Special Report: Death of an Era
Vol: 77 Issue: 28 Thursday, February 28, 2008
Of all the things in this world that I find admirable, there is nothing I find more admirable than intellect.
Particularly when it is possessed by someone who truly understands its power.
Such a man can be a great force, regardless of whether it is a force for evil or for good.
Yesterday, one of the greatest intellects of the 20th century drew his last breath and left this earth.
William F Buckley died at aged 82 at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. Buckley was reportedly found sitting at his desk in the study of his home.
At the moment of his death, said his son, Christopher, Buckley was busily working on a column.
(That’s the way I’d like to go. His son sent a message to President Bush saying that his dad ‘died with his boots on’).
William F Buckley was the author of at least fifty-five different books, ranging from political commentary to novels to books about sailing.
He rose to prominence when he declared war on the postwar liberal order, beginning with his blistering assault on Yale as a ‘traitorous den of atheistic collectivism’ immediately after his graduation.
“God and Man at Yale” earned him the undying hatred of the liberal Establishment, not that it bothered Bill Buckley. Buckley was delighted when historian Arthur Schlesinger labeled him, “the scourge of liberalism.”
Buckley worked for the CIA for a year (under the supervision of E Howard Hunt of later Watergate fame), before founding the conservative magazine, the National Review, in 1955.
Buckley had a special love for young conservatives, forming the group “Young Americans for Freedom” in the 1960’s.
But he was best known to the public through his television program, “Firing Line” which ran from 1966 to 1999, beating Johnny Carson’s record by more than three years.
His wit was legendary. Buckley once published a particularly nasty letter from a Dr. Marshall Prickman that insulted Buckley for everything from his ‘stupidity’ to his ‘ugly face.’
Buckley responded to the letter publicly in his magazine, opening his reply with the words;
“Dear Doc. Please call me Bill. May I address you by your nickname?”
I hate death almost as much as I admire intellect. One gets a sense of the wastefulness of death when somebody like Bill Buckley succumbs to Adam’s curse.
Here is a man who dedicated his entire life to the accumulation (and categorization) of knowledge. He had written more books than some people read in a lifetime.
His brilliant wit was honed over a lifetime of debates with some of the most cynical and nasty liberal opponents imaginable.
Gore Vidal once called Buckley a ‘crypto Nazi’. Buckley responded by calling Vidal a ‘queer’ — on national television.
Testifying in a libel suit in which the National Review was a defendant, Buckley was asked if he called Jesse Jackson an ‘ignoramus.’
Buckley told the court, “If I didn’t, I shouldn’t have.” In the same trial, he turned to the judge at one point and said, “I decline to answer that question. It’s too stupid.”
When asked what job he wanted in the Reagan administration, Buckley replied “ventriloquist.”
Although a rock-hard conservative, Buckley supported Democrat Joe Leiberman over Republican challenger Lowell Weicker.
He explained his reasoning by saying that: Lieberman “doesn’t have the tendency of appalling you every time he opens his mouth.”
I thank God for the life and times of William F Buckley and celebrate his passing with a deep sense of personal loss. My hatred of death for the thief that it is has gone up another notch.
America has lost one of its greatest champions. And I have lost one of my favorite thinkers. William F Buckley was one of a kind. His death marks the end of an era.
I shall miss him.