< WFB RIP

Transcript

Friday, February 29, 2008

BOB GARFIELD:
And I'm Bob Garfield.
[MUSIC UP AND UNDER]
This week marks the passing of editor, publisher, columnist, author and television host, William F. Buckley, Jr., one of the most prominent media figures of the 20th century. But to remember Buckley only as a media phenomenon may be giving him short shrift.

When he founded National Review Magazine in 1955, he also began a process of grafting disparate political factions to form the nascent conservative movement, the antecedent to Goldwater Republicanism, Reaganism and, ultimately, the 1994 Republican revolution.

Over its five decades, National Review has been far more than a vanity publication, heavily subsidized by Buckley’s personal fortune. As modern conservatism coalesced, it was the movement’s Bible. Here was Buckley in 1995 speaking to WNYC’s Leonard Lopate.
[CLIP]
WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR.:
It’s always been an enormous concern how few people read journalists’ opinion. On the other hand, their influence can't be measured by their circulation, so that you have to ask who is reading it and how vibrant are its ideas.

The conservative counterrevolution, if you like, was fostered by National Review.
[END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD:
On the subject of Buckley’s historical significance, conservative pundit George Will goes farther. Quote, “Without Bill Buckley, no National Review. Without National Review, no Goldwater nomination. Without the Goldwater nomination, no conservative takeover of the Republican Party. Without that, no Reagan. Without Reagan, no victory in the Cold War. Therefore, Bill Buckley won the Cold War.”

Not bad for a rebellious intellectual who began his career denouncing liberal orthodoxy in his book, God and Man at Yale, and finding common cause with both Southern segregationists and '50s-era McCarthyites – this, along the way to finding common ground for hawks, values peddlers and free marketers.

Fifty books and 1,500 episodes of Firing Line later, he was beyond venerable but a rebel still, never quite mainstream even in his own movement. With his high forehead, toothy grin and darting reptilian tongue, Buckley was something of a walking caricature of Brahmin culture - likewise, his vocabulary and torturous syntax, in equal parts, exacting and confounding.
[CLIP]

WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR.:
Let's recognize, as Admiral Zumwalt has so effectively said, that we are so impoverished militarily as a result of so many lamentable decisions that -
[END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD:
The clauses never clashed in his final extemporaneous sentence to close a 1978 debate on the Panama Canal treaties, but it was 48 seconds long.
[CLIP]
WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR.:
Because when they look at the leaders of the United States, they can recognize that not as a result of our attempt to curry favor with anybody but as a result of our concern for our own self-esteem, we are big enough to grant little people what we ourselves fought for 200 years ago.
[APPLAUSE]
[END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD:
It’s an unfortunate bit of media irony, then, that the most famous moment in his courtly, witty, supremely civilized pundit’s career would be his televised confrontation in 1968 with author and rival Gore Vidal. The fracas began when Vidal used the N word.
[CLIP]
[OVERTALK]
GORE VIDAL:
The only sort of pro- or crypto-Nazi I can think of is yourself.
WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR.:
Now, listen, you queer.
[OVERTALK]
Stop calling me a crypto-Nazi –
[OVERTALK]
MODERATOR:
Let's stop calling names and let’s –
[BOTH AT ONCE]
WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR.:
- or I'll sock you in the goddamned face and you'll stay plastered.
[END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD:
If you missed that, Buckley, the king of the six-syllable word, came back with a one-syllable sexual slur and threatened to sock Vidal in the face – a tawdry episode but perhaps a watershed all of its own for shadowing an industry built on rightwing pyrotechnics.

Yes, William F. Buckley’s legacy as political thinker and pamphleteer earns him a place in the pantheon. Unfortunately, we can also probably thank him for this.
[CLIPS]
[MUSIC UP AND UNDER]
BILL O’REILLY:
Most teachers, high school and college, in the United States are left-wingers.
ANN COULTER:
I think our motto should be - raghead talks tough, raghead faces consequences.
RUSH LIMBAUGH:
They need somebody getting even with the rich, for them.
GLENN BECK:
I think there is a handful of people who hate America.
[END CLIPS]
BOB GARFIELD:
William F. Buckley, Jr. died this week at the age of 82. We miss him already.