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Sesquipedalianist Exits

Witty and word wielding, Buckley dies

But did his talents serve society, or merely selfishness?

An inspiration to insurgents – or not

An editor at the New York Times had a bit of fun today, decorating the bottom right hand corner of the front page with the following accurate headline introducing the obituary of Bill Buckley:

William F. Buckley Jr. 82, Dies; Sesquipedalian Spark of Right

p1020907ewpcbse.jpg(Click to enlarge pic) Stumped by the word ourselves, though we vaguely recalled having once looked it up, we took the paper in hand at the local French cafe, and then at the nearby Starbucks, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and asked the first fifteen presentable people who agreed that their native language was English, including one extremely presentable young woman in a red coat, named Amy, if they knew what the word meant.

Only one in fifteen people in our unscientific survey knew the answer, a lawyer who appeared to be in his fifties or early sixties. Another gentleman guessed more or less correctly in recalling some of his high school Latin, but actually he got the Latin wrong. Natasha, a lively internal medicine specialist from a nearby hospital, used her cell to look it up on Google.

buckley.jpg(Click to enlarge) Given that we confined our enquiries to people who looked as if they were Times, rather than Post or News readers, this implied that the clever fellow who concocted the apt headline can enjoy the ironic achievement that as many as 1.4 million Times readers were forced to go to the dictionary and look it up (the readership of the Times is 1.5 million, as we recall).

Those too lazy to do so immediately who read further in the piece came upon the answer at the bottom of the first inside column:

Norman Mailer may indeed have dismissed Mr. Buckley as a “second-rate intellect incapable of entertaining two serious thoughts in a row,” but he could not help admiring his stage presence.

“No other act can project simultaneous hints that he is in the act of playing Commodore of the Yacht Club, Joseph Goebbels, Robert Mitchum, Maverick, Savonarola, the nice prep school kid next door and the snows of yesteryear,” Mr. Mailer said in an interview with Harper’s Magazine in 1967.

Mr. Buckley’s vocabulary, sparkling with phrases from distant eras and described in newspaper and magazine profiles as sesquipedalian (characterized by the use of long words), became the stuff of legend. Less kind commentators preferred the adjective “pleonastic” (using more words than necessary).

And, inescapably, there was that aurora of pure mischief. In 1985, David Remnick, writing in The Washington Post, said, “He has the eyes of a child who has just displayed a horrid use for the microwave oven and the family cat.”

Actually, the word means “using words a foot and a half long”.

Anyhow when he got his copy of the Times delivered in his new abode, wherever that is, Bill Buckley must have been delighted with his final victory in his life long expansion of the vocabulary of public debate in this increasingly word-challenged society, where the spelling “loose” in place of “lose” is now almost as ubiquitous as”hopefully” in place of “it is hoped that”.

Thinker, debater, rascal

We confess we didn’t get to that definition in the article till later because the obituary, though intended to be flattering, had a strange air of staleness about it, despite the Times’ salute to Buckley’s achievements in founding National Review, hosting the highly successful Firing Line and sparking, organizing and promoting the resurgence of a core conservatism which resulted in Nixon and Reagan’s victories, and then gave America the two Bushs, not to mention four Republican mayors in a row in New York City so far.

Perhaps we are churlish because we can never apprehend exactly what it is that conservatives from Buckley to Reagan and Bush are enthusiastic about, that the rest of us can agree are universal values, rather than selfish ones. Conservative values currently seem to boil down to self preservation and personal success, with belief in God and family values seemingly in the service of self rather than others. In the last analysis, current conservative politics often seem to this observer to reduce to Me Me Me and My Money, Please Don’t Touch, however understandable this may be in libertarian terms when so much of it is misspent by the Bush administration.

So we can’t help counting this kind obituary as a record of a life of genuine promise and talent essentially unfulfilled, except on the level of entertainment and literate provocation. On the serious level Buckley’s words were used to justify a politics which hasn’t really proved out, because it is genuinely unprogressive ie lacks heart and a real understanding of what goes on the lives of most Americans who are not yet millionaires.

Since we write for a living and admire skill in words and oratory, we found Buckley as palatable as anybody else, and admired his public persona enormously as a stage presence and of course huge influence in making conservatism respectable again after a time when it was associated with bigots and extremists, of whom Buckley cleaned house. But nowadays it seems to us that once you look past the amusing style and vocabulary that endeared Buckley to liberals as well as conservatives to assess what if anything he achieved in terms of enlightened social leadership, it doesn’t seem so much, except in the realm of intellectual empire.

His support for legalizing marijuana and other drugs went nowhere, and even if you count Buckley distantly responsible for the more recent cutback of the supposedly bloated welfare system that conservatives crow about it is hardly a credit, given that those on the lower rungs of the ladder often have problems finding employment which are not their fault because they are a function of education or reeducation, which in a world where production has moved to China and the US is completing a vast shift to services and a sophisticated information economy, should be the prime focus of policy and subsidy, not removing the safety net and often wrecking the family life that conservatives profess to value so much.

So when all is said and done Buckley, however heroic a figure in intellectual debate and media theatrics, appears to us now more of dilettante mandarin and gadfly than a prime mover who made any lasting contribution to American welfare, except to the welfare of the elite who take more than their fair share of economic output in terms of productivity.

Perhaps this is because the conservatism he founded appears more and more morally bankrupt in collective terms and historically unprogressive as the decades pass and clumsy attempts to take it too far result in significant harm, as in the increasingly decadent split between rich and poor in America and now the Iraq adventure, which even Buckley quickly acknowledged was a grand error in the way it turned out.

How realistic was Bill?

In other words it seems Buckley was a witty warrior of ideas whose notions were as dangerously one sided as those of any ivory tower academic once they were put into effect in the real world and empowered on the national and world stages. Why was this? He was a sharp wit and hard worker but seemingly his Achilles Heel was the awkwardly unrealistic imagination that bedevilled his novels.

Thus rather famously his first in a series of spy novels has a scene where his hero Blackford Oakes nails the Queen.

At age 50, Mr. Buckley crossed the Atlantic Ocean in his sailboat and became a novelist. Eleven of his novels are spy tales starring Blackford Oakes, who fights for the American way and beds the Queen of England in the first book.

Others of his books included a historical novel with Elvis Presley as a significant character, another about the Nuremberg trials, a reasoned critique of anti-Semitism and journals that more than succeeded in dramatizing a life of taste and wealth — his own.

Each to his own, of course, but as far as we have looked into them Buckley’s novels are potboilers with unlikely plots written in wooden English which have little of the flair of his political debating style.

To our mind, Buckley’s societal values were similarly unrealistic, bred of a privileged background of wealthy father, prep school, and Skull and Bones, with his first book successful partly because he gave Regnery $10,000 to promote it, and National Review started with $100,000 from his father, a successful wildcatter, as well as $290,000 from other donors. The magazine has always needed subsidy from Buckley’s lecture fees, though it has now a circulation of 166,000.

His 1965 run for mayor of New York seemed to demonstrate a lack of serious purpose in his joke that if he won he would “demand a recount”, but in the generous spirit of the obituary writer Douglas Martin counts it as showing Buckley’s “spirit of fun” and says that afterwards it was seen as the beginning of the Republican Party’s inroads into working class whites.

Perhaps so. But it also seems clear that after it initially whetted his appetite for the fray Buckley was later scorched by the politics of the Nixon downfall and in the end had little personal appetite for the work of adapting his ideas to practice, so they weren’t as much tempered by experience as they might have been, though he had held minor posts in the Nixon administration, and according to R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., briefly dreamed of the Senate and the Presidency around 1970. His great liberal debating partner and friend John Kenneth Galbraith was equally impractical in a government role supporting price controls in an earlier era, which proved unworkable.

A friend remembers encountering Buckley in his early thirties at Yale and says that his style was more fluent and powerful then, and we imagine that with his winning presentation and resourceful mind he could have done a lot more to benefit America if he had been more of a true reformer in politics, rather than a preservationist and defender against excess. But perhaps all youthful visionaries slow down as they age, like even the fiery Fidel Castro, whose basic reforms of universal literacy and health care were complete three years after entering Havana in January 1959. But then Castro might have achieved much more if he hadn’t been forced to stay extreme left by the thoughtless US embargo still in place.

Whose yer Daddy? Buckley – or Ayn Rand?

The balance between government control and individual freedom is always debatable, of course, and a hard problem to solve in politics on any level, even in the home. But Reagan’s tribute to Buckley in 1985 that the Times quotes – “you didn’t just part the Red Sea – you rolled it back, dried it up and left exposed, for all to see, the naked desert that is statism (and) gave the world something different, something in its weariness it desperately needed, the sound of laughter and the sight of the rich, green uplands of freedom” – is speechwriting off the leash entirely which gives us an uncomfortable sense that the laughter is partly at the expense of the underdog.

True, there is a Aristotlean mean between the waste and mismanagement of bloated government bureaucracy and regulation and the resource grabbing self-preservation of corporate and private power that calls into question how far we should take either liberalism or conservatism, and perhaps Buckley deserves credit for swinging the pendulum back towards the sensible mean.

In the 21st century, it seems to have overshot the mark once again, however, and if Barack Obama gains office and swings it back somewhat, it can only be a good thing. For the conservative movement of today as led by Bush, Washington and Wall Street looks more like power and greed versus poverty and underprivilege, than the fight against the excesses of liberal indulgence, socialism and loss of disciplined, Godly values that Buckley seems to have been fighting when he began his career. If anything their inspiration seems more like Ayn Rand than Buckley. “Atlas Shrugged”, by the way, is now counted the best selling novel of all time, according to our TV, though we suspect that this is because it is distributed free like the bible, since it is even less readable.

What’s also missing in public political life is the high level of intellectualism that marked the era in which Buckley began, on both left and right. Maybe Obama will bring some of that intelligence back into politics which otherwise might seem gone forever with Buckley’s death.

Writing in the New York Sun Tyrrell we note views Ann Coulter as now the prime thinker on the conservative side, taking the baton from Buckley. If so, the Republicans will now be at a serious disadvantage, since as far as we are concerned she is as charming as a snake.

Word power

There may be one great lesson for others in Buckley’s brilliant career, however, which is relevant here. The special talent Obama has in common with the great conservative debater is the power to wield the right words to sway people, though of course Buckley’s vocabulary was unmatchable.

For paradigm insurgents in every field they both show how powerful a weapon skillful and passionate oratory can be in changing minds, even in science.

On the other hand, if you believe that Buckley didn’t achieve that much in the end, perhaps the message to those who would use words and passion to bring down great false paradigms which have the world in their Meme-like grip is a little discouraging. Maybe you need something more.

One way or another, it brings home to us that the ultimate solution is leadership.

32 Responses to “Sesquipedalianist Exits”

  1. MartinDKessler Says:

    There are a few things I remember about this Sesquipedalianist. He said that people (allegedly) infected with HIV should be tatooed on their behind and confined to a concentration camp. He debated Charles Rangle in Firing Line years ago (taking the “legalize drugs” side of the debate) and lost (and in my opinion because he regarded the so-called addict as a diseased person just like his opponent instead of a person who should be able to make his own decisions about what to put into his body). In an interview with Dr. Thomas Szasz on PBS (from the Thomas Szasz Website):

    TS: “Drug addiction, Mr. Buckley, is a metaphor…. The phenomenon we are talking about, in my opinion, is best described by the good old English word ‘habit.‘…”

    WFB: “Okay. How can we conveniently distinguish between, for instance, my habit, firmly consolidated, of requiring peanut butter for breakfast and somebody else‘s habit of requiring a heroin shot at breakfast time?”

    TS: “Why should we?”

    WFB: “I want you to help me terminologically because I think that unless your prisms are acute enough to distinguish between peanut butter for breakfast and heroin for breakfast, you may very well be being frivolous in a dangerous sense.”

    TS: “… Excuse me, no, there‘s nothing frivolous about this, Mr. Buckley. The question is … why you want to make the distinction, because in my view the only reason to make the distinction is to persecute somebody.”

    He also had a keen intersest in music and was a great fan of one of my favorite Bach players the great Rosalyn Tureck.

  2. MacDonald Says:

    He also threatened to punch Chomsky and Vidal in their “goddam mouth” during debates with them I believe.

    That in itself would make him a hero to the draft dodger keyboard warriors – who are not too crazy to get a hearing from their elected representatives apropos the previous tread.

  3. MacDonald Says:

    BTW would the People’s Blog Host very appropriately carrying out grassroot surveys at the local french cafe consider asking his study subjects how big a role in our present economic and societal predicament they think is played by military keynesianism?

    Perhaps the PBH would care to opine himself, being as he is formally qualified in the general ‘hood.

  4. Robert Houston Says:

    Truthseeker has set himself a difficult task – apparently, an appraisal of the legacy of Bill Buckley. Although one may disagree with some of these evaluations, they do serve to illustrate the complexity involved in judging any life, but particularly that of the brilliant aristocrat who founded and guided the modern conservative movement in America.

    What’s missing in this portrayal is Buckley the man. He was certainly one of the most extraordinary and splendid characters in American culture – articulate, witty, insightful, learned, charming, even charismatic, yet remarkably tolerant and gracious toward those with differing views. There have been numerous attempts to deprecate him, notably by the egotistical Norman Mailer to whom everyone else in the world seemed “second-class,” but the truth is that Buckley had a first-class mind. He also displayed a depth of character rarely seen in political thinkers.

    That he did not create utopia on earth is true but seems an unreasonable standard, since no one else has done so either. What he did accomplish so well was to bring a high level of congenial discourse to American cultural life whenever he appeared – notably on his weekly TV show and in his lectures and debates.

    He may have succeeded too well, for the contradictions in the conservative movement – which Truthseeker has noted – bore much bitter fruit when the neo-cons took power with Bush II. Bill Buckley as well as Joe Sobran, the former editor of National Review, became backbench critics of what was happening – particularly in regard to the disastrous war in Iraq. (An excellent portrait of Buckley is presented by the cover story in the current Newsweek magazine, March 10, 2008.)

    Corrections: Buckley never threatened to punch Noam Chomsky, as MacDonald claimed above. What happened was that in an amiable TV discussion between them in 1969 Buckley made a joking reference to his unfortunate confrontation with Gore Vidal the previous year. It’s on YouTube – there was no threat to Chomsky at all. In the 1968 mini-debate with Vidal, Buckley did threaten to sock him if Vidal continued to call him “a crypto-Nazi”. This led to them suing each other; both lawsuits were thrown out but the court required Vidal to pay Buckley’s legal fees.

    By the way, Atlas Shrugged was far from being the “best-selling novel of all time.” That honor goes to Don Quixote (Cervantes), followed by Pilgrim’s Progress, and the Count of Monte Cristo. “Atlas” was only the best-selling of all the novels by Ayn Rand.

  5. MacDonald Says:

    I may very well stand corrected by Mr. Houston – for once (-:) Unfortunately there’s no functioning audio on my computer, and I cannot find a transcript of the Buckley-Chomsky debate anywhere, which is remarkable. If anybody happens to have a link to it, I’d be grateful.

    From my recollection they were talking about Chomsky losing his temper Chomsky said he would occasionally lose his temper, but agreed with Buckley’s suggestion that it probably wasn’t going to happen that night. This was when Buckley replied that if it did anyway he’d smack him, and Chomsky again agreed that was sufficent deterrent. But I wouldn’t know if this was a jocular exchange or not.

    My comment did not reflect on Buckley, but on those people on right wing blogs I’ve come across the past couple of days who seemed to think this was a suitable way to celebrate an exceptionally articulate man.

  6. Truthseeker Says:

    Chomsky is an unlikely candidate for Buckley to offer to punch except in jest over his losing it earlier with Vidal, surely – Chomsky is a very polite debater. He wouldn’t rile Buckley like Vidal.

    I am not sure I stand corrected by Houston for not recognizing Buckley’s charm sufficiently – his fascinating talent at deconstructing and countering liberal homilies with a deft, darting tongue, bulging eyes, and crooked grin. I love this stuff as much as anybody, and believe I said so.

    The issue is whether Buckley had a lasting positive effect in reforming America in any substantial way, and I am asking for examples of this, since I cannot see any. Even his excellent example of creating civil intellectual political discussion of a high order that everyone enjoyed watching seems to have gone by the board – all we have now is stridency and sound bites.

    Like you we loved Buckley’s entertaining act, but it still seems to us a long exercise in futile disassembly of liberal impracticality without offering anything more practical and lasting in the endless job of reconciling social and selfish interests in running this world leading democracy.

    Are prep schooled graduates of Skull and Bones really qualified to reconcile these two opposites and take the US forward in justice as well as riches? Surely only if they, like Obama, have roots in struggle and underprivilege, experience which can broaden their view to a truly national inclusiveness.

  7. Robert Houston Says:

    Regarding the 1969 TV exchange between Bill Buckley and Noam Chomsky, Mr. MacDonald’s recollection was remarkably accurate. However, it misses the context: Buckley was speaking with tongue-in-cheek and quoting nearly verbatim the then well-known remark he had made to Gore Vidal the year before. He ended it with a grin and a little laugh. Though in poor taste, it was obviously made in jest. Chomsky clearly understood the allusion and rescued Buckley from the faux pas with a little joke. Here’s my transcript:

    BB: You’re doing very well.
    NC: Sometimes I lose my temper. Maybe not tonight.
    BB: Maybe not tonight. Good thing.
    Because, as you would, I’d smash in the goddamn face, ha, ha, ha!
    NC: It’s a good reason for not losing my temper.

    (Buckley laughs and refers to Chomsky’s book.)

    Over the years it’s become more and more evident that probably the wisest political thinker of our time has been Noam Chomsky. In the full debate (also on YouTube), Chomsky in his low-key manner quietly skewers Buckley on every point and seems the clear winner. Another political thinker whose views seem to have correctly assessed what was happening was none other than Gore Vidal, Buckley’s old “sparring” partner. Finally, after initially backing the Iraq war, Buckley himself eventually came to their same position on it and admitted that the war was a failure and a strategic mistake. He even came to champion the radical liberal position on legalizing marijuana and other recreational drugs.

    Truthseeker asks if Buckley contributed anything of lasting value. Since he inspired a generation of conservative leaders, including Ronald Reagan, it could fairly be said that Buckley, more than anyone, brought about the “Reagan revolution” with all that that implied – good and bad. Among the good accomplishments of Reagan would be the nuclear arms treaty with the Soviet Union, the succesful international cooperation in cutting ozone-depleting gases, the fall of the Berlin wall and the breakup of the Soviet Union.

    In any case, it’s a lofty standard indeed that would consider a life ineffectual that resulted in the founding and editing of a leading political journal, the production of 50 books and thousands of articles, the fomenting of a successful national political movement, and the presentation of 33 years of high-level cultural and political discussions both on TV and in academic platforms.

    In sum, a great American has passed away.

  8. Robert Houston Says:

    PS: My rushed transcript left out “you.” BB said, with uncharacteristic bad taste, “…I’d smash you in the goddamn face, ha, ha, ha!”

  9. Truthseeker Says:

    Reagan’s Star Wars plan was what made the Soviets give up the unequal struggle, according to physicist Robert Jastrow of Cornell. But was Buckley responsible for Reagan’s occupation of the White House? To the degree to which Reagan was buoyed up by the conservative resurgence, sure. But did he, Buckley, ever change the nation in the direction of some specific objective, with all his verbal and literary output? I mean, it would be interesting if he was responsible for getting Nixon to go to China, for instance. But in my ignorance and reading of the obits there doesn’t seem anything mentioned except initiatives that didn’t go anywhere, more’s the pity in the case of stopping the drug war.

    But perhaps you are satisfied with all the fundamental change he achieved in the rebirth of conservatism, as a grand legacy now crumbling. Perhaps you are willing to credit scribblers with the influence they like to think they have, along the lines that Keynes famously remarked (“The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. “).

    Keynes also said more straightforwardly that “Ideas shape the course of history.” In that realm of influence Buckley was a major player, as we have enumerated, but I still think we have more to admire in his style than in his substance. It is not difficult to grind one side of an axe year after year, if you have the talent at language Buckley had at his command. I am merely suggesting that one shields one’s eyes from that dazzle and look to see what change he effected of lasting value to the world. As a believer in progressive socialist-capitalist libertarianism and social advance in tolerance, cooperation and the strong rescuing the weak if they truly cannot fend for themselves, I would like to see some particular advance laid to Buckley’s door. What is it? Being a champion debater is not one.

    The truth is that literary figures can easily be overrated when it comes to real practical influence. One might ask the same questions of Lewis Lapham. For all his clever commentary on the sins of those who rule in Washington which he always seemed to view as the modern Versailles, how many causes did Lapham get behind and push with some effect in his many years at the helm of Harpers, which has always been the most enlightened mainstream magazine in terms of covering human folly?

    Are you sure that in your admiration for stylish intellectual fencing you are not confusing literary quality with real political force? Chomsky is a most felicitous speaker who is as refreshing as pure spring water to listen to but he operates on the one premise that the US Administration is always wrong and a bully, which can’t be true everywhere and all the time. What political change has he ever effected? He is mostly just comfort for the enlightened pacifist who has trouble admitting that vile though violence is by nature, it must in the end paradoxically be opposed with violence if it’s worst manifestations are to be kept at bay.

    All in all, if literary talent is not the criterion then all three of these names seem to have ground away repetitiously year after year with not much political effect in terms of specific, permanent advances they can take personal credit for. It is not difficult to be a one sided critic compared with being an author of change. Our heroes are those who effect change of a permanent nature in the lives of men that they can count as blessings.

    Those 50 books – have you read any? How many will be around in 20 years? I would bet none at all.

  10. Baby Pong Says:

    I do recall reading a transcript of Buckley threatening to punch Chimpsky and suggest you investigate further. All this glowing talk of Buckley seems based on his personality. In reality, he was reportedly abusive to animals that he hunted, and was a CIA agent. As is Chimsky, in my opinion. Chimsky’s deep-cover CIA role is to act as the “Far left” intellectual gatekeeper-guru influencing radicals to more acceptable positions. His mission is to gain credibility by reporting a lot of the ugly reality about what the US and the power elite do in the world, while diverting radicals from the truth on the really explosive, powderkeg issues that could foment world revolution — such as “9-11”, the Kennedy assassinations, and “Hiv/Aids”, on all of which he supports the establishment, in defiance of the massive preponderance of evidence.

    Neither of them deserve your admiration. I have only contempt for both of them, and had extensive correspondence with Chimsky back when I was more naive.

  11. MacDonald Says:


    Did Chomsky really have time for an extensive correspondence with a “fan”?

    TS, You have a peculiarly limited view of accomplishment It seems to consist entirely of either some man in power pushing a button or being the puppet master that directly guides his hand in pushing the button. May I remind of the Oriental style circumventive logic that says, “You cannot change the world but you can change yourself. If you succeed in changing yourself, you have changed the world”.

    Apart from that, you are frightfully mistaken and simplistic about Chomsky: He certianly does not “operate on the one premise that the US Administration is always wrong and a bully.”It’ just not the role of a dissident to dwell on the “right” aspects,just as a histriandoenot dwell on times of peace and tranquility.

    AIDS Inc. cannot be wrong and a bully all the time can they? And yet does you own blog not operate on the premise that they are fundamentally mistaken and largely corrupt?

    Let me add to your enlightened state by informing that Chomsky is not a pacifist by unyielding principle. He actually agrees with you that violence should be used to oppose greater evil especially unlawful use of force. The common application of this principle is called “civil disobedience”.

  12. MacDonald Says:

    Third paragraph from bottom one more time:

    Apart from that, you are frightfully mistaken and simplistic about Chomsky: He certianly does not “operate on the one premise that the US Administration is always wrong and a bully.” It’s just not the role of a dissident to dwell on the “right” aspects, just as a historian does not dwell on times of peace and tranquility.

  13. Truthseeker Says:

    “It’s just not the role of a dissident to dwell on the “right” aspects, just as a historian does not dwell on times of peace and tranquility.”

    But that is exactly what is wrong with all these people, if they only see one side of any question, since they can then be dismissed rather easily as mere professional debaters taking the easy way out. That is why dissidents so often get dismissed as mere troublemakers begging for attention, rather than respectable independent minds perceiving mass delusion, which seems to be the hat that fits BP, if not the rest of us to quite the same extent.

    Provocative stuff, though. Look forward to commenting further.

  14. Truthseeker Says:

    All I have to add is that BPong seems to be an example of extreme skepticism, where suspicion or even just outlandish possibility is wont to become belief, based on nothing more than the imagination. Everything I have seen of Obama and his realistic wife speaks volumes of their innate decency, idealism, and desire on his part to sacrifice himself for the good of a vast public most of whom have no idea what he is talking about, and think all his supporters are “ni****lovers”, as the lad from Queens put it.

    I am very willing to be persuaded of the exciting prospect that in my naivete (information restricted lack of prejudice) I have mistaken a puppet of the hidden powers for a leader of men and women towards the sunrise of universal human enlightenment and saintliness, but I require some evidence other than the admittedly sophisticated Pong is deeply suspicious and produces from his dark imagination the belief that a tall, dynamic, clear thinking man of impeccable credentials is really a cheap fraud.

    This tendency towards a centrist position on all matters is the Aristotleian mode of this humble blog and not to be lightly pushed off the rails, and it is why we take even Chomsky, Lapham and Buckley as a Gang of Three who are essentially political eunuchs however much we love their illuminated, holier than thou prose. They are neither powerless nor powerful, for the boundaries of their influence tend to be where culture meets power.

    That said I am very excited over their prowess as wordsmiths (though the commentators here are a match for them, it seems to me)and salute the thought that words in the end are mightier than deeds. After all, without that faith where would this blogsmith be – and the hope of its influence inside the corridors of power that fuels him and his sorry, possibly Don Quixote-like blog?

    Maybe about where it is, some cynics might say. But hope springs eternal that the Tipping Point is only yards away…and hope is the sustenance of the naive.

    Expecting Sharpton to be a worthy addition to the cause is an example of the triumph of hope over experience, and I salute that too. Our extensive Harlem contacts will be developed across the few degrees of separation between the great man and our staff.

  15. MacDonald Says:

    I have several times tried to submit an enormously educational Comment originally destined for the Barack Blowout hope over experience post but now attempted in 4 different threads. It keeps getting caught in some kind of limbo between succesful delivery and appearing on screen. Emails have been sent off to no effect . Perhaps the bloghost could check his filters for this large fish?

    Barack Obama, btw, was probably beaten in Texas if not Ohio by the Right Wing smear machine rather than Hillary’s almiost indistinguishable ditto. I happen to agree with Glen Greenwald that the press is largely inert until acted upon by neo-con pressure of the kind we find in National Review, and it was noticeable how the calls for more “scrutiny” of Obama got a lot shriller as soon as it looked like he had defeated Hillary for them. In fact, the smear artists were out one Super Tuesday too early with their Hussein, Hussein, Hussein Obama and nearly tripped up their own favourite against Hillary. All of a sudden Obama had to “explain” over and over his “ties to Louis Farrakhan, Dr Wright, domestic terrorism, flag label pins etc. The coverage of the NAFTA debate was entirely drowned out on the Right by these grave concerns. In the meantime MCCain held a barbeque for the press core on condition they give him only for soft questions,


    and. . . . well, the rest is caught in your filter somewhere.

  16. Truthseeker Says:

    McD, we can only apologize for what seems like an outrageously unwarranted interference with the free flow of your high quality compositions, which we suspect is some kind of ridiculous filter imposed by the WordPress software unbeknownst to us, and we hasten there to locate the cause of this interference with free speech and enlightenment of the ignorant by a man whom we would have no hesitation in naming the next editor of the National Review if we didn’t already have in mind trying to maneuver him into editing Science Guardian when we are kicked off the job.

  17. Robert Houston Says:

    By the elevated standards of Truthseeker, the only people of accomplishment would be politicians who put their name on specific lasting legislation. This is a needlessly limited view, which would relegate influential authors and political thinkers such as Buckley and Chomsky to the dustbin of history.

    Both the fortune and misfortune of Buckley was that his well-espressed views guided the thinking of well-connected people who implemented many of them into public policy, especially during the Reagan years. The result was that the inherent contradictions in the modern conservatism that Buckley helped to formulate (from the disparate elements of libertarianism, traditionalism, free market economiics, law-and-order authoritarianism, and anti-communist militarism) led to massive deficits and foolish military adventurism under Reagan, as well as some worthwhile results such as were enumerated in my previous comment.

    Pres. Reagan himself admitted that he was a devoted reader of Buckley’s National Review, and devoured every issue, even at the White House. He and many other leaders of the Republican rightwing in politics and the media regarded Buckley as a personal friend and mentor. In fact, it was somewhat disquieting to see on the TV news Pres. Bush describe himself as a personal friend of Buckley and a National Review reader. Thus, far from lacking influence, Buckley was probably one of the most influential writers of the 20th century.

    Prof. Chomsky has had nowhere near that kind of political influence but did steer much of the thinking of the liberal left leaders in America. Certainly one of the most brilliant and knowledgable political thinkers in the world, Noam Chomsky has had the distinction of being correct in numerous predictions and assessments on issues that Buckley and other rightwing thinkers too often misjudged. To some of us, there is an important cultural value in truth-telling, even if it does not translate into government policy. This important social role has also been served quite eloquently over the years by Gore Vidal and Katrina van den Heuval, Buckley’s liberal counterpart as editor and publisher of the Nation.

    That said, there remains a sadness borne of affection for the remarkable William Buckley, who for all his eccentric views, touched so many with his noble, Promethean fire.

  18. Truthseeker Says:

    MacD, there were five copies of your important Comment in the blocked area waiting for approval for reasons that must baffle all but the grubby dwarves who put together this otherwise quite decent software, unless it was part of the inadequate adaptation carried out by Frank Lusardi before abandoning ship for reasons never disclosed, and leaving us in the lurch as far as fathoming the intricacies of this blog coding and the unfinished contribution he left dangling is concerned.

    I approved all five with the intention of asking you which one you wanted to retain, but only one seems to have posted (above). Is that satisfactory or do you wish to revive some other copy? They all mysteriously end with the word “oder”.

    It was clever, I suppose, for the software to decide to post only one of them if all five were exactly the same. My conclusion is that it was roused by the large number of links, which may have tripped the alarm and arrest of the five Comments. I will check and if I find it will try to reduce the filter by raising the number of allowed links to 17 or some number way above the number you or anyone else is likely to include in a post.

  19. Truthseeker Says:

    Yes, it turns out the moderation was triggered by more than 4 urls, so I have raised it to 14. The idea is that spam tends to have a lot of urls in it.

    The comment you made appears to have appeared above only once. It is rather a magnificent Comment. For those who want to find it with Search, it begins “Hmmm. . . I see you’re engaging in “live blogging” now. Very exciting…”

    Sorry about my skepticism as to the political importance of Buckley et al when all is said and done, I thought I had conceded enough on the influence front to be allowed to ask the trillion dollar question, what specific policy or historical action could be laid at the door of any of these gentlemen that they could boast of to their grandchildren as an example of how they had improved the world?

    I am still waiting. For instance, did Nixon open the door to China as a result of Buckley’s urging?

    Today, a great admirer of Buckley thrust a copy of the current Newsweek into my hands so I shall devour that with its biographical assessment of Buckley before challenging his heroic political stature further, while always granting his livewire presence on stage and sesquipedalian opinion making in print, but still wondering where the constructive contributions came which we can now celebrate, other than the remarkable rehabilitation of conservatism and its return to political potency, which has brought us two of the most illiterate presidents ever, one of whom was asleep at the wheel much of the time (we are speaking literally here) and the other embarked on the Iraq adventure while tossing a report from the State Department, of hundreds and hundreds of pages on what to do after winning the war, prepared by drawing on a wide range of expatriate Iraquis and their expertise, straight into the circular file.

  20. MacDonald Says:

    Heh “oder ” is simply the German for “or”, as you will remember now that it has been confirmed. Since I had already used “or” a number of times, I thought the time had come to switch language.

  21. Robert Houston Says:

    Nixon was not a fan of Buckley’s. Reagan was. A writer’s influence on actual events tends to be indirect. In Truthseeker’s sense, (“what specific policy or historical action could be laid at the door on any of these gentlemen that they could boast of…”) few writers other than Karl Marx might qualify unless they became successful politicians. Pres. Reagan, as a friend and follower of Buckley’s, was certainly much influenced by him and came to power though a wave of conservative sentiment that Buckley had initiated. As I pointed out above, there were some notable achievements of the Reagan administration. Among them were:

    * the nuclear arms treaty with the Soviet Union,
    * the successful international cooperation in cutting ozone-depleting gases,
    * the fall of the Berlin wall,
    * the breakup of the Soviet Union.

  22. Truthseeker Says:

    Well, three out of those four items transpired because Reagan’s crackpot Star Wars notion threatened to bankrupt the Soviets if they went along and tried to match it, so they gave up the unequal economic struggle, as Jastrow pointed out when I interviewed him for OMNI when he was involved in the issue in some way, and I never heard of Buckley’s support or otherwise of Star Wars, a matter of technology and science in which Buckley was no doubt a babe in the woods, like most literary figures and their readers.

    Whether Reagan achieved ozone depletion with the Buckley impetus I know not, but it would seem to me that the great Panda of conservative apologia was probably equally at sea there too, and believed whatever his dinner table told him.

    OK I read Newsweek’s obituary in Newsweek a) worrying about the fate of that magazine – over 3 million in circulation and fewer ads than OMNI before its sad demise as a source of popular science of a high order and appealing even to women who were not scientists and b) noting that it also has the strange lack of beef in the sandwich as the Times obituary.

    I suspect that what we have here is the usual fan club admiration of literate and enlightened scholars for a man who is/was a Titan of wordpower who introduced sufficient variety and novelty into his texts that y’all lose your sense of reality and imagine that he is very influential. Buckley was an entertainer first and foremost, a swordsman who fenced but did not kill, and this was reflected in his innate kindness, generosity towards foes and ability to give 70 speeches a year without tiring of repeating himself and getting virtually no where in terms of change, except to build up the muscles and rationale of conservatism and it nuisance value to unprecedented heights which wrecked democratic progress for two generations, simply because like all axe grinders he essentially kept it KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) under the mock intellectualism by having only two principles in mind – Christianity and individualism, both of which he accused Yale of leaving behind in his juvenile book God and Man at Yale which attacked its secularism and collectivism as if they were unChristian and against freedom, when in fact they are neither.

    Christianity after all is the religion wherein Christ preached “turn the other cheek”, and this great nation is now the most Christian of the great powers and yet utterly tolerant of other religions, and the most free, except of course for all the hidden forces of injustice and intolerance which only occasionally see the light of day, including class and color prejudice. As to freedom, Buckley valued that highly enough to be counted libertarian and to support the legalization of drugs, and his capitalism was dog eat dog, as befits the privileged child of a successful Texas wildcatter who struck lucky and rich. Yet Christianity is above all a religion where we help others. Did Buckley solve these contradictions and lead society onto higher ground with a resolution that embraced all and enabled Christ to make some headway in bringing his 21st Century social ideals to fruition in the USA in the 21st Century? I can’t find anything in these sycophantic appreciations by hacks to whom any thought is “intellectual” and to whom any vocabulary beyond Mary had a Little Lamb is dazzling. Possibly newsprint scribblers should be banned from writing the obituary of a Lord of the Pen.

    What I can find is exactly what I would expect in an essentially floodlamp bright writer who was a highly practiced thinker who could easily see very soon in his career how relative all opinion is is even when it is encapsulated in a single wittily expressed phrase ie how there are always two sides to almost any political opinion and perception, and that the true philosopher cannot choose between them on the level of generalities which is the plane of political discourse on the stump or in a periodical. That is to say, we find infinite patience, tolerance, kindness, civility and good cheer – the attributes of those who see both sides of an issue. Buckley’s stance was probably fundamentally fraudulent. He was no fanatic, and probably not even a believer in his temperament at all. He simply enjoyed winning the point wherever he could find a debate, as was shown by the fact that his musician friend played poker with him and found he never folded.

    Buckley had all the attributes of a good clubbable man and deserves infinite credit for his character and temperament as an enthusiast, a debater and an educator but to extrapolate this to imagine he was a political achiever of any kind seems absurd. Reagan was a mere actor who achieved more in terms of initiatives in one year that Buckley achieved in a lifetime, except on paper. He spent his spare energies on what a gentleman might divert himself with – the harpsichord, writing atrocious spy sagas and becoming the most desirable guest and host on the East Coast. He could do one thing well, and that was Live. He could stir the pot in conversational and political discourse in a charming and fascinating manner, and compete in any arena he found time for, such as sailing across the Atlantic. But did he leave the world a better place is any specific way? Alas, no. Now they need another Buckley to camouflage the dreadful selfish motivations of most conservatives.

    All this is the fate of clubs and club members in the modern world, I believe, they are dinosaurs, Alas. For what better than a club to bring rhe best people together in a relaxed exchange on the affairs of the world? Buckley was the club man par excellence. But what achievement can we write on his tombstone? Tim Berners Lee achieved the Internet and all it has brought humanity. What can Buckley be credited with on that spectrum? In achievement he was the Court jester. But sad to say that may be the fate of most really sociable people. They are not sufficient shut ins or crazily ambitious to write their name in history in some lasting way to alter the course of progress.

    They make the best dinner companions, however.

  23. Robert Houston Says:

    This is such an adolescent diatribe ((Impolitesse software alert!)). What purpose does it serve except an attempt to boost the critic’s self esteem by trying to dismiss and belittle the fallen hero? One might wonder what modern writers – apart from Karl Marx and Sinclair Lewis – might meet Truthseeker’s rarefied standards of influencing the world decisively.

    Many of Buckley’s books were masterful and have stood the test of time (yes, I’ve read several and they’re on my bookshelf). One in particular, Up from Liberalism, was possibly the single most influential political book of latter half of the 20th century, since it sparked the resurgence of conservativism which swept the Republican right to eventrual control of the White House and both houses of Congress.

    This is not to say that his orientation was necessarily correct. As pointed out above, Chomsky and others on the left seem to have been more discerning in general. Buckley, however, had a remarkable ability to get people to think about political issues in deeper ways than mere slogans.

    By the way, under Reagan “Star Wars” was never more than a research project. (Dr. Jastrow, one of its cheerleaders, is hardly an unbiased source.) Regardless of the basis, however, the genuine achievements of the Reagan administration still stand.

  24. Truthseeker Says:

    This is such an adolescent diatribe. What purpose does it serve except an attempt to boost the critic’s self esteem by trying to dismiss and belittle the fallen hero? One might wonder what modern writers – apart from Karl Marx and Sinclair Lewis – might meet Truthseeker’s rarefied standards of influencing the world decisively.

    Hold on, Houston, just the facts please, as per your usual style. Does that phrase even meet the standards of civility of your hero? Don’t believe that Buckley was much given to ad hominem responses, except when tormented by Gore Vidal into bursting out “you queer”.

    Certainly sorry to hear that such a distinguished and arms length observer such as yourself strenuously objects to our trial exposition of Buckley’s lack of lasting contribution to the welfare of individuals or society as merely adolescent tripe, and designed only to boost our own self esteem in belittling your fallen hero. Even if we hadn’t enjoyed Buckley’s performance enormously and said so, how would this work, exactly? Buckley’s line of work was trying to persuade people to change their point of view with words rather than deeds, so surely anything which detracts from Buckley’s achievement in this regard would apply to this humble blogger in spades? But anyhow, we allowed that Buckley was a world champion in using words to promote a political cause, beside whom we are a minnow to a whale, have achieved nothing so far other than attracting remarkably intelligent and well informed commenters such as yourself to set us straight. We do believe, however, that trying to correct the one obvious huge example where the scientific literature is being ignored in favor of making money by killing people off slowly is a worthier cause in terms of making a difference in the lives of millions than persuading Yalies and Republicans they should be more Christian and free to pursue their own destiny without collectivism, though there is something to be said for that too, as there is for most vague political generalities.

    Besides, we also listed the qualities of Buckley the Great Man which you seem to think we overlooked. All we are asking is for you to tell us what he has achieved in substance, for the improvement of society, rather than in style and wit, suggesting only that sparking a revival of conservatism may not do, since it has had mixed results to say the least and has not lasted. Did he compose any wonderful music? Did he write any books of lasting literary value? Perhaps you should say he was a wonderful teacher. From what you say Up From Liberalism is merely a political tract whose purpose was only to spark the aforesaid resurgence of conservatism. Are you a conservative Republican, and therefore delight in this book automatically? Have you actually read it recently for pleasure and instruction?

    It really doesn’t matter that we may or may not have enviously shortchanged Buckley, what matters are the facts which can be produced to contradict or support our evaluation. So if you don’t have more to put in the balance on his side, our question stands. Perhaps you didn’t read what is written above in the spirit in which it was written. We didn’t say that Reagan got very far with Star Wars , but that the threat was enough to get the Soviets to throw up their hands and see sense. That was Jastrow’s point, and as we said he was involved, and should know enough to be reliable. Similarly, we didn’t say we felt strongly that Buckley was nothing but a Pied Piper leading half the country over the cliff, we merely detected a certain lack of beef in the write ups which have swooned over him and asked those who worship, sorry, appreciate him such as yourself clearly to tell us why in the grand scheme of things he will be missed, other than the enormous amusement gap left by his style and personality.

    Actually we believe our trolling riff on this topic deserves credit as an example of how you can argue on one side or the other of a point rather arbitrarily exactly as we believe Buckley did, in the sense he always dominated any stage and that seemed to be his basic impulse regardless of the point of view he happened to favor, apparently because he was lucky in his childhood and schooling, Perhaps we should credit Buckley with being a great propagandist. Perhaps we are lucky that he didn’t turn his hand to promoting Fascism and some other extremist cause, since he would have been effective at that too.

    Amongst those who confuse literary and debating skill with analytical truth and political progress. Buckley will be confused with someone who achieved something lasting for society, but sadly we predict he will be forgotten except for the richness which he added to the discourse and to the lives of those that knew him or saw him on the television or stage. Personally we feel that that is all the legacy he needs, and why his fans hold out for some historical significance and societal accomplishment is not terribly relevant, except that it shows how precious he became to all those who appreciated his personal talents. At least, it is a moot point until they produce some evidence for it.

    Back to Newsweek etc to see if we can do any better than you in finding a lasting legacy for poor Bill.

  25. Robert Houston Says:

    You’re welcome to your opinion. I respectfully disagree. So does most of the U.S. media, which reported Buckley’s death extensively on the all national network news shows. How many writers on their demise merit the front page of the NY Times and the cover of Newsweek – with four articles in tribute inside?

    For most writers, the most success that can be dreamed of is a bestselling book and perhaps an award along the way. Buckley had several national bestsellers, both fiction and nonfiction, as well as fame, awards, wealth and extensive legions of well-wishers on both the right and the left. If this was not a successful writer, pray tell who is?

    As for affecting the world, few writers have done so specifically, since the 1905 novel “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair (not Sinclair Lewis as I mistakenly wrote above), which led to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act. I can recall only two others, Rachel Carson (Silent Spring) and Ralph Nader (Unsafe at Any Speed). Was there anyone else? The fact that Buckley was the central initiator and overseer for the conservative resurgence which led to amazing political success would certainly have to count as an example of substantial influence.

    It’s also well-known that in his syndicated newspaper columns and editorials for National Review Buckley backed the Strategic Defence Initiative (“Star Wars”) research program of the Reagan era, which your informant Dr. Robert Jastrow suggests was an effective threat (even as a far-fetched pipedream) leading to the nuclear arms control treaty with the Soviet Union. (Actually, there’s another explanation, but enough said.)

  26. Truthseeker Says:

    We already know that you disagree, Robert, but with what? Apparently you want to go on endlessly proving that Buckley was an accomplished writer, debater, friend, mentor, personage, talk show host, talk show guest, stage perfomer, sesquipedalian wordsmith, sailor, amateur harpsichord player, popular spy novelist, dinner host, friend, companion, editor, journalist, etc etc etc, all of which we all know (have a look at Charlie Rose’s second appreciation of Buckley show when it repeats tomorrow).

    Now you wish to quote the immense coverage of his death by every important medium in America as if this kind of accolade proved your point. We did a post on Buckley’s death on this blog, by the way, to which you are adding Comments…. All this is wide recognition for something. The issue is what? Not that he wasn’t a good writer and a live personality who everyone enjoyed and misses. The issue is his legacy, if any.

    Apparently you are now arguing that Buckley could not be expected to have an influential legacy of any kind since few writers do, although you then quote the Jungle and Silent Spring (was the banning of DDT as a result of Silent Spring really an unmixed blessing?). Then you mention Ralph Nader, who certainly led the movement to make business take responsibility for its welfare effects, though now he too seems a little bit irrelevant. Then you say that Buckley deserves credit for supporting SDI. Finally we are getting somewhere!

    SDI however is not much of a legacy, is it? Got anything else, now that the Conservative Republican front has crumbled in the wake of neo-con and domestic failure? Bill was a great supporter of McArthy, as well. He was also a bit of a racist in his youth, though presumably he reformed.

    You may have to face up to the fact that one thing Buckley lacked was the stomach for any conflict other than intellectual debate. He was essentially kind, by all reports. Conrad Black is reporting that since his conviction Buckley met with him several times to settle any differences and cheer him up.

  27. Robert Houston Says:

    I referred to the extensive media coverage of William Buckley’s demise as evidence that he was widely regarded as a major VIP and an acclaimed writer, not a “fraudulent” con-artist as Truthseeker seemed to suggest (unless I misconstrued his comments).

    My point in mentioning 20th century American writers who clearly affected the world was that Buckley was one of this rare group, since he is widely credited for catalyzing and guiding the modern conservative movement in America, which eventually swept Reagan into power and, unfortunately, both Bushes.

    Buckley’s unpopular support of the work Sen Joseph McCarthy was set forth in two scholarly books, which I have read. Given the premise (which some would question) that there’s a problem in letting sensitive positions of government be occupied by former Communists who might act as agents for an enemy power, Buckley showed that McCarthy’s effort to weed them out of such government roles was essentially justifiable, though not always properly conducted.

  28. Truthseeker Says:

    Well, we agree then, since I have no opinion of any kind that Buckley was a “con man”. As anyone who has participated in university debating societies knows, the whole idea is to be able to argue on both sides of a question.

    So you credit Buckley with sparking and steering the modern Conservative movement and for guarding American democracy against the internal Commie threat, do you Bob? So we both agree then that this is his only legacy, other than to show what contemporary influence and fame a mere political intellectual/fiction writer/sailor/bon vivant can achieve.

    One thing seems certain. Literally everyone remembers Buckley with interest and pleasure. This is not normal for an intellectual, in fact, it is almost unique.

  29. Robert Houston Says:

    Except for the word “only,” I concur with with your last comments, Truthseeker.

    At the beginning of this thread, Martin Kessler quoted from a transcript of a discussion between William Buckley and Thomas Szasz, M.D., concerning drug addiction. In a 2003 essay (“Unequal Justice for All”), Dr. Szasz noted that “Buckley has since moderated his views…”

    In fact, Buckley incurred the scorn of many conservatives by proposing the legalization of marijuana and other recreational drugs (a scorn that was only exceeded by the outrage from the right when he came out against the war in Iraq in July 2004). Essentially, his libertarian view on drug regulation seems to have come to agree with Dr. Szasz, as in this 1996 TV appearance that’s now on YouTube.

  30. Truthseeker Says:

    Any stand against drug laws which are more vicious than the exploitation they seek to curb is welcome, but Buckley didn’t have any success with this so it doesnt count as legacy, does it? Perhaps it will have some contribution to make as history of opinion from a respected thinker even though he is now dead.

    Buckley had a huge influence in promoting his form of conservatism which got a foothold in public life for too many years before being kicked off the rattling wagon of progress, but the great man now departed will be forgotten as much more than an entertainer soon enough, as indeed he deserves, since he stood athwart the path of progress as defined as expansion of the goods of modern civilization (money, education, culture) to the disadvantaged and poor children of society who deserve equal opportunity.

    The fact that Buckley liked to imbibe wine and beer and sail his boat well is not going to defeat the clear view of those who ask What, in the end, did he really achieve for humanity and this society other than entertain everybody and make them praise the Lord for someone who showed that intellectual talk does not not have be the death of the party, it can be the life of the party, even in a nation where currently Jay Leno shows that most people on the streets on Hollywood do not know what country is north of the US bprder..

  31. Truthseeker Says:

    Here is a notice of the second Charlie Rose appreciation of Bill Buckley by a few of his fans:

    Video at Mediabistro Fishbowl from YouTube and short report

    This video is the tape of Buckley’s honest admission that he was prepared to die, and Charlie’s moving tribute to a friend who was solicitous after his near-death experience, and who “was prepared probably more than we were for his departing.”

    Fishbowl note on the hour’s discussion, which may well be on YouTube in full now it has disappeared from the Charlie Rose site:

    Last night Charlie Rose gathered several of Bill Buckley’s former protegees for a second discussion on the man and his legacy to American life. Jeff Greenfield of CBS News, Gary Wills of The New York Review of Books, Richard Brookheiser, Mona Charen and Rich Lowry of The National Review all talked about what Buckley meant to them.

    Garry Wills, who broke publicly with Bill Buckley in the 1960’s over the Civil Rights movement, talked candidly about Buckley’s personal evolution on the cause of African-American equality and how the two ultimately reconciled. Wills was discovered by Buckley as a seminarian graduate student in Classics, and went on to become a respected journalist and essayist as well as a Pulitzer prize winning author for Lincoln at Gettysburg. ”We differed over the war in Vietnam and also about the Civil Rights movement, so I sent him a piece (for National Review) about the war in Vietnam and he said, finally, we can’t publish this.”

    ”We didn’t talk for quite a while,” Wills continued. ”Then his sister, Priscilla, said: ‘you guys have been friends for such a long time.”’ They had dinner together and resumed their friendship. Rich Lowry, Buckley’s hand-picked successor as editor at National Review noted that Buckley ”always misspelled his emails” because he wrote so rapidly. Garry Wills, responding to what he will most about Buckley, said, ”I will always miss sailing with Bill.”
    Posted by RonM | 10:20 AM | Media People

    Typical of the Buckley appreciations, it focuses on his friendships and his fostering the talents of others. Buckley’s social talents were of a high level, clearly, and appreciating others was a big part of it. Somewhere in all this flow of reminiscences after his death was the delightful story of him asking a student greeter to help him on stage by repeating to him what the questioners asked, and the student followed him on stage but hung back, so when Buckley finished his talk and they asked him questions, he would leave the rostrum and walk over to the guy and listen to a repeat of the question, then return and give the answer.

    The student found his reputation skyrocketed afterwards because everyone assumed that Buckley was asking his advice and conferring with him before venturing his replies.

    Charlie Rose tonight is sporting one of the most magnificent black eyes ever worn by an host/on air correspondent in the history of media, topped by a large piece of sticking plaster. So far Google News does not reveal why.

  32. Truthseeker Says:

    Here is what Charlie Rose said:

    So Bill Buckley left us this morning. He was probably more ready than we were.

    As much as anyone, I valued him. When I came to this city and started doing this show 16 years ago, I was little-known and had not made my mark in life. He came on and then he sent me a hand-written note with enormous flattery and I live with the hope I didn’t disappoint his early prophesy.

    We became friends. Several years ago when I was sick and came back from near death, he called and wanted to take me to dinner. He wanted me to sail and I never accepted; until one evening he said to me, “I’m not sailing anymore. I’m not doing a lot of the things I used to do anymore.”

    Why don’t I ever learn? There is not always tomorrow.

    I last saw him at Pat’s memorial service and I knew her death was the last crushing disappointment for him. People were walking by as he sat in a chair in the front row after the service. I was last in line and when I stopped he looked up, and he saw me, then he started crying. And I said, “I’ll come see you,” thinking there will always be a tomorrow.

    And now he is gone. There is no tomorrow. But what a life, what a man, and what a friend!

    We think of the wife he joins, and the son he leaves, and the rest of the Buckley clan.

    Goodnight, Bill. Goodnight to you.

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