William F. Buckley, Jr., died last week. Author and dyed-in-the-wool conservative, he shaped and defined much of American conservative feeling for over a half-century. He founded National Review magazine in 1955 and hosted Firing Line TV show, 1966 to 1999. Political historian George H. Nash wrote that Buckley was "arguably the most important public intellectual in the United States in the past half century, . . . . For an entire generation he was the preeminent voice of American conservatism.” Buckley's twice-weekly column was syndicated in some 320 newspapers. Highly controversial and penetrating at times, even his political enemies considered Buckley “a class act.”
Buckley wrote over 50 books, including a series of spy novels. These probably drew upon his limited service as a CIA agent, 1950 –51.
This morning, the TV program Meet the Press did an informative retrospective on Buckley's life, including a lot of clips from earlier appearances on that show. No stranger to snarkiness, Buckley was depicted as especially critical of a series of US Presidents. I had always considered Buckley fairly interesting, but more than a little pompous. Even so, I think it was unfortunate when the Meet the Press producers played part of an old interview in which Buckley pronounced, “I think the average American is a little above average.”
Our country and the world are the poorer for the passing of such an articulate and acerbic Conservative commentator.