Saturday, March 01, 2008


William F. Buckley, Jr., died last week at the age of 82. He was someone I admired a great deal. As a teenager and young adult, I often watched him on TV when he hosted the PBS show Firing Line. (That show ran from 1966 to 1999, making it the longest-running public affairs show with a single host in TV history.) Conservatism may not find its voice in anyone of Buckley's stature for years to come.

He was quite the Renaissance man. He wrote over 50 books. He played piano, painted, sailed, served in the Army, served briefly in the CIA, and founded a magazine. But it's his character and Christian faith that I admired the most. He was a devout Catholic. He and his wife were married for 57 years before her death in April '07. He spoke up for Jesus, for the unborn, and for Christianity, and was not afraid to criticize people like President Bush for betraying conservative principles.

Among Buckley's more memorable sayings are these:
  • "I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University."
  • "The best defense against usurpatory government is an assertive citizenry."
  • "I would like to electrocute everyone who uses the word 'fair' in connection with income tax policies."
  • "A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling 'Stop!'"
  • "Liberals, it has been said, are generous with other people's money, except when it comes to questions of national survival when they prefer to be generous with other people's freedom and security."
In a 1970 interview with Playboy magazine, Buckley and the interviewer had this exchange:
  • Playboy: Don’t most dogmas, theological as well as ideological, crumble sooner or later?
  • Buckley: Most, but not all.
  • Playboy: How can you be so sure?
  • Buckley: I know that my Redeemer liveth.
Richard John Neuhaus had this to say about Buckley after his death:

"Bill Buckley was a man of almost inexhaustible curiosity, courtesy, generosity, and delight in the oddness of the human circumstance. He exulted in displaying his many talents, which was not pride so much as an invitation to others to share his amazement at the possibilities in being fully alive. He was also, in and through everything, a man of quietly solid Christian faith. I am among innumerable others whose lives are fuller by virtue of the gift of his friendship. May choirs of angels greet him on the far side of Jordan."

I like that.

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