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Author Topic: Bill Buckley RIP  (Read 1355 times)
Crafty_Dog
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« on: February 29, 2008, 10:13:48 AM »


 
May We Not Lose His Kind
February 29, 2008
Peggy Noonan

He was sui generis, wasn't he? The complete American original, a national treasure, a man whose energy was a kind of optimism, and whose attitude toward life, even when things seemed to others bleak, was summed up in something he said to a friend: "Despair is a mortal sin."

I am not sure conservatives feel despair at Bill Buckley's leaving--he was 82 and had done great work in a lifetime filled with pleasure--but I know they, and many others, are sad, and shaken somehow. On Wednesday, after word came that he had left us, in a television studio where I'd gone to try and speak of some of his greatness, a celebrated liberal academic looked at me stricken, and said he'd just heard the news. "I can't imagine a world without Bill Buckley in it," he said. I said, "Oh, that is exactly it."

 
Corbis 
Feb. 21, 1983, Washington D.C. -- President Reagan and William F. Buckley Jr. laugh heartily at a reception for the opening of the Washington office of the Naitonal Review.
It is. What a space he filled.

It is commonplace to say that Bill Buckley brought American conservatism into the mainstream. That's not quite how I see it. To me he came along in the middle of the last century and reminded demoralized American conservatism that it existed. That it was real, that it was in fact a majority political entity, and that it was inherently mainstream. This was after the serious drubbing inflicted by Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal and the rise of modern liberalism. Modern liberalism at that point was a real something, a palpable movement formed by FDR and continued by others. Opposing it was . . . what exactly? Robert Taft? The ghost of Calvin Coolidge? Buckley said in effect, Well, there's something known as American conservatism, though it does not even call itself that. It's been calling itself "voting Republican" or "not liking the New Deal." But it is a very American approach to life, and it has to do with knowing that the government is not your master, that America is good, that freedom is good and must be defended, and communism is very, very bad.

He explained, remoralized, brought together those who saw it as he did, and began the process whereby American conservatism came to know itself again. And he did it primarily through a magazine, which he with no modesty decided was going to be the central and most important organ of resurgent conservatism. National Review would be highly literate, philosophical, witty, of the moment, with an élan, a teasing quality that made you feel you didn't just get a subscription, you joined something. You entered a world of thought.

I thought it beautiful and inspiring that he was open to, eager for, friendships from all sides, that even though he cared passionately about political questions, politics was not all, cannot be all, that people can be liked for their essence, for their humor and good nature and intelligence, for their attitude toward life itself. He and his wife, Pat, were friends with lefties and righties, from National Review to the Paris Review. It was moving too that his interests were so broad, that he could go from an appreciation of the metaphors of Norman Mailer to essays on classical music to an extended debate with his beloved friend the actor David Niven on the best brands of peanut butters. When I saw him last he was in a conversation with the historian Paul Johnson on the relative merits of the work of the artist Raeburn.

His broad-gaugedness, his refusal to be limited, seemed to me a reflection in part of a central conservative tenet, as famously expressed by Samuel Johnson. "How small of all that human hearts endure / That part which laws or kings can cause or cure." When you have it right about laws and kings, and what life is, then your politics become grounded in the facts of life. And once they are grounded, you don't have to hold to them so desperately. You can relax and have fun. Just because you're serious doesn't mean you're grim.

* * *

Buckley was a one-man refutation of Hollywood's idea of a conservative. He was rising in the 1950s and early '60s, and Hollywood's idea of a conservative was still Mr. Potter, the nasty old man of "It's a Wonderful Life," who would make a world of grubby Pottersvilles if he could, who cared only about money and the joy of bullying idealists. Bill Buckley's persona, as the first famous conservative of the modern media age, said no to all that. Conservatives are brilliant, capacious, full of delight at the world and full of mischief, too. That's what he was. He upended old clichés.

This was no small thing, changing this template. Ronald Reagan was the other who changed it, by being a sunny man, a happy one. They were friends, admired each other, had two separate and complementary roles. Reagan was in the game of winning votes, of persuading, of leading a political movement that catapulted him to two terms as governor of California, the nation's biggest state, at a time when conservatives were seemingly on the defensive but in retrospect were rising to new heights. He would speak to normal people and persuade them of the efficacy of conservative solutions to pressing problems. Buckley's job was not reaching on-the-ground voters, or reaching voters at all, and his attitude toward his abilities in that area was reflected in his merry answer when asked what he would do if he won the mayoralty of New York. "Demand a recount," he famously replied. His role was speaking to those thirsting for a coherent worldview, for an intellectual and moral attitude grounded in truth. He provided intellectual ballast. Inspired in part by him, voters went on to support Reagan. Both could have existed without the other, but Buckley's work would have been less satisfying, less realized, without Reagan and his presidency, and Reagan's leadership would have been more difficult, and also somehow less satisfying, without Buckley.

* * *

I share here a fear. It is not that the conservative movement is ending, that Bill's death is the period on a long chapter. The house he helped build had--has--many mansions. Conservatism will endure if it is rooted in truth, and in the truths of life. It is.

It is rather that with the loss of Bill Buckley we are, as a nation, losing not only a great man. When Jackie Onassis died, a friend of mine who knew her called me and said, with such woe, "Oh, we are losing her kind." He meant the elegant, the cultivated, the refined. I thought of this with Bill's passing, that we are losing his kind--people who were deeply, broadly educated in great universities when they taught deeply and broadly, who held deep views of life and the world and art and all the things that make life more delicious and more meaningful. We have work to do as a culture in bringing up future generations that are so well rounded, so full and so inspiring.

Bill Buckley lived a great American life. His heroism was very American--the individualist at work in the world, the defender of great creeds and great beliefs going forth with spirit, style and joy. May we not lose his kind. For now, "Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels take thee to thy rest."
 
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2008, 12:54:16 PM »

I thought that this thread would get more than one read in 24 hours , , ,  huh

Anyway, here's this:
++++++++++++++++++++=

WSJ

Goldwater, the John Birch Society and Me
By WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY JR.
February 27, 2008

In the early months of 1962, there was restiveness in certain political quarters of the right. The concern was primarily the growing strength of the Soviet Union, and the reiteration by its leaders of their designs on the free world. Some of the actors keenly concerned felt that Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona was a natural leader in the days ahead.

 
But it seemed inconceivable that an antiestablishment gadfly like Goldwater could be nominated as the spokesman-head of a political party. And it was embarrassing that the only political organization in town that dared suggest this radical proposal--the GOP's nominating Goldwater for president--was the John Birch Society.

The society had been founded in 1958 by an earnest and capable entrepreneur named Robert Welch, a candy man, who brought together little clusters of American conservatives, most of them businessmen. He demanded two undistracted days in exchange for his willingness to give his seminar on the Communist menace to the United States, which he believed was more thoroughgoing and far-reaching than anyone else in America could have conceived. His influence was near-hypnotic, and his ideas wild. He said Dwight D. Eisenhower was a "dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy," and that the government of the United States was "under operational control of the Communist party." It was, he said in the summer of 1961, "50-70 percent" Communist-controlled.

Welch refused to divulge the size of the society's membership, though he suggested it was as high as 100,000 and could reach a million. His method of organization caused general alarm. The society comprised a series of cells, no more than 20 people per cell. It was said that its members were directed to run in secret for local offices and to harass school boards and librarians on the matter of the Communist nature of the textbooks and other materials they used.

The society became a national cause célèbre--so much so, that a few of those anxious to universalize a draft-Goldwater movement aiming at a nomination for president in 1964 thought it best to do a little conspiratorial organizing of their own against it.

* * *

In January of that year I had a telephone call from William Baroody. It was, he said, a matter of great national importance that I spend Tuesday and Wednesday of the following week with Sen. Goldwater in Palm Beach, Fla. I would be one of three--along with Russell Kirk, the philosopher and author of the seminal 1953 text "The Conservative Mind," and public-relations man Jay Hall, who had represented General Motors in Washington. I said I could be there up until 5 p.m. on day one and all of day two. I had a speaking date in St. Augustine on the first night. Baroody simply repeated that the meeting was very important.

Baroody was the head of the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank founded in 1943. We had met only cursorily, though I knew him to be an influential figure in behind-the-scenes conservative politics. He was invigorated by meetings with small groups, which he much enjoyed dominating. It was clear that he greatly aspired to be important to Goldwater, and perhaps to a Goldwater White House.

I arrived at breakfast with the other invitees at the imposing Breakers Hotel and ventilated the critical point: were we here assembled to answer Goldwater's questions, or to proffer advice on the presidential campaign two years ahead? If the latter, this had to mean that Goldwater had resolved to enter the campaign, which would be big news: so far, he had steadfastly declined to take that step.

Baroody, by nature domineering, was emphatic on the subject. Under no circumstances should anything be said touching on a presidential campaign, inasmuch as Goldwater had not himself decided whether to run and did not want to spend time discussing the issue.

Russell Kirk was not prepared simply to leave the matter closed. "What is more important," he asked Baroody, "than to try to get Goldwater elected President?"

Baroody was obliged to agree that this would be a wonderful national achievement. "But he has said no."

"They always say no," I volunteered.

"Bill, he has said no on at least five different occasions. If he thought we were going to spend the day on that subject, he would just walk away."

Kirk objected. "I'm the least experienced politically of the people in this room. But I've seen the polls--we've all seen the polls--and Bill has a point: Why should we shrink from telling him that's what he ought to do?"

It required someone of Kirk's arrant innocence in consorting with brute political forces to make his point so insistently. He let go of it only after Baroody promised that he would seek out, some time later, an opportunity for Russell to argue it personally with Goldwater. "Maybe you can tell him something about William Pitt that will change his mind."

Kirk smiled. "Very well. So what do you have in mind for us?"

"We'll have to coast on that."

* * *

Goldwater was in Palm Beach visiting, incognito, with a sister-in-law who was resident there. He arrived at our hotel suite at about 11:00 in extravagantly informal garb, cowboy hat and dark glasses, a workman's blue shirt and denim jeans, together with his beloved Western boots. He did bring along a weather-beaten briefcase, though I never noticed his opening it the whole day.

What followed was an hour of general discussion on the policies of President Kennedy and the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. Baroody noted Kennedy's surprising drop in the polls: 61% of the public thought he spent money too freely, a third thought him unduly weak in opposing Soviet challenges in Berlin and elsewhere.

Moving on, Baroody brought up the John Birch Society. It was quickly obvious that this was the subject Goldwater wished counsel on.

Kirk, unimpeded by his little professorial stutter, greeted the subject with fervor. It was his opinion, he said emphatically, that Robert Welch was a man disconnected from reality. How could anyone reason, as Welch had done in "The Politician," that President Eisenhower had been a secret agent of the Communists? This mischievous unreality was a great weight on the back of responsible conservative political thinking. The John Birch Society should be renounced by Goldwater and by everyone else--Kirk turned his eyes on me--with any influence on the conservative movement.

But that, Goldwater said, is the problem. Consider this, he exaggerated: "Every other person in Phoenix is a member of the John Birch Society. Russell, I'm not talking about Commie-haunted apple pickers or cactus drunks, I'm talking about the highest cast of men of affairs. Any of you know who Frank Cullen Brophy is?"

I raised my hand. "I spent a lot of time with him. He was going to contribute capital to help found National Review. He didn't." Brophy was a prominent Arizona banker.

Goldwater said he knew nothing about that, but added that Brophy certainly was aware of Goldwater's personal enthusiasm for the magazine and especially for its Washington editor, Brent Bozell. "Why isn't Brent here?" he turned to Baroody.

"He's in Spain."

"Well, our--my--'Conscience of a Conservative' continues to sell." Bozell, who was also my brother-in-law, had ghostwritten the book, which had given Goldwater a national profile.

Kirk said he could not imagine Bozell disagreeing on the need to excommunicate the John Birch Society from the conservative movement.

But this brought another groan from Goldwater. "You just can't do that kind of thing in Arizona. For instance, who on earth can dismiss Frank Brophy from anything?"

* * *

Time was given to the John Birch Society lasting through lunch, and the subject came up again the next morning. We resolved that conservative leaders should do something about the John Birch Society. An allocation of responsibilities crystallized.

Goldwater would seek out an opportunity to dissociate himself from the "findings" of the Society's leader, without, however, casting any aspersions on the Society itself. I, in National Review and in my other writing, would continue to expose Welch and his thinking to scorn and derision. "You know how to do that," said Jay Hall.

I volunteered to go further. Unless Welch himself disowned his operative fallacy, National Review would oppose any support for the society.

"How would you define the Birch fallacy?" Jay Hall asked.

"The fallacy," I said, "is the assumption that you can infer subjective intention from objective consequence: we lost China to the Communists, therefore the President of the United States and the Secretary of State wished China to go to the Communists."

"I like that," Goldwater said.

What would Russell Kirk do? He was straightforward. "Me? I'll just say, if anybody gets around to asking me, that the guy is loony and should be put away."

"Put away in Alaska?" I asked, mock-seriously. The wisecrack traced to Robert Welch's expressed conviction, a year or so earlier, that the state of Alaska was being prepared to house anyone who doubted his doctrine that fluoridated water was a Communist-backed plot to weaken the minds of the American public.

* * *

In the next issue of my magazine, National Review, I published a 5,000-word excoriation of Welch:

How can the John Birch Society be an effective political instrument while it is led by a man whose views on current affairs are, at so many critical points . . . so far removed from common sense? That dilemma weighs on conservatives across America. . . . The underlying problem is whether conservatives can continue to acquiesce quietly in a rendition of the causes of the decline of the Republic and the entire Western world which is false, and, besides that, crucially different in practical emphasis from their own.
In response, National Review received the explicit endorsement of Sen. Goldwater himself, who wrote a letter we published in the following issue:

I think you have clearly stated the problem which Mr. Welch's continued leadership of the John Birch Society poses for sincere conservatives. . . . Mr. Welch is only one man, and I do not believe his views, far removed from reality and common sense as they are, represent the feelings of most members of the John Birch Society. . . . Because of this, I believe the best thing Mr. Welch could do to serve the cause of anti-Communism in the United States would be to resign. . . . We cannot allow the emblem of irresponsibility to attach to the conservative banner.
The wound we Palm Beach plotters delivered to the John Birch Society proved fatal over time. Barry Goldwater did not win the presidency, but he clarified the proper place of anti-Communism on the Right, with bright prospects to follow.

Mr. Buckley, who died today at 82, was the founder of National Review. This article appears in the March issue of Commentary.
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