Off and on I’ve been reading National Review for three decades now, which comes as a surprise to friends since I don’t share any of the magazine’s politics. But National Review has published some fine writers, along with the usual assortment of conservative hacks. First and foremost, the magazine published many reviews by Guy Davenport, one of the greatest essayists of the last century. And of course Hugh Kenner was one of the great literary critics and a master stylist. Below that Olympian level there were many excellent writers: D. Keith Mano, Richard Brookhiser, Garry Wills, Joan Didion, Arlene Croce, Theodore Strugeon, and Jeffrey Hart. Even Joseph Sobran was capable of a fine turn of phrase when he reined in his racism and paranoia about Jewish power.
Having said that, there were always issues on which the magazine could not be trusted. Off the top of my head, I could never believe anything the magazine wrote about black people, the civil rights movement (they once asserted that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a poor public speaker!), intelligence tests, Latin American dictatorships (especially Chile), South Africa (and really the whole continent of Africa), climate change, the Viet Nam war, the theory of evolution, anything to do with the Middle East or Islam, supply side economics, the Shakespeare authorship question (the magazine allowed Sobran to indulge his pet theory that the Earl of Oxford wrote the plays). This is only a partial list but gives you an idea of the magazine’s blind spots.