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William F. Buckley Jr. - Requiescat in pace

The paradigmatic traditionalist American Catholic Bill Buckley has died. There is a good obituary in the New York Times:


The extant of reaction to the death of WFB has been extraordinary. The more respectable leftish press has actually been laudatory, with both The New Republic and The Nation publishing positive remembrances. Even Amy Goodman has given the devil his due on her TV show Democracy Now by running an excerpt from a Firing Line debate, recorded during the Vietnam War, between Buckley and Noam Chomsky.

The reaction on the right runs the gamut from panegyric to vitriolic denunciation. The eulogists universally remark upon his generosity of spirit. Even writers purged from the National Review as it moved ever more politically correctly leftward nonetheless had appreciations of Buckley and the magazine’s heyday years of the 1950’s and 60’s and credit him as the central organizing intellectual force of the modern conservative movement. Some regard the Cold Warrior stance of the National Review as a betrayal of the libertarian and non-interventionist conservative Republican tradition of Robert Taft while others not only lament the neocon ashes left of the conservative movement but also bitterly and somewhat cattily complain of shabby personal treatment at his hands. Elements of the far right are denouncing him as a running-dog lackey of various real or imagined Jewish conspiracies and some fringe libertarians maintain that his entire career was a deep-cover CIA plot!

What I find interesting is the extremity of the emotional responses his death has unleashed. Whether history will ultimately say he had any real influence upon events has yet to be determined but in life he was clearly an extraordinary figure.

It’s a special problem for me because I haven’t paid attention to him for so long. In his early days he made conservatism seem exciting, glamorous, and even countercultural in its way. I suppose he mostly dropped out of the picture when Reagan made it seem all-American and optimistic. Neither approach has panned out.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

I fondly remember him as the vanguard of conservatism when he told Gore Vidal, “I will punch you,” after Vidal called him a Nazi at the 1968 Democratic Convention. He was the best that we had for many years until people like Reagan, you, Lawrence Auster, Frank Turek, Sean Hannity, and others took over.