William F. Buckley, Jr. RIP

William F. Buckley died today at his home in Connecticut. He was 82.

There will be a lot published in the coming days about this man of ideas. Suffice it to say here that he made a great impact on many people, both through his books, articles, magazine and television show over the years.

I first read him in high school, before I had developed my political philosophy. The thing I remember about his writings then was his suggestion that if a person was to be truly effective arguing his case for any position, he must know the issue well enough that he could take the other side in a debate — and win!

Buckley was of course a Goldwater supporter in 1964. I was not — yet. After Goldwater’s crushing defeat, Buckley wrote a one-word editorial in his magazine, National Review. It read simply: Aargh.

I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Buckley in 1968 when a group I belonged to invited him to speak at Oregon State University. Just before he arrived for his talk, news broke that North Korea had captured a US naval vessel, the USS Pueblo, off its coast. I was the one who broke the news to Buckley over dinner.

We can debate the specifics of his philosophy, but for now, let’s remember him as a man of ideas who influenced generations of Americans to think and engage in the battle of ideas. He will be missed.


Steve Buckstein is Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland-based think tank.

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  • devietro

    Thoughts and prayers with him. Its a good thing he will be watching the ’08 election from a comfy chair in heaven.

  • Alan

    One person can still make a difference.

  • Richard Meinhard

    I too learned much from him. His legacy stands in sharp contrast to today’s shallow political talk.

  • CRAWDUDE

    I always found him very articulate and informative, sad loss.

  • dean

    An interesting historical take on Mr Buckley’s mixed legacy is posted at: https://www.slate.com/id/2185301/

    He was articulate, informative, gentlemanly, and a key founder of modern (movement) conservatism, but also was unfortunately an apologist for McCarthyism, Franco’s fascism, southern racists, and Reagan’s balooning budget deficits.

    On the positive (my) side he became an articulate critic of the Iraq war and the whole neo-conservative foreign policy project to remake the world through our military.

    Does anyone know what his take on McCain was?

    • Steve Buckstein

      For perhaps a more balanced view of Buckley from someone who worked for him at National Review, read Jacob Sullum’s blog post at:

      https://www.reason.com/blog/show/125205.html

    • Rupert in Springfield

      Buckley’s brilliance was his unique gift for pointing out the obvious in an eloquent and thoughtful manner. His defense of McCarthy’s basic premise, that communists in the US were in no small part sponsored by the USSR, is a prime example of that. That he, and McCarthy, were proven right decades later by the release of the Venona documents speaks to his insight.

      I do have to say I did not know he was big on Franco’s fascist Spain. Not sure how I feel about that but it certainly does show non partisanship if nothing else. If Buckley did indeed defend Franco’s brand of fascism, he joins the left in that regard. No one was more enamoured of fascism than the Progressives of the first half of the 20th century, Mussolini being considered a genius by them.

      As for apologizing for Southern Racists ( was Buckley only friendly to racists if they were from the South? ), I was a subscriber to NR for two decades. I never really saw much apologizing for racism, no matter where it stemmed from, in his columns. I do notice that NR did seem to refrain from the Aunt Jemimah cartoons of Condoleezza Rice and the Lawn Jockey cover caricatures of Clarence Thomas that left wing magazines like “The Atlantic” and “The New Republic” seemed to run. Whatever Buckley’s apologies for racists in the south, I am quite sure it was far more eloquent than the lefts defense of North East racists that are so obviously in their midst.

      RIP to “The Great One”, my only hope is that somehow, in heaven, their exists a sea which can be not only sailed, but upon which it is possible to keep a harpsichord in tune.

      • dean

        Rupert…but McCarthy went a whole lot further and ended up searching for communists where they clearly did not exist, ruining lives and careers in the bargain. I don’t know the extent to which Buckley went along with him as things degenerated.

        As for him supporting Franco….2 wrongs does not make a right.

        On the southern racist issue, at the time it was a southern, not northern issue because the subject was the Jim Crow laws, not the unofficial institutional racism more common in the north. Buckley was quite upfront in saying that southern blacks were intellectually inferior and that the southern whites were thus justified in disenfranchising them. He opposed the civil rights act, the voting rights act, and other similar measures.

        Later in life he said if he could go back and do it over he would have supported the Civil Rights Act.

        Atlantic Magazine left wing? You have to be way right to think that. They are about as center as center gets. New Republic a bit left of center except on foreign policy where they are essentialy neocons.

        You have to go to The Nation to find the true left.

        • Rupert in Springfield

          >but McCarthy went a whole lot further and ended up searching for communists where they clearly did not exist,

          True, his pursuit of the Army was a little silly. However, it is funny to note that while the left hold McCarthy up for ridicule for pursuing communists where they clearly did not exist, they seem to totally excuse themselves for denying where communists were later proven to exist and did so quite obviously at the time. Remember, this is the group that could never forgive Nixon for his pursuit of Hiss, even when they were clearly proven wrong.

          Like I said, funny, but not at all unexpected, the left does tend to apply a fairly double standard when their own foibles are involved.

          >ruining lives and careers in the bargain.

          Actually no, most of that was done by Hollywood, through their institution of “The Black List”. Hollywood implemented this, not McCarthy.

          >As for him supporting Franco….2 wrongs does not make a right.

          Oh who cares! I’m feeling wild and cavalier tonight. Hoist the mainsail! An extra round of drinks for everyone even the liberal scum who shall walk the plank come sunset!

          At any rate, whether two wrongs do or does make a right, you have to admit that makes you, an avowed liberal seem somewhat odd in your criticism when your own political group was the most remarkably pro fascist as far as history goes in this country. Aye, go figure me heartees, such logic is as dark and deep lost in the murky depths of sensibility as Davey Jones locker.

          > inferior and that the southern whites were thus justified in disenfranchising them. He opposed the civil rights act, the voting rights act, and other similar measures.

          Later in life he said if he could go back and do it over he would have supported the Civil Rights Act.

          True, however at the end of the day it is interesting to see how Buckley admitted his mistake, which was made in that time. That is quite a bit different than opposing black progress, as the left surely did with their ridicule of Thomas, and Rice, which was done in this time.

          More argue like a pirate time – Aye, surely a mistake back then, the same as was made by many a liberal, First Mate Senator Al Gore Senior, who led the charge against yon Civil Rights act for the Democratic Fleet, does not compare with running cartoons of any African American as a lawn jockey/aunt jemimah does today.

          >Atlantic Magazine left wing? You have to be way right to think that. They are about as center as center gets. New Republic a bit left of center except on foreign policy where they are essentialy neocons.

          Um, ok, well not much arguing that, even in pirate form. Anyone who would say that probably thinks 60 Minutes is a centrist program, The New York Times a moderate publication and NPR middle of the road. Good luck with that matey!

          All hands cast off! Its time we set sail for saner waters than these.

          • dean

            Rupert…it seems you have been reading your Jonah Goldberg, the latest in badly sourced historical revisionism. Let’s see, we liberals are the true racists as you would have it, now we were the true supporters of fascists according to you and Jonah,…I suspect we won’t have to wait long before we were also the global warming deniers, forest clearcutters, and apologists for suburban sprawl. Where does it end?

            Left….center…right…where are these positions? Was Buckley a man of the right? I think we can agree on that. And we hopefully can agree National Review has been a standard bearer of the right, broadly speaking.

            Okay…who can we place alongside Buckley to represent “the left?” Gore Vidal? Noam Chomsky? Fair enough. Do you find their writings in the Atlantic? No. Do you hear them regularly on NPR? Nope. They are in The Nation, and on KBOO.

            Who is in the Atlantic on a regular basis? Andrew Sullivan, James Fallows, Robert Kaplan…and so forth. These are leftists? Only if everyone not clearly on the right is automaticaly on the left. i.e. no center exists.

            I think your political dial needs adjusting. I suggest you take a look at the Pew Research on political attitudes in the US and reconsider your position: https://pewresearch.org/pubs/434/trends-in-political-values-and-core-attitudes-1987-2007

          • Rupert in Springfield

            >Let’s see, we liberals are the true racists as you would have it, now we were the true supporters of fascists according to you and Jonah

            Well, I don’t really know what a “true supporter of fascism” would be, but the left were certainly the original supporters. At least that much is fairly undeniable. And no, that would not be solely Jonah Goldberg, its just simply the history of the matter. That the left would prefer to not have that fact remembered doesn’t alter its reality.

            >…I suspect we won’t have to wait long before we were also the global warming deniers

            Well, it is nice that you do seem to have an understanding of how the left does like to re-right some of the more sordid tales of their past so that the vast majority of their ranks have no sense of some of the murkier parts of the left’s past. Global warming is an excellent example of it as 30 years ago the left was quite shrill about Global Cooling. Three years ago they were insane over Global Warming and “the hockey stick”. Now that its been found out that they had to deny “the little ice age” to come up with all that, it is called “Climate Change” more and more rather than “Global Warming”. This way bases are covered no matter which way the temperature shifts. You seem to be catching on to that. I sense progress!

            Remember Rupert’s two universal truths of life

            1) Throughout history there has always been someone making a nice living on predicting the end of the world.

            2) Virtually everything tastes better wrapped in bacon.

            >Do you hear them regularly on NPR?

            Ok, so you do not consider NPR to be leftist? My point is made.

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