February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley, Jr. has died.

The NYT obit:
William F. Buckley Jr., who marshaled polysyllabic exuberance, famously arched eyebrows and a refined, perspicacious mind to elevate conservatism to the center of American political discourse, died Wednesday at his home in Stamford, Conn....

Mr. Buckley’s winningly capricious personality, replete with ten-dollar words and a darting tongue writers loved to compare with an anteater’s, hosted one of television’s longest-running programs, “Firing Line,” and founded and shepherded the influential conservative magazine, National Review.....

The liberal advance had begun with the New Deal, and so accelerated in the next generation that Lionel Trilling, one of America’s leading intellectuals, wrote in 1950: “In the United States at this time liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition. For it is the plain fact that there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation.”

Mr. Buckley declared war on this liberal order, beginning with his blistering assault on Yale as a traitorous den of atheistic collectivism immediately after his graduation (with honors) from the university.

“All great biblical stories begin with Genesis,” George Will wrote in the National Review in 1980. “And before there was Ronald Reagan, there was Barry Goldwater, and before there was Barry Goldwater there was National Review, and before there was National Review there was Bill Buckley with a spark in his mind, and the spark in 1980 has become a conflagration.”
Lots of commentary at the National Review blog, The Corner.

I remember watching Buckley on "Firing Line" in the 1960s, before I went to college and learned that he was to be considered poison. What a great character with a great talk show. I should try to find some old video clips and add them to this post.

ADDED: Here he is interviewing Noam Chomsky in 1969: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5. Now that's television!

AND: More video. What election commentary was like in 1969: "And yet always there is a strange seriousness, something in the system that warns us, warns us that America had better strike out on a different course, rather than face another 4 years of asphixiation by liberal premises.... No, Nixon won't bring paradise, but he could bring a little more air to breathe."

27 comments:

rhhardin said...

Those words weren't random ; you can learn the thousand words in The Quintessential Dictionary (I recommend making flash cards) and read all of Buckley without looking up anything.

Hoosier Daddy said...

RIP

AShiningCity said...

Wow, what a legend. RIP.

Simon said...

RIP. And the video extracts are wonderful, thanks for digging them up.

the wolf said...

Wow, Chomsky was incomprehensible back then too.

knoxwhirled said...

Chomsky is so depressing. "Everybody Sucks" just about sums it up.

George said...

"I'd smash you in the G*d damn face...." says Buckley at the end of part 1 in response to Chomsky speculating on what might happen if, he, Chomsky got mad...

Middle Class Guy said...

Mr. Buckley had friends, real friends- people he socialized with, vacationed with, etc., across the political spectrum. Though he held to his principles and ideology, he never demonized those who disagreed with him. He had a real, natural respect for people and ideas. He was neither abrasive nor insulting. He was a wonderful human being and will be sorely missed by all.


Now this. Over the wires. John Lewis, a civil rights icon is shifting from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama.

The Drill SGT said...

Those Firing Line Debates were wonderful, both as entertainment and as education.

It was also pleasant to see that both sides could infact debate and be civil about it.

Buckley was a classy guy on many levels.

Tibore said...

Wow.

I remember goin gto see one of his speeches when I was still in college. It was a fine speech. Sorry to see he's gone.

Palladian said...

I loved Buckley even when I disagreed with him. He lived a good, long, influential life; a little sad, as it always is when someone extraordinary has died, to know that he's not going to be in the world anymore.

He received an honorary PHD from Yale during my first year there, which was an interesting honor to bestow upon one so critical of the institution. The following year Yale awarded George W. Bush an honorary JD. From the sublime to the ridiculous.

ricpic said...

Many could never forgive Buckley for his most endearing trait: he was unapologetically an aristocrat.

dave in boca said...

One of the greatest human beings of the twentieth century---even when you disagreed, he was courteous.

Of course, Gore Vidal was outside the pale of civilized discourse, so Bill did give him what-for with special relish.

Noam demonstrates why a PhD & hatred of humanity often come together in one package.

Finally, from a leftish blogger/thinker:
"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 honor of respecting his ideological adversaries, without covering up the adversarial nature of the relationship in false bonhommie.".

Again, the Godfather of conservatism for the last century will be remembered by every honest person as a decent human being.

From Inwood said...

Like Christopher Wren, "Lector, Si Monumentum Requiris, Circumspice".

["Reader, if you seek his monument, look around"].

R.I.P.

Pogo said...

One of my heroes has passed.

I have a 3 foot bookshelf dedicated to his nonfiction. My prize is a first edition (signed!) of "Up From Liberalism". I would love to find a copy of God and Man at Yale.

He seemed to get along with everyone, except perhaps Gore Vidal. He loved his wife and was devoted to her. He was rather undone by her passing a few years ago.

I miss him already.

Palladian said...

Watching many of these videos of Buckley, besides being struck by how abysmally stupid most current television commentators seem in comparison, I suddenly realized who he reminds me of: Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter. I wonder if Anthony Hopkins based his Hannibal Lecter voice on Buckley. I know, it seems trivial to think of such things on the day of a man's death, but what better way to respond to death than contemplating trivialities? My respect was already paid.

Chip Ahoy said...

I wish I could find the obituary he wrote for Ayn Rand. Not at all lovely, I recall at the time thinking, "I though it was illegal, or in the very least a terribly bad show, to trash someone after they died."

I'm reading comments now about Buckley passing that make me think the same thing. Lord, so many of my compatriots are self-righteously hateful.

I do a fantastic imitation of his voice and speech pattern. That combined with something he definitely would not say is hilarious. At least I crack myself up. And now it's all ended. *sads*

Revenant said...

Too bad. He lived a long and productive life; RIP.

John K. said...

"... and before there was National Review there was Bill Buckley with a spark in his mind, and the spark in 1980 has become a conflagration.”

And before there was Bill Buckley there was Albert Jay Nock, who was a close friend of his father's and who Buckley Jr. cited as a major influence.

I wish Buckley "fair winds and following seas," but imho the so-called "Old Right" was far far better than the new Right.

John K. said...

"I wish I could find the obituary he wrote for Ayn Rand. Not at all lovely, I recall at the time thinking, 'I though it was illegal, or in the very least a terribly bad show, to trash someone after they died.'"

He apparently was none too kind in the obit he wrote for Murray Rothbard, either:

http://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/019640.html

rhhardin said...

I have a theory that what was responsible for the way Buckley talked, as to cadence and breathing, was that he otherwise stuttered.

It has the feeling of avoiding difficult words that he spotted coming up.

Which perhaps explains the vocabulary too.

Chip Ahoy said...

Found it. Scroll to William F. Buckley on Rand's passing.

Pogo said...

From the book Right Reason: Ayn Rand, R.I.P.

Anthony said...

rhhardin
>I have a theory that what was responsible for the way Buckley talked, as to cadence and breathing, was that he otherwise stuttered

One of the theories I have read regarding Buckley's "interesting" manner of speaking involves his childhood. English is probably Buckley's third language. His first was actually Spanish, as his father made money in Latin American oil enterprises.

His second was French. His family sort of got marooned there due to the 1929 Stock Market Crash (IIRC, in his brother James's oral history, when his father got word of the crash, he asked his mother how much money she had in her purse, that was their only money). His father had to spend some time in Europe raising money for his oil compant.

somefeller said...

I met Buckley after a talk he gave at my law school. It was not long after he wrote "Happy Days Were Here Again: Reflections of a Libertarian Journalist", and he did a little meet-and-greet after his talk. During the meet-and-greet, I asked him why he titled his book "Reflections of a Libertarian Journalist" rather than "Reflections of a Conservative Journalist", particularly given that National Review is billed as America's conservative flagship magazine. He responded that there were differences between libertarians and conservatives, and I said, yes, I know that (I considered myself a libertarian in those days), and given that distinction, were you trying to distance yourself from the conservative movement by choosing to call yourself a libertarian journalist? He hesitated a bit, and then made the oddest facial gesture, wherein he raised his eyebrows, made a confused face, and made his entire hairline move back and forth about an inch, saying "I - don't - know".

I don't know if he was genuinely surprised and confused by the question, or just playing around a bit (I suspect the latter), but it was one of the damndest expressions I ever saw.

Rest in peace, Bill Buckley. They don't make them like him anymore.

Simon said...

According to some reports, he was writing a book about Regan prior to his death; I wonder what will become of that. If it was substantially done, it'd be a shame to see it dumped. But then, who could be trusted to finish it?

A double tragedy when an artist dies with brush still mid-canvas.

Erroll said...

A commenter believes that Buckley was a "decent human being." He may want to view Part 4 or Part 5 where Buckley uses the oxymoron benign imperialism regarding America's attempts to subjugate Thire World countries around the globe. It is quite doubtful if the citizens of those countries [ which Chomsky named, such as Guatamala, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, etc.] that have been ravaged and destroyed by the might of American imperialism, would have agreed with Buckley's assessment that the interference of America into the affairs of other countries by military force was benign. Buckley attempted to equate the many deaths of Vietnamese communists to be much less worthy of those who were killed by the National Liberation Front in Vietnam. As these tapes revealed, Buckley's attempts to rationalize the U.S. presence in Vietnam was futile compared to the intellectual arguments presented by Chomsky.