February 28, 2008


A Remarkable Man: In memory of William F. Buckley Jr. (Joseph Lieberman, 2/27/08, National Review)

Buckley's life is an extraordinary one. Upon leaving Yale, he became well known for a book he wrote — God and Man at Yale — about what he saw as the hostile environment there toward people of faith. He started National Review in the mid-1950s. I remember reading once that he had said in the founding issue that the publication would derive from the original ideas of the moral order. Bill Buckley was a person who studied history, studied literature, and learned from it. He was also infused with a deep and profound commitment to his Roman Catholic faith. I believe that was the origin of the moral order which he gave expression to in his writing for National Review, and in speaking out and conducting himself as a provocative, loving American.

He believed that ideas mattered, and they do. National Review, in some sense, gave birth to the modern American conservative movement. It wasn't necessarily a Republican movement; his conservatism was a matter of ideals and ideas and philosophy. He rejected extremism. To his everlasting credit, he took on the John Birch Society when it wasn't popular to do so.

Buckley's conservative ideology was not always favorable to Republican candidates. I recall reading National Review’s endorsement of General Dwight D. Eisenhower for President. While everyone else was echoing the slogan "We Like Ike," Buckley's editorial said "We Prefer Ike.” He was more thrilled, of course, by the candidacy of Senator Barry Goldwater, and then most of all by the candidacy of President Ronald Reagan.

At one point in the mid-60s, Buckley ran for Mayor of New York, as kind of a joyous, thought-provoking, elegant, eloquent exercise in being involved in the marketplace of public ideas. Perhaps the most famous, if not the most substantive, thing he said in that campaign was when they asked him what he would do if he was elected. Bill Buckley famously said, "Demand a recount."

Guru of the Right was guided by a rebel's sensibility (John B. Judis | February 29, 2008, The Australian)
WILLIAM F. Buckley Jr, will, of course, be remembered as the man who was most singly responsible for the modern conservative movement. Before 1955, when Buckley founded National Review, there were disparate strands of an American Right, from free-market anti-New Dealers to traditionalists and anti-Semitic crackpots.

Through National Review, Buckley constructed a new conservatism by knitting together the traditional and free-market strands of the Right with the militant anti-communism of former communists and Trotskyists such as Whittaker Chambers and James Burnham, and by casting out of the new mix the various anti-Semites and kooks. Barry Goldwater was around, too, but Goldwater's politics - set forth in a book ghosted by National Review editor L. Brent Bozell Jr, Buckley's brother-in-law - were inconceivable before National Review. Buckley provided the synthesis.

Buckley didn't necessarily provide the theory. He was a brilliant impresario and editor and later became an exceptional columnist and television personality. He yearned to write what he called a "big book" on the model of Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind - it was to be called The Revolt Against the Masses - but he gave up in the early 1960s and settled for the fast lane of punditry, hosting Firing Line on TV, and later novel-writing. A conservative by political reputation and a traditionalist in his faith, he was nonetheless at home, and reached the peak of his success, during the frenetic '60s. He was most comfortable in the role of a rebel. And, as Dwight Macdonald wrote in a review of Buckley's first book, God and Man at Yale, he had much of the temperament and sensibility but none (or very little) of the political outlook of the left-wing rebel.

-William F. Buckley Jr., one private memory (Andrew Malcolm, 2/28/08, LA Times: Top of the Ticket)
And then his eyes lit up and he smiled. He wanted to share a recent story about "a dear friend." That dear friend, again surprisingly, was Hubert H. Humphrey, the former pharmacist, Minneapolis mayor, Minnesota senator and vice president whose liberal politics were about as far from Buckley's as Tokyo from Connecticut.

Buckley was famous for skewering liberals lke Humphrey during the 1,504 episodes of his TV show, recalling on-air to one famous New York Democrat how many times he'd been on "Firing Line." And then, adding, "Tell me, Mark, have you learned anything?"

Humphrey was called "the Happy Warrior" for his endless enthusiasms and energies to fix things. He had returned to the Senate after being crushed by Richard Nixon and Humphrey's own badly-fractured Democratic Party in the antiwar violence, assassinations and political violence of 1968.

As Buckley talked that evening, the world silently knew that Humphrey was dying from cancer, slowly and surely. But the Minnesotan wouldn't let on.

Buckley had been on a recent flight from New York to Britain, he said. The in-flight movie projector had broken so he was reading, legs crossed, Santa Claus spectacles perched on his nose. When, abruptly, a noisy ruckus erupted behind and above him.

Buckley wheeled and there, coat off, sleeves rolled up, he saw Hubert H. Humphrey mounting a ladder and inserting himself into the broken projector situation and the aircraft's ceiling, muttering constantly to himself while he tried to fix the balky machine, without success as it turned out. "That's Hubert," Buckley thought with affection.

A flight attendant approached. She said the captain was a fan and was inviting Buckley into the cockpit to watch the landing in the London night. Buckley recalled being awed by the scene approaching ahead, the horizon aglow from the ancient city, the modern airport closer with all the lights, some flashing, many colored as the giant plane slowly descended through the darkness toward the earth.

Suddenly, the cockpit door flew open. "Bill!" shouted the senator. "What are you doing in here? Why wasn't I invited? What's going on? Oh, my goodness! Bill, will you look at that sight? Isn't that beautiful? Oh, my. Look!"

And, Buckley recounted, instead of the outside scenery, he ended up that night in the dark cockpit watching instead his dying friend in admiration, still excited, still himself, exulting at the world's beauty as he came down slowly for a landing at the end of a long trip.

Then, Buckley looked at me and took a sip of his drink. "I hope at the end," he said, "I come in for my last landing the same way."

I think he did.

William F. Buckley Jr., RIP (Ben Johnson, 2/28/08, FrontPageMagazine.com)

Aloise Buckley Heath once reminisced that, when her brother set out to establish National Review in the mid-1950s, “Our most deeply buried fear was that Gerald L.K. Smith was the only other conservative in America.” Fifty years later, William F. Buckley Jr.’s “weekly journal of opinion” (now bi-weekly) reaches more than 150,000 subscribers, including the president of the United States, and is recognized as the intellectual fountainhead of modern conservatism.

This sea-change can largely be attributed to the work of its founder. More than anyone else, William F. Buckley Jr. came to embody conservatism itself. He made the term “conservative” respectable, realigned the Republican Party (permanently, one hopes) to the Right, and set in motion a movement that saw two of its members elected president of the United States.

-Remembering William F. Buckley Jr.: The Economic Man (NY Sun, February 28, 2008)
-Remembering William F. Buckley Jr.: A Stupendous American (R. EMMETT TYRRELL JR., February 28, 2008, NY Sun)
-William F. Buckley: RIP., Enfant Terrible (Ann Coulter, 2/28/08, Real Clear Politics)
-William F. Buckley, Amiable Combatant (David von Drehle, Feb. 27,
2008, TIME)
-William F. Buckley: Mandarin of Right-Wing TV (RICHARD CORLISS, 2/27/08, TIME)
-OBIT: William F. Buckley Jr. is dead at 82 (Douglas Martin, February 28, 2008, IHT)
-William F. Buckley, Jr. Remembered (David Horowitz, 2/28/08, FrontPageMagazine.com)
-Conservatism's Heart and Soul (Alfred S. Regnery, 2/28/2008, American Spectator)
To say that Bill Buckley caused a sensation, when he first emerged on the scene with the publication of God and Man at Yale in the spring of 1951, would be an understatement. Just 25 and a recent Yale graduate, he was well known on campus, having been the editor of the Yale Daily News where his editorials were debated, reviled, and praised. But, as wrote John Chamberlain in his preface to the book, nearly everybody on campus thought young Buckley was fighting a losing fight. He was, they thought, on the side of the past.

Yale was in the throes of celebrating its 250th anniversary, and was braced for a rousing good time and expecting praise from every quarter. But the celebration would soon be upstaged by Buckley's first book, which reported that, contrary to what it was telling its donors and trustees, Yale was not a Christian institution but instead promoting socialism and collectivism. It noted that academic freedom was a hoax as far as anything other than leftists was concerned, and suggested that the alumni should begin to direct the course of education at Yale instead of the administration and faculty.

Within weeks after the book appeared, Buckley was a national phenomenon, and the publisher was having a hard time keeping the book in stock.

-SPEECH: Man of Manifold Marvels: WFB and his mighty pen (Norman Podhoretz, 2/28/08, National Review)
-"The Sacred Elixir of Life": Bill’s large life (Michael Knox Beran, 2/28/08, National Review)
-INTERVIEW: W Buckley: Listening to Mr. Right: William Buckley's advice for Christian activists. (Michael Cromartie interview with William Buckley, 10/02/1995, Christianity Today)
-INTERVIEW: Buckley on Belief: A 1997 Books & Culture interview with William F. Buckley, Jr. (Interview by Michael Cromartie, November / December 1997, Christianity Today)

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