Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley, RIP

William F. Buckley, father of the modern conservative movement, founder of National Review and a major player in twentieth century American literature died this morning while working in his study. By all accounts, he was both a brilliant and a good man. Many of the paeans I'm reading this afternoon and evening all speak of his gentlemanly nature, his command of language, his wit, intellect, and his joy -- an emotion nearly extinct on Terra Politica. I read a 2005 interview with him in the Wall Street Journal in which he offered his interlocutor a cocktail before lunch, and went on to say "mischievously," that "[t]here's a certain wholesomeness to the Republican Party." The interview certainly showed his joie de vivre, but also explicitly highlighted the difference between being conservative and being a conservative -- a point Buckley made in reference to the president.

William F. Buckley's founding statement for National Review:

Let's face it: Unlike Vienna, it seems altogether possible that did National Review not exist, no one would have invented it. The launching of a conservative weekly journal of opinion in a country widely assumed to be a bastion of conservatism at first glance looks like a work of supererogation, rather like publishing a royalist weekly within the walls of Buckingham Palace. It is not that, of course; if National Review is superfluous, it is so for very different reasons: It stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.

National Review is out of place, in the sense that the United Nations and the League of Women Voters and the New York Times and Henry Steele Commager are in place. It is out of place because, in its maturity, literate America rejected conservatism in favor of radical social experimentation. Instead of covetously consolidating its premises, the United States seems tormented by its tradition of fixed postulates having to do with the meaning of existence, with the relationship of the state to the individual, of the individual to his neighbor, so clearly enunciated in the enabling documents of our Republic.

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