Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley, Jr. – RIP

How fitting that this sunny, loquacious man with a wit and grace notably absent in his successors should die when all signs point to the demise of the revolution he helped lead. A storied resumé: devout Catholic, a late convert to the stupidity of a "war on drugs," spy novelist, a Howard Hunt employee, Gore Vidal's most famous antagonist, and an apologist for the most pernicious forms of American imperialist adventures, especially if the conquerors palliated the eradication of Communists with bleats about free enterprise and civilization. I doubt that wit could palliate his infamous advocacy of tattooing homosexual AIDS victims (which he later retracted). We can argue about the worth of the ideas Buckley espoused – he introduced important criticism of the New Deal's influence's on Americans' relationship with federal power but had no trouble accepting aggressive foreign policy – but I prefer him as a spokesman of conservatism to any of his putative followers. Case in point: John Boehner's uproarious eulogy.

This 1969 "Firing Line" episode with Noah Chomsky shows Buckley at his most charming and wrongheaded: while Chomsky correctly insists that no differences exist between self-interest and altruism when it comes to invading sovereign nations, he' s also a grind and a bit of a clod; meanwhile Buckley crosses his legs, winks coquettishly, and waves aside Chomksy's points ("This is a matter of nomenclature").

1 comment:

M said...

I always thought Norman Mailer was Gore Vidal's most famous rival.