Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bill Buckley, RIP

Here's the post I did today for the Register's Orange Punch blog. I met Buckley a few times but not enough to get to know him. I did get to know Bill Rusher fairly well, and he was kind enough to do a blurb for my Ruby Ridge book.

February 27th, 2008 by abock
From Alan Bock
I parted ways with Buckleyite conservatism — too warlike, too inconsistent in support of limited government, on the wrong side of the civil rights movement (not that it didn’t have excesses), too willing to give up liberties in the name of fighting a communism destined to die of its own internal contradictions, too respectful of authority, etc., etc. — in the late 1960s. Nonetheless, I never ceased to have an affectionate place in my heart for Bill Buckley himself, who died this morning at his home in Stamford, CT at the age of 82. His way with words never failed him, and his affection for the language was infectious. He was almost always civil and witty, even as he was slicing and dicing an intellectual opponent. And there’s little doubt that he had an enormous impact on the history of this country and rightfully deserved the sobriquet of godfather of the modern conservative movement. For better and for worse.
From time to time he declared himself to be on the libertarian side of things, and he had some libertarian impulses, as befits somebody influenced in his youth by such giants as the quasi-anarchist essayist and raconteur Albert J. Nock and the brilliantly quirky individualist Frank Chodorov. His intellectual independence shone through from time to time, as in his early understanding that the drug war was unwinnable and socially corrosive, and his realization fairly early on that the Iraq war was a disaster, something the war-addled folks to whom he turned over National Review have yet to come to grips with. I don’t know whether it is a commentary on present-day conservatism or present-day cable news that it is difficult to imagine a program of civil discussion like “Firing Line” from the current batch of angry shouters and rude dealers in the ad hominem that pass for conservative (and most liberal) talkers today.
People talk of his graciousness, and I have no doubt it was usually the case. But his nasty and mean-spirited 1995 obituary of Murry Rothbard, an early ally who made the mistake of being too consistent a champion of individual freedom (if sometimes tactically erratic) was the antithesis of graciousness.
Bill Buckley was not perfect, but he was an accomplished, protean figure who usually had a twinkle in his eye. Condolences to his son Christopher and his brothers and sisters who survive him. RIP.

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