Wednesday, February 27, 2008
William F. Buckley Jr. RIP
William F. Buckley Jr. was one of those conservatives for whom I had a great deal of respect. I admired his willingness to engage the other side in debate. His TV show Firing Line provided a national outlet for prominent liberals of that era such as Gore Vidal, John Kenneth Galbraith and Noam Chomsky to gain some badly needed exposure.
Conservative commentators today, by contrast, are much less educated and very much unwilling to engage the other side in a direct debate. Can you imagine Rush Limbaugh inviting someone like Chomsky or Vidal onto his radio show and actually allowing them to talk?
I saw Buckley in person once when I was at Texas A&M in the mid-1980s as part of a current affairs program at the university. It was a live debate between Buckley and Galbraith on the merits or demerits of Big, or as Galbraith corrected, Strong Government. At the time, I think I was siding with Buckley. I have long since switched to Galbraith.
When I lived in Connecticut, Buckley’s newspaper columns were widely distributed and I would read him every week. I remember my impression at the time was that he would cram as many big words as he could into each column and often times not come to any clear point.
In his later years, as the modern conservative movement was becoming more and more radicalized, he stayed grounded in the conservativism of the past. He was highly critical of President Bush and the war in Iraq and was thereafter largely sidelined by his ideological heirs.