William F. Buckley is gone

“There will be plenty of eulogies from people who knew William F. Buckley better than I did — and certainly from those who agreed with him more than I did,” Time‘s Joe Klein has written. “But he was an honest man, an actual conservative — who, in the end, was quietly appalled by George W. Bush’s radicalism, in Iraq and when it came to the federal budget.
“He was a lovely writer, of course. His book, The Unmaking of a Mayor, an account of his own wry run for mayor of New York in 1965, is not only hilarious but also an early — and accurate — critique of the political correctness, unionized sclerosis and wasteful bureaucracy that almost killed the world’s greatest city in the 1960s and 1970s. He was an excellent man. My condolences to all the Buckleys.”
Consider this Charlie Rose retrospective to get a measure of the man. Buckley wasn’t as earthy or plain-spoken as Barry Goldwater, whose rep was sharply elevated by Mr. Conservative, the HBO doc that ran last year, but his disdain of the Bushies certainly made him seem a lot more appealing than he did 40 years ago when he lost his cool and physically threatened Gore Vidal during an on-air debate during the Democratic National Convention.

26 thoughts on “William F. Buckley is gone

  1. Dave on said:

    Of course Jeff, Klein’s quote only tells half the story about Buckley’s far more nuanced concerns about “compassionate” conservatism.
    And ultimately, you can’t use this againt Bush, because Buckley’s complaints against him were when Bush strayed *from* conservatism, not adhered *to* it.
    Had Buckley– or I, or any conservative, for that matter– been 100% satisified with President Bush, it would be a given that Jeffrey Wells would have been near 100% *dissatisfied* with President Bush.

  2. A right-winger who was considerate and had a good measure of decorum. The next time you hear Rush Limbaugh or Mike Savage screeching like the opening act at the Nuremberg rally just remember that neo-con hate peddlers like them do not represent the kind of conservative that Mr. Buckley was.

  3. In Buckley’s defense on that Gore Vidal thing, before he lost his cool, Vidal had called Buckley a “crypto-Nazi” and kept taking over the points Buckley was trying to make, and never addressed the argument Buckley was making. Sure, a bit over the top, but Gore Vidal is nothing if not incredibly annoying and too full of himself.
    Buckley was an honest conservative, and being honest, go in good conscience not support a fake wannabe “conservative” like Bush. Buckley geninely believed in limited government spending and low taxes across the board. And he was very, very funny.

  4. My favorite piece o’ Buckley is still the clip of him interviewing a drunk Jack Kerouac. Buckley is both condescending and inquisitive. He also justifies the police beating people by comparing that to hipppies printing “obscene” material. This was the mindset of the Republicans in 1968. Scary. But great TV. If the clip was available, I’d link it.

  5. One of his last columns I read was a lovely story he wrote about seeing THE LIVES OF OTHERS with his driver. He probably saw it and saw things in it for different reasons than many of us, but it was a great piece and interesting to read his perspective on the film. It had a sad lonely quality, it was written after his wife died, and they had to drive about 20 miles to see it. It was remarkably candid, like the way Vonnegut would write honestly towards the end.
    Our great adversary is gone.

  6. He was still relevant. Unfortunately, the movement he created has become stagnant.
    Here’s a recent piece from the New Republic about the National Review cruise:
    “Aren’t you embarrassed by the absence of these weapons?” Buckley snaps at Podhoretz. He has just explained that he supported the war reluctantly, because Dick Cheney convinced him Saddam Hussein had WMD primed to be fired. “No,” Podhoretz replies. “As I say, they were shipped to Syria. During Gulf war one, the entire Iraqi air force was hidden in the deserts in Iran.” He says he is”heartbroken” by this “rise of defeatism on the right.” He adds, apropos of nothing, “There was nobody better than Don Rumsfeld. This defeatist talk only contributes to the impression we are losing, when I think we’re winning.”
    The audience cheers Podhoretz. The nuanced doubts of Bill Buckley leave them confused. Doesn’t he sound like the liberal media? Later, over dinner, a tablemate from Denver calls Buckley “a coward.” His wife nods and says, “Buckley’s an old man,” tapping her head with her finger to suggest dementia.

  7. You know my biggest political pet peeve? People who lump Rush Limbaugh in with the likes of Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, etc.
    First, I’m confident that few of Rush’s most vehement critics have ever bothered to listen to anything he’s said outside of the out-of-context snippets contained in a Keith Olbermann “Worst Person in the World” bit or a Bill Maher monologue joke.
    Second, this is a fine time to remind those critics that Buckley and Limbaugh were very close friends for twenty years, and thoughtful ideological colleagues.
    Disagree with your ideological opposites, do not caricature them. Or at least not without good humor that you can leave at the door with a smile.

  8. Of course Limbaugh is the king of taking people out of context. And likes to make fun of people with Parkinson’s disease (if you stop taking the pills you freeze up, not the other way around). Buckley was polite, Rush is a dick. But you can’t call Rush a real conservative, he’s a court jester.

  9. George– dead on RE: the movement.
    I know that this sounds close to the Nader/DailyKos head-in-the-sand approach to politics, but on the conservative Right there is a firm belief that we’ve lost our way, and are desperate need to return to our roots. Our greatest ideological victories– 1980, 1994– are long ago. The Buckley “movement” was deeply informed by moral vision, but was not solely one, i.e. it was always distinctly different than that of the Religious Right. It was an intellectual, Founders “first things” movement, designed to address the perils of the modern age by reminding people of the wisdom of the ages.
    If anything, one can point to all of the worst Republican excesses of the past decade and see how they mostly confirmed Buckley’s philosophy, namely by hewing away from it. “Compassionate” conservatism, practically described as Big Government conservatism, was not what Buckley and National Review embodied. It certainly wasn’t the conservatism of Ronald Reagan, nor that of Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh. It’s far, far too soon to write the final verdict on the Bush years, but it was as much a case of triangulation as the Clinton years, where Bush gave up core conservative principles in order to achieve other goals, namely a deeply unconservative war (a war I happen to support very strongly, while recognizing that our actions in it are extraordinarily inimical to the previous world order, and thus at odds with several strains of conservatism– paleo-conservatism, Buckley conservatism, etc.).
    Anyway. . . Perhaps conservatism’s moment in America is over. Perhaps it simply needs another spokesman of a similar intellectual caliber. Unfortunately, that’s a tall order, as WFB was truly a giant. Disagree with him, oppose him, but no one can deny his influence on the latter half of the 20th century, and the political world Senators Obama, Clinton and McCain inhabit.

  10. “First, I’m confident that few of Rush’s most vehement critics have ever bothered to listen to anything he’s said outside of the out-of-context snippets contained in a Keith Olbermann “Worst Person in the World” bit or a Bill Maher monologue joke.”
    I love that line: “You don’t know Rush. You just hear clips of his hatred.” I’m actually working on an essay about my time spent listening to Rush Limbaugh’s radio show in Sacramento, the one that set the stage for his national career. With all modesty, I was one of Rush’s favorite callers (he told me) and he always let me say my piece (this was when he wasn’t afraid of being challenged). His radio show then was fantastic. I met him a few times and he was always gracious, seemingly pleased that he had a faithful liberal listener.
    So no Dave, you’re wrong. I’ve watched Rush grow into a media monster, slandering and insulting others with a cruelty that belongs to his wounded little boy psyche. Mocking homeless people, calling Chelsea Clinton “the White House dog” and of course saying the rape, torture and murder at Abu Grahib was “a fraternity prank.” Let’s not mention his undisguised bigotry. Or his j’accuse of Anti-American Traitor to those opposed to our war.
    And of course, the ultimate conservtive hypocrisy of his drug addiction while damning the left for their bogus “if it feels good do it” credo. He’s shown not the least bit of humility, and it’s because I think he’s an agnostic at the core. He doesn’t like God talk. Too much Jesus.
    So no, Dave. We know exactly what Rush says. And it’s just as ugly and boneheaded as those somehow out of context clips reveal.

  11. So christian….you’re the type of guy that routinely calls in to radio shows, eh?
    Uh huh.
    I see.
    “Line two, christian from Hollywood. Christian, thank you for calling the Larry Elder Show on this ‘let it rip Friday’.”
    “You right-wingers are all alike!”

  12. Well Walter, I trained in radio TV and have done a few radio things. I love the medium. Been calling in since Larry King had his own show.
    And it’s your boy Rush who’s the ultimate avatar of Republicanism last time I checked. He wouldn’t have a career without guys like me. Right?
    Glad you mentioned Elder. I pwned him last year after he lied (which he does daily) that Republicans supported Clinton when he attacked Iraq. I called, read the headline from the Austin newspaper (I saved it) that declared Clinton Under Fire from Republicans after attacking Iraq.
    Elder said he’d check out the story. Next day, I happened to hear him calling me out as a liar since the story did not say what I claimed. I immediately called back, again read the piece that he had online — except Elder claimed his version was missing the paragraph I had before me. He apologized for calling me a liar.
    That’s how you call talk radio.
    I don’t do it anymore, but trust me, I’m good.
    That’s why I can get on the air immediately.
    But you’re one of those talk radio “listeners” eh?

  13. …The year after Brown, 1955, as Martin Luther King, Jr. led the Montgomery bus boycott to victory, William F. Buckley, Jr. launched the National Review to √¢‚Ǩ≈ìstand athwart history, yelling Stop.√¢‚Ǩ¬ù It is no secret that Roberts has worked with the Federalist Society and other conservative legal organizations favored by the National Review.
    “National Review was part of a larger movement that created institutions which shaped and trained several thousand young conservatives,” as Irving Kristol has written, “to go into the Republican party and take control of it.” Scholars, too, cite the magazine’s founding as the start of the movement that brought Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush to the White House. Reagan and Bush, in turn, appointed the justices who drove the recent school ruling.
    So how did National Review greet the Brown decision? Frank Meyer, its founding co-editor and the leading conservative movement builder in the formative years, called the high court’s decision a “rape of the Constitution.”
    To fight the implementation of Brown, Buckley and Meyer forged an alliance with the intellectual architect of “massive resistance,” James Jackson Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick’s agitation against school desegregation as editor of the Richmond News Leader earned him praise as “one of the South’s most talented leaders” from the Mississippi-based white Citizens’ Councils then working to crush the civil rights movement.
    Buckley traded mailing lists with this avid white supremacist organization in 1958, assuring its leader that “Our position on states’ rights is the same as your own.” Indeed, it was. What made “the White community” in the South “entitled” to use any means necessary to keep blacks from voting, Buckley had editorialized the year before, was that “it is the advanced race” so its “claims of civilization supersede those of universal suffrage.”
    Northerners like Buckley and Meyer allied with southern segregationists not only from racism, however, but also from shared conservative convictions, not least what they called the “original intent” of the Constitution. The pioneers of this tradition were defenders of slavery in the antebellum era and its apologists thereafter. They used their peculiar readings of the Constitution to limit what democratic government could do for its citizens, an approach embraced today by the Federalist Society and the conservative block on the Supreme Court.
    Buckley and his allies fought the quest for social justice at every turn. They urged the defeat of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and every measure to promote true fairness thereafter. National Review warned that the Civil Rights Act √¢‚Ǩ≈ìwould undermine the most precious rights of property.√¢‚Ǩ¬ù √¢‚Ǩ≈ìThe whole basis of individual liberty is destroyed,√¢‚Ǩ¬ù it insisted, when √¢‚Ǩ≈ìthe citizen√¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s right to discriminate√¢‚Ǩ¬ù is denied….

  14. * I would rather be governed by the first 2000 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than by the 2000 members of the faculty of Harvard University. *
    – WFB, Jr.

  15. Here it comes. Liberals using old and dead conservatives to bash present day conservatives. They do it with Reagan, Goldwater. They may as well do it with WB.

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