Wednesday, February 27, 2008

WFBjr RIP- Sometimes the good don't die young, they scrabble it out for 82 years

Outside of my family, William F. Buckley Jr. is doubtless the most influential man in my life. I grew up reading his National Review, which accounted for my high school nickname of "Dictionary breath." Somewhere we have a picture of me as a bright blond haired 2nd grader reading The National Review.

It is such the pity that he has no more heirs now than he did peers then. With this brilliant mind and incisive wit he opened the door for conservatives or "classic liberals" to be influential in media and culture, but the ones who have come after him have not tended to be nearly so civil, thoughtful, or cultured as was he.

Its almost as if a philosopher king had beaten down the gates to a walled city, only to have it over run by thugs who entered through the breach he created. Such is the lay of the land on the right today.

Video: On Legalizing Drugs, 1996

Video- debating Chomsky

Part II of the debate is at

Here's a selection of his obit from his hometown paper, the Boston Globe

By Mark Feeney, Globe Staff

William F. Buckley Jr., who as author, journalist, and polysyllabic television personality did more to popularize conservatism in post-New Deal America than anyone other than Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan, died early today at his home in Stamford, Conn. He was 82 and had been ill with emphysema, said his assistant, Linda Bridges.

Mr. Buckley’s political importance has long been acknowledged across the political spectrum. Pat Buchanan, the three-time presidential candidate, once called him “the spiritual father of the movement,” while the historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. called Mr. Buckley “the scourge of American liberalism.” Although Schlesinger, very much a man of the left, did not mean it as a compliment, Mr. Buckley cheerily took it as such.

Good cheer was a key element in Mr. Buckley’s success. Not only did it sustain him during the ’50s and ’60s, when his brand of conservatism claimed few adherents. It also helped earn him an audience — and grudging acceptance — among the liberal elite. Indeed, Schlesinger became a friend of Mr. Buckley’s, as did such other eminent liberals as the activist Allard Lowenstein, the columnist Murray Kempton, and the Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith.

Mr. Buckley’s personal charm was one of several sources from which he derived so large an influence. He was also the author of more than 40 books. Although many were not about politics, all his early ones were, and they tended to attract wide attention.

In 1955, Mr. Buckley founded National Review, which he edited for the next 35 years. “It was a pretty sclerotic situation [on the right] when National Review started out,” he recalled in a 2001 Globe interview. “Our launch reflected a pent-up appetite.”

The columnist George F. Will (the magazine’s onetime Washington editor) said at a 25th anniversary celebration, “Before Ronald Reagan, there was Barry Goldwater, and before Barry Goldwater there was National Review, and before there was National Review, there was Bill Buckley, with a spark in his mind.” That spark, Will noted, eventually became “a conflagration.” One sign of that conflagration was circulation: The magazine is America’s most widely read political journal.

National Review also turned into a great incubator of young writers, courtesy of Mr. Buckley’s keen eye for talent. Among those who worked for the magazine early in their career were Will, Garry Wills, Joan Didion, John Leonard, Richard Brookhiser, and David Brooks.

The success of National Review led to Mr. Buckley’s being offered a syndicated newspaper column in 1962. At its height, the twice-weekly column ran in more than 300 papers.
Four years later, he debuted as host of a television debate program, “Firing Line.” It ran for 33 years and brought him an audience greater than that for his books, magazine, and column combined.

It also made Mr. Buckley a celebrity, which may have been the most important contributor to his influence. Looking at their television screens, viewers didn’t see a conservative in the mold of a Robert Taft or Calvin Coolidge — someone pinched, drab, reserved. Instead, Mr. Buckley was dashing, witty, almost preposterously energetic.

“On TV Buckley is a star,” wrote the journalist Theodore White. “His haughty face, its puckering and hesitation as he lets loose a shaft of wit, would have made him Oscar Wilde’s favorite candidate for anything.”


SnarkAngel said...

THE MODERATE VOICE offers some insight, I believe, as to why Buckley was so respected among many liberal thinkers, as he was among conservative thinkers:

"Say what you will about William F. Buckley’s contributions to conservatism and civil discourse. They were immense. But he picked a really lousy time to die.

Republican conservatism today bears scant resemblance to the movement that Buckley nurtured over a half century as the founder and longtime editor of National Review, a widely read syndicated columnist and host of the popular Firing Line program on PBS.

There is no question that Buckley’s greatest achievement was making conservatism respectable.
If it was a neoconservative brain trust that was the engine behind the ascendancy of George Walker Bush and helped open the door to the extremists who have hijacked his beloved GOP, it was Buckley more than anyone else who was responsible for the nomination of Barry Goldwater in 1964 and the coming of Ronald Reagan in 1980, who checked the liberal advances made since the New Deal in the 1930s.

Buckley, ever the independent and outspoken thinker, had been one of the first conservatives to break with Bush. I can only imagine that he went to his grave embittered over how his legacy has been so tarnished by self described conservatives drunk with power who champion fear mongering and cultural warfare above all else.

Buckley, who died this morning, was 82 and had been suffering from diabetes and emphysema."

The Rug Goth said...

Thanks Snark, very apt words indeed.

He was always willing to take a new look at questions, accepted no political dogma as sacrosanct (theological was a different matter, he was so high church he makes me look like a guitar strumming "kumbaya singer".)

I could have named the thugs and cretins who have jobs now thanks to his efforts, but we all know who they are... and going after them with a cudgel would run counter to his memory.

He had more class, wit and intelligence in one of his finger nail clippings than they do in their entire bodies!

SnarkAngel said...

By the way, forgot to mention, I literally laughed out loud at that cartoon you included about the Pez dispenser! Hilarious!

The Rug Goth said...

I would have liked to post an cartoon from Bloom County- the iconic 80s libertarian political cartoon (the South Park of its day) in which a young Steve Dallas is in class bored and the teacher says

"Mr. Dallas, we are here to learn the three-Rs, will you not join us?"

Dallas: "I'm more interested in the three-Bs"

Teacher: "Three-Bs?"

Dallas: "Broads, Buicks, & Buckley!"

But good ole Berke B-, where ever he is today, is keeping his cartoons to himself. As soon as they pop up on the web, they're gone again. I have every one of his collections in print, but... since I don't fancy getting my scrawny @ss sued off (there's such little of it to begin with) I am not about to post any!