Profiles in Liberty: Jim Antle, Conservative Journalist
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of “Profiles in Liberty” interviews Matt will present with leaders of the conservative and libertarian movement.
W. James Antle is an associate editor of The American Spectator and a contributing editor to The American Conservative. As a prolific columnist, Jim’s work has been published in Politico, The Washington Times, National Review, LewRockwell.com, The Guardian (UK), Takimag, and many others. Business Insider ranked Jim as 1 of the 50 pundits you must pay attention to in 2012. He posts wry, pessimistic tweets at @jimantle.
Matt Naugle: How did you become a conservative?
Jim Antle: I grew up in Massachusetts while Michael Dukakis was governor and Ronald Reagan was president. If that perfect laboratory experiment doesn’t turn you into a conservative, God help you.
MN: How did you make the transition from working in IT to working alongside Pat Buchanan?
JA: I sold my first freelance piece to The American Conservative while I was still working in the IT department of a Boston-based dot-com. My first magazine cover story, a piece on the Bush-era divisions between libertarians and conservatives, was written during that time period. One day in early 2004 I was sitting at my desk and I got a call inviting me to come interview for a job at TAC. The rest was an extremely minor footnote to sub-history.
MN: You’re a leading right-of-center opinion columnist. Whose columns do you dislike the most?
JA: There are some columnists I actually like but never respond to or write about unless I disagree with them. David Frum probably falls into that category. Charles Blow’s surname appropriately describes his columns. I think David Brooks is a good writer, but even the best prose can only do so much to dress up drab conventional wisdom. I guess that shows I have a follower problem.
MN: Is there a “conservative movement?” Do ruggedly Rothbardian libertarians fit into the mix? Gays?
JA: Sure, if millions of people self-identify with a conservative movement, it must by definition exist. It is a wild and woolly movement that includes people of all kinds of lifestyles. Rothbardians are simultaneously the most conservative and the most radical people you’ll ever meet, though some of them are tiresome.
MN: As David Frum suggests in his latest book, did Bob Tyrrell, founder of The American Spectator, once date the Princess of Wales?
JA: Bob Tyrrell would never Wale and tell.
MN: Besides Jim Antle, who should be President in 2016?
JA: That is like asking George W. Bush, “Besides Jesus Christ, who is your favorite philosopher?”
MN: To quote P.J. O’Rourke, “The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it.” If government doesn’t work, why do Republicans usually forget that when it comes to foreign policy?
JA: Republicans have had a depressing tendency to believe that government agencies that function outside our borders, with the exception of striped-pants diplomats, are honorary members of the private sector. This is starting to change, however. Shooting taxpayer dollars into outer space is still a waste of money.
MN: Is National Review still a conservative publication?
JA: If they’ll publish me, sure.
MN: Your favorite book?
JA: Tequila Mockingbird
MN: Your favorite TV show?
JA: See above.
MN: What is your favorite drink?
JA: See above. Though my favorite Founding Father, Sam Adams, surely gets an honorable mention.
MN: Are you optimistic about the future, or is society doomed?
JA: Those options are not mutually excusive, you know.
MN: Final words of wisdom from Jim Antle?
JA: Some say don’t take any wooden nickles, but Russell Kirk knew they were a permanent thing.