National Review In Disarray, David Frum Leaving Magazine To Start Web Site

12/18/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Tim Arango New York Times

In a span of 252 days, the National Review lost two Buckleys -- one to death, another to resignation -- and an election.

Now, thanks to the coarsening effect of the Internet on political discourse, the magazine may have lost something else: its reputation as the cradle for conservative intellectuals and home for erudite and well-mannered debate prized by its founder, the late William F. Buckley Jr.

In the general conservative blogosphere and in The Corner, National Review's popular blog, the tenor of debate -- particularly as it related to the fitness of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska to be vice president -- devolved into open nastiness during the campaign season, laying bare debates among conservatives that in a pre-Internet age may have been kept behind closed doors.

National Review, as the most pedigreed voice of conservatives, has often been tainted -- unfairly and by association, some argue -- by the tone of blogs, reader comments and e-mail messages. "Bill was always very concerned about having a high-minded and thoughtful discourse," Rich Lowry, the magazine's editor, said. "If you read the magazine, that's what it was and that's what it is."

In October came the resignation of Mr. Buckley's son, the writer and satirist Christopher Buckley, after he endorsed Barack Obama for president. He did so on Tina Brown's blog, The Daily Beast, to avoid any backlash on The Corner.

Now David Frum, a prominent conservative writer who enmeshed himself in a minor dustup during the campaign by turning negative on Governor Palin, is leaving, too. In an interview, he said he planned to leave the magazine, where he writes a popular blog, to strike out on his own on the Web.

"The answers to the Republican dilemma are not obvious and we need a vibrant discussion," he said. "I think a little more distance can help everybody do a better job of keeping their temper."

Read more on New York Times