Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A sad day for Conservatism

As George Will once said, "Before there was Ronald Reagan there was Barry Goldwater, before there was Goldwater there was National Review, and before there was National Review there was William F. Buckley."

Buckley passed away this morning in his home in Stamford, Connecticut, but one can only hope his spirit will live on for generations to come. He was the founder of National Review, but, more than that, he was the founder of the modern conservative intellectual movement. An author of some 50 books--some of fiction, some of political thought, some of autobiography--and hundreds of articles and obituaries, he truly was an intellectual giant. There is even a Notre Dame connection: Besides being the sixth of ten children in a Catholic family, Buckley gave the commencement address at ND in 1978.

My conservatism and my interest in politics can, in large part, be attributed to the influence Buckley had on me. I began subscribing to the National Review in high school, read several of his books, and I was in awe. This man was not only writing everything I believed, he was doing so in a persuasive, witty, and erudite way. His trilingualism and, in particular, his mastery of the English language, led one fan to write this in an email to National Review today:

"I am saddened by the passing of William F. Buckley, but our loss is Heaven's gain, and I'm sure the Good Lord told his angels to 'Bring me a dictionary, Buckley's coming.'"

Buckley's wit and sense of humor gave him a wide appeal and even many on the left, although they surely didn't agree with him, paid admiration and respect. He had a humorous arrogance that allowed for laughter. "I am, I fully grant, a phenomenon, but not because of any speed in composition," he wrote in The New York Times Book Review in 1986. "I asked myself the other day, `Who else, on so many issues, has been so right so much of the time?' I couldn't think of anyone."

It's a shame we will not be able to enjoy his book about Goldwater which was scheduled to come out in the spring, and his son said he was also working on a book about Reagan. There is no doubt he will be missed in the coming years, especially as the movement he founded is reeling due to the lack of more people like him.

I will say this: if you have never read Buckley, please do. Even if you don't agree with him, you will come away appreciating his style and wit. RIP, WFB.

Some of my favorite Buckley quotes:

"Nonsense. Man is not infinitely weak. If he were, then we would proceed on the assumption that man could never resist temptation; in which event we would all be Calvinist. But look! Look how many of us have resisted the temptation of Calvinism!" - WFB

After being told in a debate that he had twenty unused seconds in which to expound further, he declined: “I think I’ll just contemplate the great eloquence of my previous remarks.” - WFB

“I won't insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said.” - WFB

“Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.” - WFB

“I would like to electrocute everyone who uses the word "fair" in connection with income tax policies.” - WFB

“Liberals, it has been said, are generous with other peoples' money, except when it comes to questions of national survival when they prefer to be generous with other people's freedom and security.” - WFB

"I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.” - WFB

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