01 March 2008

William F. Buckley RIP

William F. Buckley has passed away. I was never a fan, but his life did give us some YouTube worthy moments, such as a classic exchange with Gore Vidal while both were supposed to be providing commentary on the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

It seems to me that Buckley was plainly being baited there ("shut up a minute" says Mr. Vidal) and responded with a certain natural degree of heat. I don't think any the less of him for that. In terms of the political climate of 1968, all this was not nearly as nasty as it might have been.

I didn't see that program when it aired, but of course I had heard of it and was delighted at my recent discovery of YouTube's memorialization.

The Buckley I recall more vividly was the Buckley of Firing Line at the height of its influence, the period between 1976 and 1980, between Reagan's loss to Ford and Reagan's victory in the intra-Republican context and then in the general election of 1980.

I was a law student and a John Anderson volunteer in 1980 so I plainly wasn't in Buckley's side of intra-party fights. Nonetheless, he put on a good show. And that theme music! -- Bach's second Brandenburg Concerto.

And of course in parodic form Buckley was a "character" in a classic SCTV skit, "Battle of the PBS Stars," in 1982.

In retrospect I can see something of Buckley's historical importance, especially in the period 1970-80. This period begins when Nixon's wage and price controls disenchanted many market-oriented conservatives with the Republican Party and persuaded them they'd either have to remake it or leave. Some, the libertarians, left it. Others, under Buckley's leadership, stayed in the GOP determined to re-make it, and eventually they were rewarded with Reagan.

The Reagan crowd was, then, a little bit more principled than the Nixon-Ford crowd. That isn't a very high hurdle to clear, IMHO, but they did clear it. At least while they were out-of-power. Once in charge though ... well, that's another story.

It is possible to be a bit nostalgic for Buckley at his height. Today's conservatives, the Cunningham's and Coulter's especially, might learn a bit from him.

Every society will have a conservative element, in some sense, and it is best that this element be intelligent and civil. As much so as Buckley was at his best.

Will people someday look back at Limbaugh in the same spirit as that in which I look back as Buckley? Maybe. They may even look back this way at Cunningham and Coulter. God help us all.

1 comment:

j brownfield said...

As disagreeable as we might find some of Buckley's politics, time spent watching and listening to him was always like an evening of filet mignon and Dom Perignon.

Rush, on the other hand, is more like a bag of pork rinds and a six of Schlitz.

Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.