William F. Buckley Jr. dies.
From the AP
William F. Buckley Jr. dies at 82
By HILLEL ITALIE, AP National Writer
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.
I suppose there is something sadly appropriate that this is the period in which Buckley departs our vale of tears.
His death in and of itself isn’t any more or less poignant than that of anyone else at the end of a full, prosperous and well-lived life, but coming as is does now -- as Neocons, Theocrats, Feudalists, Bigots and Professional Wingnut Media Haters fight over the tiny gobbets of rotting meat left on the bones of Conservatism -- it does possess some of the same elements of a classical tragedy that exist in, say, a “King Lear”.
A tragedy which began (as such tragedies do) in early struggle and triumph as Buckley took up a fringe and reviled ideology called Conservatism and transformed it into a powerful national movement.
A tragedy which reached its long apotheosis as Buckley faded away as a source of influence within the movement he created, while still lingering lucidly and long enough to see the cause to which he devoted much of his life invaded, conquered, sacked and betrayed by the scum of the nation.
Lived long enough to see his movement debased into a horde of blood-drunk moral imbeciles whose idea of discourse is standing in traffic and screaming “Traitor!” at random, passing cars, and whose idea of responsible governance is voting for delusion and disaster and then whining when the bill comes due.
And while expending the energy and effort necessary to crush that mob is essential, it is also so far beneath us. So far removed from how a great nation should be expending its time and attention.
I’ll miss knowing Buckley is in the world if for no other reason than I am a strong believer that only the best opponents can bring out the best in us.
And that “opponent” need not be a synonym for “enemy”.
In the end the ideological children Buckley begat turned out to be monsters. Gargoyles who have now fully taken over his cathedral, shit in the holy water and used its cross to build a bonfire onto which they have hurled just about everything he held dear.
He was a man who outlived his revolution and watched powerlessly as it degenerated from this
And there is no better word I know of to describe being forced to witness the arc of your own movement's glorious rise and massive, ignominious collapse than “tragedy”.