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William F. Buckley Jr. dies at 82


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NEW YORK - William F. Buckley Jr., the erudite Ivy Leaguer and conservative herald who showered huge and scornful words on liberalism as he observed, abetted and cheered on the right's post-World War II rise from the fringes to the White House, died Wednesday. He was 82.


His assistant Linda Bridges said Buckley was found dead by his cook at his home in Stamford, Conn. The cause of death was unknown, but he had been ill with emphysema, she said.

Editor, columnist, novelist, debater, TV talk show star of "Firing Line," harpsichordist, trans-oceanic sailor and even a good-natured loser in a New York mayor's race, Buckley worked at a daunting pace, taking as little as 20 minutes to write a column for his magazine, the National Review.

Yet on the platform he was all handsome, reptilian languor, flexing his imposing vocabulary ever so slowly, accenting each point with an arched brow or rolling tongue and savoring an opponent's discomfort with wide-eyed glee.

"I am, I fully grant, a phenomenon, but not because of any speed in composition," he wrote in The New York Times Book Review in 1986. "I asked myself the other day, `Who else, on so many issues, has been so right so much of the time?' I couldn't think of anyone."

Buckley had for years been withdrawing from public life, starting in 1990 when he stepped down as top editor of the National Review. In December 1999, he closed down "Firing Line" after a 23-year run, when guests ranged from Richard Nixon to Allen Ginsberg. "You've got to end sometime and I'd just as soon not die onstage," he told the audience.

"For people of my generation, Bill Buckley was pretty much the first intelligent, witty, well-educated conservative one saw on television," fellow conservative William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, said at the time the show ended. "He legitimized conservatism as an intellectual movement and therefore as a political movement."

Fifty years earlier, few could have imagined such a triumph. Conservatives had been marginalized by a generation of discredited stands — from opposing Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal to the isolationism which preceded the U.S. entry into World War II. Liberals so dominated intellectual thought that the critic Lionel Trilling claimed there were "no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation."

Buckley founded the biweekly magazine National Review in 1955, declaring that he proposed to stand "athwart history, yelling `Stop' at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who urge it." Not only did he help revive conservative ideology, especially unbending anti-Communism and free market economics, his persona was a dynamic break from such dour right-wing predecessors as Sen. Robert Taft.

Although it perpetually lost money, the National Review built its circulation from 16,000 in 1957 to 125,000 in 1964, the year conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater was the Republican presidential candidate. The magazine claimed a circulation of 155,000 when Buckley relinquished control in 2004, citing concerns about his mortality, and over the years the National Review attracted numerous young writers, some who remained conservative (George Will, David Brooks), and some who didn't (Joan Didion, Garry Wills).

"I was very fond of him," Didion said Wednesday. "Everyone was, even if they didn't agree with him."

Born Nov. 24, 1925, in New York City, William Frank Buckley Jr. was the sixth of 10 children of a a multimillionaire with oil holdings in seven countries. The son spent his early childhood in France and England, in exclusive Roman Catholic schools.

His prominent family also included his brother James, who became a one-term senator from New York in the 1970s; his socialite wife, Pat, who died in April 2007; and their son, Christopher, a noted author and satirist ("Thank You for Smoking").

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I really loved listening to this man. He was very thought provoking.

I remember one of my three favorite nightline shows from the early 1980's. It was after the Russians had shot down flight 007 in the Pacific. The Soviets had killed several US citizesns and even a member of Congress in this attack on a comercial civilian jet liner flying near Soviet Airspace.. Nightline had Buckley on with a high ranking Russian General. I don't know his rank but the entire left side of his chest was covered with medals and his shoulders were gaudy with stars. Think Latin American dictator in a pretend uniform and substitute a fat old Soviet. This General likely destroyed a tiger tank bare handed in WWII. The uniform was intimidating just by itself, and that was likely the bulk of the message the Soviets ment to send by putting this daunting dire figure on America's national TV just after they downed this civilian airplane.

The Russian General spoke first and was dismissive. It was like he was making a dispassionate PR statement not even addressing the issue, cold blank stair, monotone... Buckley when his time came to speak lit into the General. Gave him no respect. Buckley basically undressed him verbally. He ruthlessly ripped this guy and his country as Godless murderers and the bane of human existence. It was incredible uncomfortable. Ted was just silent. They had the split screen so you could watch both Buckley and the General. Buckley head down concentrating on his words, not making eye contact. The general staring right into the monitor his expressionless mask cracking. The General went from bored to enraged, turned all red and was chomping at the bit to respond. The Soviet repositioning himself to the forward edge of his seat as he leaned in to respond with Buckly winding down. Buckley looking up, ended his 5 minute diatribe by saying he wasn't interested in anything the General had to say in response, and walked off the set.

I was like dam!!!..... That’s the last time I saw Buckley on Nightline. And the first time I remember being aware of him.

Another thing I liked about Buckley. When he really got going, crushing someone’s argument with his wit and vocabulary. Physically his scalp and hair started twitching in different directions on parts of his head.. This accompanied by that "Reptilian" smile. No Joke... It was very unsettling. It must have been like trying to defend yourself from Jack Nicolson if Jack had leaned in grinned and ****ed an eyebrow at you. Nicklson might be described as demonic, Buckley rather was like a praying mantis devouring another innsect. It was mezmorizing.

I've missed Buckley for the better part of two decades. He was one of the fathers of modern conservatism. He also was never afraid to take the unpopular stance even in his own party, and he often made more sense than those who opposed him on very divisive issues.

Agree with him or not, he was an independent thinker who would make one question their own opinions and core beliefs. He didn't always change your mind but he always made you think.

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He also was never afraid to take the unpopular stance even in his own party, and he often made more sense than those who oposed him on some very devisive issues.

I too have the utmost of respect for individuals who have the courage to say and do whats right regardless of the popularity of their views.


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