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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Very Sad Day for Conservatives

I was a little behind on my reading for the morning, so this is likely not news for the majority of you. For me, though, the impact is just settling in: William F. Buckley Jr. has passed away.

I’ve been a reader of National Review since I was just out of high school. It was the first magazine that I ever read--a remarkable discovery--that gave a voice and shape to the political beliefs that I had felt but not completely understood. From all of these influences--my parents, my peers, my friend Chick Eastman, Heinlein, and, to an extant, Ayn Rand--I had begun to find a kind of political framework building in my mind. National Review strengthened that framework and gave me the words to express my political thoughts. And, through the magazine and without even knowing of my existence, Buckley and his writers pushed me toward modern conservatism.

I doubt that I’m unique in that.

He was a brilliant mind, an inspiration for conservatives for generations, and probably responsible for my political beliefs as much as any other figure. Buckley was something special, and--like Ronald Reagan, whose spirit is not only remembered, but coveted by politicians--it is unlikely that I’ll ever see another like him. History simply doesn’t gift us with an overabundance of figures like these, figures who truly change the course of the world.

There is no doubt in my mind that Buckley’s influence on America (and, because of America’s unique position, the world) was greater than most politicians and statesmen. He was as important to winning the Cold War, in his way, as Reagan and Thatcher. In fact, I’m not sure that there would have been a Reagan without the influence of Buckley on the conservative movement. The people that Buckley inspired were the people that supported Reagan, who believed in the power of conservatism as an intellectual and political movement; it was Buckley’s preparation that helped create Reagan’s base.

We on the right will miss him through this election cycle and much of the world will never even realize their loss.

Rest in peace.

Update: Newt Gingrich’s response can be read here.

Before there was Goldwater or Reagan, there was Bill Buckley.

From writing books, to creating, leading and sustaining National Review Magazine, to his 33-year run as the host of Firing Line on television, Bill Buckley became the indispensable intellectual advocate from whose energy, intelligence, wit, and enthusiasm the best of modern conservatism drew its inspiration and encouragement.

Christopher Drew has some links and a funny story. I still vote Republican--largely because I don’t feel that I have much choice--but Joan is asking a good question. Roger Fraley says that the “average American IQ just went down a measurable amount.” Which might be overstating the case, but not by much.

My friend Bob Hayes has a wonderful post remembering Buckley. “For the remainder of Western history, there will be no conservative accomplishment or success that does not in some fashion benefit from the work that William F. Buckley, Jr., performed in his tenure on this planet.”

Michelle Malkin remembers Buckley’s place in her own life and has some great links--including to video of the famous exchange with Gore Vidal. That’s still a bracing little bit of video.

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