American Man of Letters William F. Buckley, Jr., Dies at 82

William F. Buckley, Jr., 1925-2008

William F. Buckley Jr., who deployed a refined, astute mind to elevate classical conservatism to the center of American political discourse, passed away on Wednesday at his home in Stamford, Connecticut at the age of 82. In 1955, Mr. Buckley founded the most influential conservative magazine, The National Review, and later hosted one of television’s longest-running programs, Firing Line. He also found the time to write more than 45 books, ranging from sailing odysseys to spy novels to celebrations of his own dashing daily life, and to edit five more.

Mr. Buckley’s greatest achievement was in creating a form of conservatism that was not simply electoral Republicanism, but rather conservatism as a system of ideas. The persuasiveness of his arguments rested upon his constant preoccupations with what he believed was best for the national interest and his emphasis upon the need for a higher morality. He rose to prominence during a period in American history when there was a whole generation of talented writers who were fascinated by political themes, authors such as Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, William Styron and James Baldwin. Like them, he attracted controversy like a magnet.

Throughout his life, Buckley had a robust reputation as a man who just loved to engage in good arguments, especially, of course, when he won. And many of his adversaries found that they were no match for his razor-sharp, sardonic wit. In 1967, one of his enemies wrote, “Mr. Buckley, you are the mouthpiece of that evil rabble that depends on fraud, perjury, dirty tricks, anything at all that suits their purposes. I would trust a snake before I would trust you or anybody you support.” To which Buckley responded, “What would you do if I supported the snake?

People of all political persuasions came to view his life and escapades as a kind of art form, from his racing through New York City streets on a motorcycle, to his then startling opinions like favoring the decriminalization of marijuana. In 1965, Mr. Buckley made an exceedingly unrealistic run for mayor of New York. When asked what he would do if he won, he answered, “Demand a recount.” He ended up receiving about 13% of the popular vote. He always carried himself with a clever aura of pure mischief and was often described as the liberals’ favorite conservative.

In his last years, when honors like the Presidential Medal of Freedom had begun to come his way, Mr. Buckley began to wind down his frenetic schedule of writing and public speeches. Nevertheless, even in those times, Mr. Buckley re-emerged in 2006 to command wide attention by publishing an article in Commentary Magazine that boldly criticized the war in Iraq as a dismal failure. “One can’t doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed,” he wrote, “…Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for civil life haven’t proved strong enough.”

Buckley Calls The Iraq War a Failure

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And to You Whoopi Goldberg, Bravo!!

As most people probably know by now, Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony featured many montages, one of which was described as a “montage of Oscar hosts” when it was introduced by George Clooney. The retrospective montage of past hosts included a moment of almost every host in the show’s history. But there was one host who was not included in that montage, the 4-time host and Academy Awards winner Whoopi Goldberg.

On Monday’s airing of the ABC television program The View, the subject was discussed ad nauseam by the “chatting-heads”, and Whoopi’s feelings of disappointment about the omission were abundantly and painfully clear. The other co-hosts spoke of Whoopi’s many historical milestones related to the ceremony: she was the first female Oscar host, the first Oscar winner to host, and only the second African-American woman to ever win an Oscar. Up until now, most writers about that particular program have described it simply in terms of how displeased the co-hosts were with the slight.

However, there is a different, possibly more plausible perspective on what actually took place Monday on The View. Consider that not only does Whoopi have to suffer the daily indignity of being reduced to just another “chatting-head” on The View, but also that her co-hosts insisted upon going on and on, in front of millions of American people, rubbing in the fact that the Oscar winning actress and Oscar hosting actress had not been shown in one of the montages on Sunday night. Dumb and dumberer Elisabeth Hasselbeck babbled on and on about how it must feel so terrible to be so slighted. Placing a cherry atop the poison pudding, the ever-duplicitous Barbara Walters unwittingly asserted that nothing Whoopi had ever done at the Oscars was really a Great Moment.

Whoopi just sat there, looking unbelievably miserable, trying to collect the remaining shards of her dignity that were being scattered around the set. When the others just wouldn’t stop, Whoopi quietly got up and gave each of them “the kiss of death” just to shut their mouths, briefly weeping when she got behind Barbara Walters.

Update: On Tuesday, the producer of the Oscar awards show apologized to Whoopi for leaving her out. The View should be interesting to watch tomorrow.

George Clooney: The Oscar Montage of Hosts

The View: Sadly Embarrassing Moments

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