William F. Buckley Jr. Dies at 82
By Bart Barnes Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, February 27, 2008; 1:16 PM
William F. Buckley Jr., 82, the intellectual founder of the modern conservative movement, who helped define the movement's doctrines of anti-communism, military strength, social order and a capitalist economy, died today at his home in Stamford, Conn. He had diabetes and emphysema, but the precise cause of death has not been determined.
Buckley was an editor, syndicated columnist, television and radio talk show host, novelist and a witty and gifted orator and raconteur. In 1955, at the age of 29, five years after graduating from Yale, he founded the National Review, a magazine whose mission, he declared, would be "to stand athwart history, yelling, 'Stop!' "
Buckley is no doubt annoyed to be gone before commenting on the coming change of the guard from conservative to less conservative (one hardly dares say liberal) government. Perhaps not. He's been quiet on the subject.
One may not put words or thoughts into so erudite a persona and yet, having said that, I will.
It seems to me that Buckley thought the conservative leadership he had provided turned out rather badly. He was a stickler--for words, pronunciation, clarity of thought and intellectual honesty. I rather believe that Bill was disappointed in the ends to which his prescribed means had led--and the individuals who had led them there.
Gore Vidal--Buckley's counterpart on the other end of the political spectrum--has outlived him. Congratulations, Gore. The one half of two intellectual giants remains.
There was a time in the distant past of political conventions (1968 Chicago, Humphrey vs Nixon), when Buckley and Vidal looked down in lordly overview and came up with probably the best running political commentary we shall ever see. Their repartee (some still available on U-tube) is evidence of just how poverty stricken we have become with the likes of Tim Russert.
But Buckley, in an unusually vituperative state of frustration, outed Vidal as being homosexual--on national television--and that, as they say, was the end of that. Gore never forgave him and we, the already intellectually deprived public, were further deprived.
It seems that our national slide from the cerebral and reasoning has been steady since then, to the momentary and visually satisfying. It stuns me that Barack Obama is criticized for his oratorical skills. That was once a standard, the gold standard, for serious politicians.
Bill, we will miss you. Miss you mightily. I seldom agreed with you, but was always fascinated (and my mind changed more than once) by the force and the courtesy and the power of your rhetoric.