This is one of the more sophisticated versions of the "Leo Strauss is a Jewish fascist" arguments I’ve seen. It’s based largely on a letter Strauss wrote to Karl Loewith in 1933, of which this is the most relevant part:
Of course I can’t opt for just any other country - one doesn’t choose a homeland and, above all, a mother tongue, and in any event I will never be able to write other than in German, even if I must write in another language. On the other hand, I see no acceptable possibility of living under the swastika, i.e., under a symbol that says nothing more to me than: you and your ilk, you are physei(3) subhumans and therefore justly pariahs. There is in this case just one solution. We must repeat: we, “men of science,” - as our predecessors in the Arab Middle Ages called themselves - non habemus locum manentem, sed quaerimus…(4) And, what concerns this matter: the fact that the new right-wing Germany does not tolerate us says nothing against the principles of the right.To the contrary: only from the principles of the right, that is from fascist, authoritarian and imperial principles, is it possible with seemliness, that is, without resort to the ludicrous and despicable appeal to the droits imprescriptibles de l’homme(5) to protest against the shabby abomination.(6) I am reading Caesar’s Commentaries with deep understanding, and I think of Virgil’s Tu regere imperio… parcere subjectis et debellare superbos.(7) There is no reason to crawl to the cross, neither to the cross of liberalism, as long as somewhere in the world there is a glimmer of the spark of the Roman thought. And even then: rather than any cross, I’ll take the ghetto.[My emphasis.]
Here’s part of the poster’s commentary on this:
It seems fair to say that fascist thought was appealing to Strauss, otherwise why would he be willing to toy with the label? At the same time, the aspect of fascism that most appealed to Strauss is also evident from the letter: it is the reliance on thoughts of classical antiquity, particularly of the early imperial era of Rome, as they were distorted in the political mirror of the thirties - most effectively by the Italian fascists.
I think that it would be fairer to say that to the extent that "classical antiquity" appealed to Strauss, it was the straight stuff, not as mediated by buffoons like Mussolini. Rob Howse, who has visited NLT from time to time, offers some of the best commentary on the site:
I believe that Strauss’s reading of the political situation in Germany at that time was largely correct (even though I am no expert on Weimar I have read a lot and talked to Weimar scholars extensively in connection with my Strauss research). That is, things had gone so far in an antiliberal direction by the time of that letter that to appeal to liberal principles against Nazism was ridiculous (at least as a matter of political effectiveness). Strauss was probably correct that the only hope--still a hope--was that old style conservativism, even fascism, might displace Hitler (and, yes, he assumed implicitly that even fascism/right wing imperialism would be better than Hitler). I do not believe that Strauss was responding to Lowith not with respect to what was true in principle, the true political morality, but concerning what might be possible in the dark situation in Germany.
Strauss was not an enemy of liberal democracy; as he emphasized, liberal democracy, even in its most permissive egalitarian forms, and perhaps especially in those forms, is favourable to the life of the mind; in letting everyone do and think what they want, at least in principle, liberal democracy is good for philosophy. The questions that seems to have haunted Strausss ever since his Weimar experience were whether a permissive egalitarian liberal democracy would have the backbone to stand up to its enemies and thus defend itself adequately and whether the relativist and positivist strands in liberal theory don’t undermine the moral centre and high aspirations of liberalism itself.
Rob and I might disagree about the status of the last two claims, but I think he comes pretty close to getting Strauss’s practical judgments about the situation in Germany and the situation of "the philosopher" in liberal democracy right.
The poster--Scott Horton--has an extremely simplistic view of the relationship between theory and practice or, if you will, principle and prudence. As other commenters note, "Straussians" (who may or may not agree theoretically) are all over the map in regard to their practical judgments about what our current situation requires. Thus I can speak only for myself here. I agree with Winston Churchill, surely no fascist and as surely a man Strauss admired, largely for "Roman" reasons: liberal democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. Its great strength in its Anglo-American varieties is precisely its openness to personalities who are at odds with its fundamental egalitarianism, whether it be "philosophers" or "great-souled men," like Lincoln, who understand and can supplement or overcome its weaknesses. I think I learned from Strauss and his students the "sub-ideal" nature of all actually existing politics and political orders. (One can, of course, learn the same thing from Saint Augustine, albeit from an entirely different perspective.) Horton strikes me as a liberal idealist who has a hard time imagining how a qualified and ironic friend can be something other than an enemy and who--unlike good liberals like John Locke--imagines that the rule of law is adequate to all situations.
Hat tip: Jonah Goldberg, who gets it from Matthew Yglesias, who is, needless to say, quite willing to assume that Strauss is fascist-friendly, as, by extension, are all the so-called Straussians in the Bush Administration.