The National Review gang has been paying their respects to Roger Ailes, late of Fox News, even though most revile the Fox brand.  Some of them didn’t even take a day off from trashing Sean Hannity, arguably Roger Ailes best rags-to-riches story.  But they’ll go back to berating Fox, which they have long resented as having cheapened the conservative brand and become something NR founder William Buckley would not have made it.

Or could not have made it.  Buckley was just not up to the media magic Ailes could work.  Granted, Buckley was past his prime when cable TV really roared.  He started National Review in 1955, and a niche magazine would do just fine for a few decades.  But National Review could not get Barry Goldwater elected president in 1964.   In 1968, Richard Nixon quipped to then political youngster Pat Buchanan that he hoped Pat wasn’t too much like Goldwater. Pat said, “no” and got the job.  The rest, for better or worse, is history. Ailes told Nixon it was a mistake to think of TV as a gimmick.

Roger Ailes was a political and media hotshot who helped get Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes elected.  The former Republican Presidents who are still alive will tell you that. With all due respect, National Review became conservatism emeritus.  None of the Fox notables would speak ill of Buckley, even though most of Buckley’s proteges can’t stand Fox and would say so.  Make of that what you will.

Some NR beard-strokers were asking on social media today whether we’ll go back to the Buckley model for the movement now that the Ailes model is finished.  Obviously they’d like that.

Let’s hope not.

The conservative movement hit a brick wall until a media intense, flashy, and sometimes sensational and loud Fox News took it to the next level.  There’s just no going back.  Bill Buckley had a slight stammer, wore rumpled suits and looked like he never washed his hair. Roger Ailes had “leg chairs” with comely female commentators – maybe too comely for his own good – and guys like Hannity known for neckties that wow you.  We’ll never go back to Buckley’s thinker-quarium of guys who always won their points at the end of their thought pieces but had no presence for cable.  National Review does pricey cruises.  Until recently, Sean Hannity did benefit concerts featuring country music stars. Make sense?

Buckley was Cunningham Hardware. Ailes was the big box store. I’m grateful to Roger Ailes for his roles in electing President Reagan and maybe even both Presidents Bush and Nixon.  And for O’Reilly, and Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh. By the way, Bill Buckley met a young Rush Limbaugh and liked him.  Even the now “out” Shepard Smith had acceptance from, and teared up over the loss of Ailes, the godfather of modern conservatism on its supposed “hate” channel.   But it’s not 1955.  It’s not 1964. Ailes checked all the boxes for Buckleyism, but he was a complete and modern package. We need the next Roger Ailes more than we need the next Bill Buckley.