of opinion in a country widely assumed to be a bastion of conservatism at first glance looks like a work of supererogation, rather like publishing a royalist weekly within the walls of Buckingham Palace. It is not that of course; if National Review is superfluous, it is so for very different reasons: It stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no other is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.

As editors and contributors, Buckley especially sought out intellectuals who were ex-Communists or had once worked on the far Left, including Whittaker Chambers, William Schlamm, John Dos Passos, Frank Meyer and James Burnham.[7] When James Burnham became one of the original senior editors he urged the adoption of a more pragmatic editorial position that would extend the influence of the magazine toward the political center. Smant (1991) finds that Burnham overcame sometimes heated opposition from other members of the editorial board (including Meyer, Schlamm, William Rickenbacker, and the magazine's publisher William A. Rusher), and had a significant impact on both the editorial policy of the magazine and on the thinking of Buckley himself.[8]

Mission to conservatives

National Review aimed to make conservative ideas respectable, in an age when the dominant view of conservative thought was expressed by Lionel Trilling in 1950:[9]

In the United States at this time liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition. For it is the plain fact that nowadays there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation... the conservative impulse and the reactionary impulse do not... express themselves in ideas but only... in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.

National Review promoted Barry Goldwater heavily during the early 1960s. Buckley and others involved with the magazine took a major role in the "Draft Goldwater" movement in 1960 and the 1964 presidential campaign. National Review spread his vision of conservatism throughout the country.[10]

The early National Review faced occasional defections from both left and right. Garry Wills broke with NR and became a liberal commentator. Buckley’s brother-in-law, L. Brent Bozell Jr., who ghostwrote The Conscience of a Conservative for Barry Goldwater, left and started the short-lived traditionalist Catholic magazine, Triumph in 1966.

Defining the boundaries of conservatism

Buckley and Meyer promoted the idea of enlarging the boundaries of conservatism through fusionism, whereby different schools of conservatives, including libertarians, would work together to combat what were seen as their common opponents.

Buckley and his editors used his magazine to define the boundaries of conservatism—and to exclude people or ideas or groups they considered unworthy of the conservative title.[11] Therefore they attacked Ayn Rand, the John Birch Society, George Wallace and anti-Semites, while being ambiguous about white supremacy.

Buckley's goal was to upscale the respectability of the conservative movement; as Rich Lowry noted:

Mr. Buckley's first great achievement was to purge the American right of its kooks. He marginalized the anti-Semites, the John Birchers, the nativists and their sort.[12]

In 1957, the magazine editorialized in favor of white supremacy in the South, arguing that "the central question that emerges... is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas where it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes – the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race."[13] By the 1970s the magazine had moved to demanding colorblind policies and the end of affirmative action.[14]

In the late 1960s, the magazine attacked segregationist George Wallace, who ran in Democratic primaries (1964 and 1972) and made an independent run for president in 1968. During the 1950s, Buckley had worked to remove anti-Semitism from the conservative movement and barred holders of those views from working for National Review.[15]

In 1962, Buckley denounced Robert W. Welch, Jr., and the John Birch Society, in National Review, as "far removed from common sense" and urged the GOP to purge itself of Welch's influence.[16]

After Goldwater

After Goldwater was defeated by Lyndon Johnson in 1964, Buckley and National Review continued to champion the idea of a conservative movement, which was increasingly embodied in Ronald Reagan. Reagan, a longtime subscriber to National Review, first became politically prominent during Goldwater's campaign. National Review supported his challenge to President Gerald Ford in 1976 and his successful 1980 campaign.

During the 1980s NR called for tax cuts, supply-side economics, the Strategic Defense Initiative, and support for President Reagan's foreign policy against the Soviet Union. The magazine criticized the Welfare state and would support the Welfare reform proposals of the 1990s. The magazine also regularly criticized President Bill Clinton. It first embraced, then rejected, Pat Buchanan in his political campaigns. A lengthy 1996 National Review editorial called for a "movement toward" drug legalization.[17]

Endorsements of presidential candidates during primaries

National Review sometimes endorses a candidate during the primary election season. Editors at National Review have said "Our guiding principle has always been to select the most conservative viable candidate."[18] This statement echoes what has come to be called "The Buckley Rule". In a 1967 interview, in which he was asked about the choice of presidential candidate, Buckley said, "The wisest choice would be the one who would win.... I'd be for the most right, viable candidate who could win." [19]

The following candidates were officially endorsed by National Review:

Current editor and contributors

The magazine's current editor is Rich Lowry. Many of the magazine's commentators are affiliated with think-tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute. Prominent guest authors have included Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Sarah Palin in the online and paper edition.

National Review Online

A popular feature of National Review is the web version of the magazine, National Review Online ("NRO"), which includes a digital version of the magazine, with articles updated daily by National Review writers, and conservative blogs. The Online version is called NRO to distinguish it from the paper magazine (referred to as "NRODT" or National Review On Dead Tree.) The site's editor is Kathryn Jean Lopez, known to the NRO community as "K-Lo". The website receives about one million hits per day—more than all other conservative-magazine websites combined[citation needed]. Each day, the site posts new content consisting of conservative, libertarian, neo-conservative, and neo-liberal opinion articles. It also features several blogs:

  • The Corner[20] (postings from many of the site's editors and affiliated writers discussing the issues of the day).
  • The Campaign Spot[21] (formerly The Kerry Spot/TKS written by Jim Geraghty).
  • David Calling[22] (updated by writer David Pryce-Jones).
  • Bench Memos[23] (legal and judicial news).
  • The Agenda[24] (analysis updated by Reihan Salam).
  • Media Blog[25] (media news).
  • Planet Gore[26] (global warming news).
  • Phi Beta Cons[27] (University news).

Markos Moulitsas, who runs the liberal Daily Kos website, told reporters in August 2007 that he does not read conservative blogs, with the exception of those on NRO: "I do like the blogs at the National Review — I do think their writers are the best in the [conservative] blogosphere," he said.[28] Paul Begala has stated in The Huffington Post that "I bookmark NRO and read it frequently. It's smart and breezy...".[29]

National Review Institute

The NRI works in policy development and helping establish new advocates in the conservative movement. National Review Institute was founded by William F. Buckley Jr. in 1991 to engage in policy development, public education, and advocacy that would advance the conservative principles he championed.[30]


As with most political opinion magazines in the United States, National Review carries little corporate advertising. The magazine stays afloat by donations from subscribers and black-tie fund raisers around the country. The magazine also sponsors cruises featuring National Review editors and contributors as lecturers.[31]

Buckley said in 2005 that the magazine had lost about $25 million over 50 years.[32]

Notable current contributors

Current and past contributors to National Review magazine, National Review Online, or both:

Notable past contributors


  1. ^ [1],Access ABC.
  2. ^ Advertising Media Kit, National Review Online.
  3. ^ Nash, George H. (1976, 2006) The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945. ISI Books: Wilmington, DE, pp. 186-193.
  4. ^ Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 pp. 186-193.
  5. ^ a b Frohnen, Bruce, Jeremy Beer, and Jeffrey O. Nelson (2006) American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia. ISI Books, Wilmington, DE, pp. 186-188.
  6. ^ Our Mission Statement, National Review Online, November 19, 1955.
  7. ^ John P. Diggins, "Buckley's Comrades: The Ex-Communist as Conservative," Dissent July 1975, Vol. 22 Issue 4, pp 370-386
  8. ^ Kevin Smant, "Whither Conservatism? James Burnham and 'National Review,' 1955-1964," Continuity, 1991, Issue 15, pp 83-97; Smant, Principles and Heresies: Frank S. Meyer and the Shaping of the American Conservative Movement (2002) pp 33-66
  9. ^ Golden Days, National Review Online, October 27, 2005.
  10. ^ Frohnen, Bruce, Jeremy Beer, and Jeffrey O. Nelson, eds. American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia. (2006) pp. 601-604.
  11. ^ Roger Chapman, Culture wars: an encyclopedia of issues, viewpoints, and voices (2009) vol 1 p 58
  12. ^ A Personal Retrospective, National Review Online, August 9, 2004.
  13. ^ Quoted in John B. Judis, William F. Buckley, Jr.: Patron Saint of the Conservatives (2001) p. 138
  14. ^ Laura Kalman, Right Star Rising: A New Politics, 1974-1980 (2010) p 23
  15. ^ Judis, William F. Buckley, Jr.: Patron Saint of the Conservatives pp. 283-87
  16. ^ William F. Buckley, Jr. "Goldwater, the John Birch Society, and Me". Retrieved 2008-03-09. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ Romney for President
  19. ^ The Miami News, April 18, 1967. "A Trip into Idea Land with Bill Buckley". Retrieved 2011-10-17. 
  20. ^ The Corner
  21. ^ The Campaign Spot
  22. ^ David Calling
  23. ^ Bench Memos
  24. ^ The Agenda
  25. ^ Media Blog
  26. ^ Planet Gore
  27. ^ Phi Beta Cons
  28. ^ "Markos speaks", Ben Smith blog in The Politico, August 2, 2007.
  29. ^ Paul Begala.Yes, National Review, We Did Execute Japanese for Waterboarding, The Huffington Post, April 24, 2009.
  30. ^ National Review Institute
  31. ^ National Review cruise
  32. ^ Shapiro, Gary. "An 'Encounter' With Conservative Publishing", "Knickerbocker" column, The New York Sun, December 9, 2005.
  33. ^ Signing Off January 18, 2009.


  • Allitt, Patrick. The Conservatives: Ideas and Personalities Throughout American History (2010) excerpt and text search
  • Critchlow, Donald T. The Conservative Ascendancy: How the Right Made Political History (2007)
  • Frohnen, Bruce et al. eds. American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia (2006) ISBN 1-932236-44-9
  • Hart, Jeffrey. The Making of the American Conservative Mind: The National Review and Its Times (2005), a view from the inside
  • Judis, John B. William F. Buckley, Jr.: Patron Saint of the Conservatives (2001)
  • Nash, George. The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 (2006; 1st ed. 1978)
  • Schneider, Gregory. The Conservative Century: From Reaction to Revolution (2009)
  • Smant, Kevin J. Principles and Heresies: Frank S. Meyer and the Shaping of the American Conservative Movement (2002) (ISBN 1-882926-72-2)

External links

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