Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The best of us....

For reasons too numerous to even think of listing, William F. Buckley was the best of us all, the proto-neo-conservative, the guy who had the decency and the courage and the sheer intellectual FORCE to work it all out and explain it in such a way as to be understood.

At least by anyone who wanted to understand. Some didn't.

Hot Air dot com linked to this marvelous remembrance of Buckley at his best/worst, in a 1968 television appearance with Gore Vidal, famed liberal weasel. Vidal was pompously pointing out all the same crap we hear today about the Middle East but regarding Vietnam-- you know, they have a right to put in whatever government style they want (as if there were no difference between north and south), we shouldn't interfere, Western Europe and the rest of the world all agree we're wrong. Same crap as today. He ignored the suffering of the south Vietnamese at the hands of the Cong, he ignored the Soviet involvement that was after all the primary reason for our going there, he oversimplified and blamed America for everything. Classic liberal weasel, Vidal.

After a testy exchange prompted Vidal to call him a Crypto-Nazi, Buckley said:

"Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a nazi or I'll sock you in your goddam face, and you'll stay plastered!"

Buckley was leaning forward, probably a millisecond from actually taking a swing at Vidal; he was not just aggravated, he was righteously outraged. He went on to point out that he fought in the infantry in the 'last war', the big one. Nobody calls an American soldier a Nazi and gets away with it.

Note that the time-honored leftist tradition of calling anyone from the right a Nazi was standard practice a full forty years ago. (Nazis were, of course, the National SOCIALIST party of Germany, demanding that everyone think and say the same thing and that private industry and citizens should subordinate their natural energies and productivity 'for the good of the state', but leftists never allow their own similarity to Nazis to prevent them from calling US Nazis.)

In addition to inspiring countless young conservatives (including me, not so young now but still impressed by "God and Man at Yale" and all the good years of National Review, and still a Blackford Oakes fan), Buckley also served as inspiration, example, confidant and friend to the man who is inarguably the torch-bearer in our generation; the one and only Rush Limbaugh.

Rush took this subject on today, letting us in on the day he first met Buckley and on some marvelous personal moments in the years afterwards. He once made Buckley well with tears when he admitted to him in the company of several friends that having Buckley in his life made him feel as if his father were still with him.

Rush is, as always, speechless and humble when people actually start loading him up with praise and compliments, but the listeners did it to him today. They let him know that he really is this generation's Buckley, keeping intact all the layers and textures of meaning in that assertion.

And I, here on an unknown and little visited blog, second that emotion. I'm the first Rush generation. I was introduced to his show in 1989, right after he had started the national broadcast, and I've been listening nonstop for almost twenty years, including a four year stint in Europe during which I listened on the internet most evenings.

I submit that, while Buckley is the best writer of conservative views we've ever known, Rush Limbaugh is the best extemporaneous explicator of said views, probably ever.

He would deny any comparison between himself and Buckley. But anyone paying any attention at all reaches the same conclusion. Conservative politicians are often unhappy about Rush; his quickness, thoroughness and adherence to conservative principle remind us every day of the weaknesses and failings of our guys in office, and often they are just not smart enough or well spoken enough to bring themselves back from such a comparison.

William F. Buckley was a true genius, a man who changed the lives of millions and who had no ego about it whatsoever. He was the best of us.

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