Urbane, witty and maddeningly supercilious, he was the liberals' favorite conservative. William F. Buckley Jr., who died today, went to Yale, found it not to his liking, wrote a best-seller about his disdain and went on to make conservatism intellectually respectable in the second half of 20th century America.
In 1955, he founded National Review with his brother-in-law, F. Brent Bozell, but being a magazine editor was only a part-time occupation. Buckley leaves behind a torrent of words, on the pages of books and periodicals and in the medium that came of age with him, television.
My favorite memory, among many, is of his 1968 stint as a network commentator, paired with his liberal doppelganger, the elegant novelist and playwright Gore Vidal.
They ended a dispute on some minor point by calling one another "a pro crypto Nazi" and "a queer." Buckley won the argument by warning Vidal, "Stop calling me a crypto Nazi or I'll sock you in your goddam face..."
In 2006, Buckley rendered his verdict on George W. Bush: "Mr. Bush faces a singular problem best defined, I think, as the absence of effective conservative ideology--with the result that he ended up being very extravagant in domestic spending, extremely tolerant of excesses by Congress," he told a TV interviewer. "And in respect of foreign policy, incapable of bringing together such forces as apparently were necessary to conclude the Iraq challenge."
As always, well said.