Politics: February 2008 Archives


| | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (0)

Words elude me at a time like this. They never eluded him.

During the Carter years, in my high school's library, I first encountered National Review, the magazine he founded. His influence shaped both my political philosophy and my idea of how politics ought to be discussed and debated. His "Notes & Asides" -- brief responses to letters from readers -- was a favorite feature.

He rescued conservatism -- resistance both to secularism and collectivism -- from a narrow political ghetto. Before Goldwater, before Reagan, there's was Bill Buckley, freshly-minted Yale graduate, declaring his intention 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 so urge it."

Among the many tributes to him that have been posted today, the most frequent theme is not his erudition or his devotion to the conservative cause, but his kindness and his graciousness, as remembered by those who worked with him and those who encountered him as readers and admirers.

Robert N. Going:

I finally met Bill when he gave a series of four lectures at Russell Sage College around 1973 and he graciously hung around to engage anyone who cared to chat. And I like to chat.

We kept up a correspondence for a while, nothing earth shaking or worth reprinting, but the fact that he would bother to even answer every letter from every young hero-worshipper I found pretty amazing. He even invited me to lunch, but our schedules never meshed.

Two years ago, early the next morning after his big 80th birthday bash, he emailed me to thank me for what I had written about him on this blog, at a time when I'm sure he had about ten thousand thank you notes to write to people far more important than this lone blogger. It's hard not to like a guy like that.

Rod Dreher:

The thing that occurs to me at the moment is how civil he was. I've mentioned before in this space what a great example he was in that regard. On the occasions I had dinner with National Review editors at the Buckleys' townhouse in Manhattan, there would always be an Ur-liberal present. Once it was Ira Glasser, the former ACLU head, and the next time it was Mark Green, the NYC politician. It was fascinating to watch Bill -- and he insisted that he be called Bill, signaling to me to knock off the Mr. Buckley stuff -- interrogate these opponents with intellectual seriousness, but also with unfailing respect and courtesy. He didn't care for their political opinions, but he liked them as people, even as friends. He was the kind of man who, though absolutely clear in his dismissal of liberal ideas, would not stoop to trashing someone's character for the sake of political gain.

John J. Miller:

He's probably the most gracious man I've known. He is of course a legend on the Right, and legends can be intimidating. The first time we met, my agenda was simply to avoid saying anything dumb in his presence. Yet he instantly sought to put me at ease. He asked what I was writing about and seemed genuinely curious to know. He listened to me, rather than the other way around. To my surprise, I was comfortable around him--because he had a special ability for making folks like me feel that way.

Joe Sobran:

I once spent a long evening with one of Bill's old friends from Yale, whose name I won't mention. He told me movingly how Bill stayed with him to comfort him when his little girl died of brain cancer. If Bill was your friend, he'd share your suffering when others just couldn't bear to. What a great heart -- eager to spread joy, and ready to share grief!

Dean Abbott remembers meeting him at a book signing:

I was proud to introduce my new bride to him. That introduction brought out the real Buckley, I think. When he learned we hadn't been married long, he asked my wife about setting up house.

Here was a man who had shaped American culture, guided the modern conservative movement from its nascence, and conversed with presidents. Instead of talking about his accomplishments, he spent those few minutes asking my wife how she was decorating our home, what kind of pictures she liked to have on the walls, whether she preferred window blinds and drapes. We had come to meet him, to hear from him; and when we did, he only wanted to talk about us.

Myron Magnet sums him up:

In illness, he became, if possible, even more gallant. At a party he gave a while ago to celebrate the publication of his brother Jim's memoirs, he spoke with his usual wit, warmth, and eloquence--but seated on the stairs. He apologized for his ridiculous position, as he called it, explaining that he didn't feel well enough to stand and would now go back to bed. Not so long afterward, he replied to the condolence note I had sent when his vivid and unforgettable wife Pat died. Its whole point was to make me feel good, an act of gracious generosity that, under the circumstances, took my breath away....

Many will write, in due course, about Bill's towering importance in our nation's political and intellectual life. But beyond that, his whole being provided an answer to that ultimate question, How then should we live? From first hearing him speak at my high school when he was a young man, through watching him in sparkling, imperious, and rather intimidating action as his guest on Firing Line, I saw his character become ever more clearly the unmistakable, irreplaceable Buckley: witty, cultivated, playful, urbane, gracious, brave, zestful, life-affirming, tireless, and gallant--the incarnation of grace. He taught many not only how to think but also how to be.

The New York Times reports today on a trend: Federal courts are upholding locally-enacted immigration enforcement measures, such as Oklahoma's HB 1804, which went into effect on November 1, 2007, and a similar Arizona law that went into effect on January 1, 2008. Last year, several similar measures were struck down by the Federal courts.

After groups challenging state and local laws cracking down on illegal immigration won a series of high-profile legal victories last year, the tide has shifted as federal judges recently handed down several equally significant decisions upholding those laws.

On Thursday, a federal judge in Arizona ruled against a lawsuit by construction contractors and immigrant organizations who sought to halt a state law that went into effect on Jan. 1 imposing severe penalties on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. The judge, Neil V. Wake of Federal District Court, methodically rejected all of the contractors' arguments that the Arizona law invaded legal territory belonging exclusively to the federal government.

On Jan. 31, a federal judge in Missouri, E. Richard Webber, issued a similarly broad and even more forcefully worded decision in favor of an ordinance aimed at employers of illegal immigrants adopted by Valley Park, Mo., a city on the outskirts of St. Louis.

And, in an even more sweeping ruling in December, a judge in Oklahoma, James H. Payne, threw out a lawsuit against a state statute enacted last year requiring state contractors to verify new employees' immigration status. Judge Payne said the immigrants should not be able to bring their claims to court because they were living in the country in violation of the law....

Judge Payne of Oklahoma, ruling Dec. 12 on state laws that took effect in November, went furthest in questioning the rights of illegal immigrants.

"These illegal alien plaintiffs seek nothing more than to use this court as a vehicle for their continued unlawful presence in this country," he wrote. "To allow these plaintiffs to do so would make this court an 'abettor of iniquity,' and this court finds that simply unpalatable."

The Times story mentions ordinances in Hazelton, Pa., and Escondido, Ca., which were overturned in Federal court. Surprisingly, the Times notes the change in the trend from overruling to upholding without identifying the cause: Authors of the later legislation, like Oklahoma State Rep. Randy Terrill, studied the earlier court decisions and ensured that the new laws would avoid the same legal pitfalls.

(Via Michelle Malkin.)

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Politics category from February 2008.

Politics: December 2007 is the previous archive.

Politics: March 2008 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
[What is this?]