William F. Buckley was indeed, a “great man” in the best and
broadest sense of the phrase. If not for him, I am not sure the
Soviets would not still be with us and against us.
I have long thought so much of his public effectiveness was that his
entire being was a caricature of pompous liberalism. It is hard for us to
remember (indeed, we do not remember, we are told) the time when
to “be intelligent” meant to be liberal. The Lionel Trillings of
liberal East Coast intelligentsia, dominated everything. To be
conservative was to be stupid. Buckley’s entire persona was the
complete reversal. He was a gentle Jonathon Swift making one laugh
uproariously with his lifted eye-brow, pointing pencil, and vast
vocabulary that was the New York liberal inverted and turned back on
him. He didn’t DO satire. He WAS satire, all the way to the marrow
of his bones. Because of his alchemy, unattractive people like
Whittaker Chambers were given a serious platform, and in the end,
their very serious and brilliant experience of history transformed
history. The number of ex-Communist who had “been there” like James
Burnham, would never have had a place had it not been for him. He was
one of the great hosts of the century.
Hugh Hefner was a great host for one of the diseases of the 20th
century with his elegant, but infected and evil mansion. Buckley was
perhaps the other great and elegant host who was used to restore
health and sanity, and gave place, for many, many who deserved and
There would never have been a Reagan if there had not been a Buckley.
They were the great tandem.