February 27, 2008


Model behaviour: William F Buckley, who died today at 82, genuinely respected his ideological adversaries - in stark contrast to today's demonisation of political opponents (Rick Perlstein, February 27, 2008, The Guardian)

William F Buckley was my friend.

I'm hard on conservatives. I get harder on them just about every day. I call them "con men". I do so without apology. And I cannot deny that Buckley, the founder of National Review and leader of the conservative movement, said and did many things over the course of his career that were disgusting as well. I've written about some of them. But this is not the time to go into all that.

My friend just passed away at the age of 82. He was a good and decent man. He knew exactly what my politics were about - he knew I was an implacable ideological adversary - yet he offered his friendship to me nonetheless. He did the honour of respecting his ideological adversaries without covering up the adversarial nature of the relationship in false bonhomie. A remarkable quality, all too rare in an era of the false fetishism of "post-partisanship" and Broderism and go-along-to-get-along. He was friends with those he fought. He fought with friends. These are the highest civic ideals to which an American patriot can aspire. [...]

Nice people, friends, can disagree about the most fundamental questions about the organisation of society. And there's nothing wrong with that. We must not fantasize about destroying our political adversaries, nor fantasize about magically converting them. We must honour that some humans are conservative and some humans are liberal, and that it will always be thus.

And some, simply are mensches. Last year Bill called me to ask if I would blurb his next book, about Goldwater. I chose not to. But damn: I bit my nails a little. I wanted him to blurb my book! Now he'd certainly take out his revenge by refusing. That's the way you're supposed to behave in the literary game.

He didn't. Instead, when a reporter came calling to ask him about Rick Perlstein, he said something remarkably sweet for the record - for all I know, one of his last public utterances. Then, after sending him the galleys of my next book, I heard back from him post-haste: another self-reproach. He would love to endorse it, but could not. He was too frail. This in an email obviously drafted by himself. Letters were missing, words garbled.

Buckleyism to the end: friendship and adversarialism coinciding. All of us who write about politics, may that be our role model.

-VIDEO: Buckley on Buckley (The Open Mind, 1996)
-ETEXT: Odyssey Of A Friend Whittaker Chamber S Letters To William F. Buckley Jr 1954-1961 (1956)
-ESSAY: Buckley: The Right's Practical Intellectual (E. J. Dionne Jr., October 11, 2005, Washington Post)
-TRIBUTE:The Unbought Grace of Life: Remembering William F. Buckley, Jr. (Myron Magnet, 27 February 2008, City Journal)
-TRIBUTE: How William F. Buckley Changed America (Dinesh D'Souza, Feb 27th 2008, AOL News)
-OBIT: William F. Buckley, Jr., R.I.P. (The Editors, 2/27/08, National Review)
-TRIBUTE: William F. Buckley Jr., RIP (Roger Kimball, 2/27/08, Roger's Rules)

This morning, I got the very sad news that my friend William F. Buckley Jr died earlier today. He was 82. I cannot say that the news was entirely unexpected—Bill had been seriously ill for months—but it was nevertheless shocking. I am one of a host of Bill’s friends who contributed a few words about him to NRO. I’d like also to share the some portions of the review I wrote of his “literary autobiography,” Miles Gone By, partly because it allows me to speak about him in the present tense:...

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 27, 2008 1:34 PM

Love the term "Broderism". Must remember to use it.

Posted by: Earl Sutherland at February 27, 2008 5:22 PM

I met him once in Washington, D.C. I was struck by what a kind and gracious person he was.

He was a great and hugely consequential American.

Anybody here who wants to spend a few evenings reading genuinely absorbing political prose, you can't go wrong with his collected speeches.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at February 27, 2008 9:07 PM

What a creep Perlstein is. Wouldn't blurb Buckley's book. Oh, he agonized over it, but in the end, he just couldn't. Doesn't mind name-dropping about it though.

Posted by: erp at February 27, 2008 9:22 PM

Erp nailed it. The thing about Friend Perlstein is that, ever since his first book, he feels the need to reestablish his bona (or is it mala) fides with his friends on the left at every turn.

Really, this is what the guy felt he should write about his "friend" the day he died?

Spare me such friends when I'm called.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at February 28, 2008 12:18 AM

What an odd eulogy by Perlstein, indeed. "Hypocracy is the tribute vice pays to virtue."

Posted by: Mike Earl at February 28, 2008 9:57 AM

Ditto on Perlstein. WFB had more class in the nail on his pinky than Perlstein has in his whole body.

I thought "said and did many things over the course of his career that were disgusting as well" was especially classless. WFB was not mistaken or wrong, he said disgusting things.

Perlstein reminds me of Brutus, faithful friend of Caeser.

Posted by: Bob at February 28, 2008 10:06 AM