Friday, February 29, 2008


A William F. Buckley Anecdote

My brother – we’ll call him “Georgia Conservatarian” – emailed me with what he describes as “the story of one of [his] top 5 most boneheaded decisions of [his] life”.

Georgia Conservatarian:

“I was in NYC for a Manhattan Institute Dinner a few years ago. I was living in DC at this point, so I had called some old friends up and told them I would meet them for drinks after the event. When the Dinner ended (at my table was James Taranto) I said my goodbyes to several people I knew and made my way to the door to catch a taxi on this rainy NYC evening. A long line had formed outside the hotel for cabs (getting a cab on a rainy night takes a while), and as I approached the line, I realized the person in front of me was WFB. So I put out my hand and introduced myself and said that I appreciated everything he had done for the country and conservative thought, and that his columns had educated me as much if not more than any formal education I had received. He was very gracious, and we talked in line for a several minutes. I can't really remember what we talked about, because the whole time I was thinking in my head "HOLY S**T, I'M TALKING TO WFB". Anyway, we finally reached the curb and a cab showed up, which he actually offered to me and I declined, we shook hands again, and he began to enter the cab.

Here is the bonehead he was getting into the cab, he paused and turned around and asked "Are you going uptown, would you like to share a cab?" And idiot me, who was heading about 10 blocks downtown, said "No, thank you, I am heading downtown." So he gets in the cab and drives away. And I am standing there in the rain, with people standing behind me who saw the whole exchange, and I screaming to myself "You are a freakin' idiot, you just turned down a chance to ride in a cab with WFB!! Why didn't you lie and say you were headed uptown to Harlem to eat at Sylvia's" And I am sure everyone behind me was thinking the same thing”.

Now I can attest that GC – him being my brother and him just being a guy – has done a lot of boneheaded things in his life. That he ranks this among the Top 5 is just another testament to the greatness of William F. Buckley.

As one of the key intellectuals who sought an increased role of religion in America, Buckley was responsible for undermining the best of the pro-Capitalism foundations of the GOP. He set the country back many decades and dealt a huge blow to Capitalism and free-market ideas.
God Bless America...
I guess you can't please everyone.
In fairness to Buckley, his was not primarily a theocratic tone. His views particularly on marijuana legalization would scandalize most of today's Republicans.

Buckley cut his teeth opposing civil rights and defending segregation pretty vigorously, but eventually pulled his Yale/Camden, South Carolina head out of his rear on that one. Like many of us, he grew more humane and more liberal with age. As a man of American letters, he has in my view no equal, politics aside.
Buckley did not defend segregation and oppose civil rights. He opposed a federal solution. His latter days had him admitting that the feds got that one right but I don't think he ever came around to thinking that the federal solution was usually the preferred way....and Bruce, you of all people should appreciate the difference between "more liberal" with "more (openly) liberatarian"
In Buckley's case, I meant "liberal" referring both to generosity of spirit and leftward development. Buckley went from threatening to punch the admittedly obnoxious "queer" Vidal in the nose in 1968 through comparing homosexuality later to an addiction to a much more liberal (both senses) perspective on gay and lesbian matters. Surely he did not grow more conservative from the 1950s; such was his low water-mark (or high- , depending your gauge...) Nor do I claim superiority in temperament to Buckley; I am about his age when he threatened Vidal and I could see myself not calling him a queer - but in fact throwing a punch, which Buckley restrained himself from doing in the face of pretty severe provocation then and of course much later.

As for segregation, I do not see this piece from Team Buckley as an example of advocacy for "subsidiary" but for both segregation and opposition to voting rights for American citizens, based explicitly on his conclusions about the alleged superiority of the "White race."
agree to disagree - I am familliar with the writings you refer to - I do not interpret them the same
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