Thursday, February 28, 2008

William F. Buckley, Jr.: Mors ultima linea rerum est*

(*Death is the end of the line. And how. Obituary remarks about Buckley that don't have a little fun with his love of sprinkling his conversation with Latin phrases would be, well, contra bonos mores.)

James Wolcott's appreciation of the man nicely captures the ophidian Buckley's power:

Carrying his clipboard like a discus, Buckley slouched into the studio glare of the Jack Paar show or reposed on the set of David Susskind and uncoiled his cobra act, mesmerizing the audience and his antagonists with a battery of mannerisms, his eyes widening with a gleaming twinkle just before he went for the kill.

(Buckley's signature tongue-flick is mentioned later in the post.) Watch him only slightly past the top of his game:

That other famous cobra, Rudyard Kipling's fictional Nagaina, was killed and her clutch of eggs destroyed; Buckley was more fortunate, although he might not have felt that way near the end, as he saw how his hatchlings turned out:

Yes, the modern conservative movement founded by National Review produced Goldwater, Reagan, the Gingrich revolution, and Bush II. But socially and culturally, it was impotent to stop the locomotive rush of history. It was on the ugly wrong side of the civil rights debate, as former senior editor Jeffrey Hart observes in his personal history of National Review, and the women's movement, gay liberation, the rise of the counterculture, and environmental consciousness have washed right over its paper-mache castle. National Review-style conservatism hasn't resulted in smaller, less obtrusive government, or a retrenchment from commitments abroad; it's degenerated into militaristic swagger and the Kabuki stomp of culture wars. To quote Ackerman again, "The decline of the right, and perhaps of America more generally, is summed up in the intellectual slouch from the heights of Buckley to the depths of Hewitt and Reynolds and Limbaugh and Coulter and Kristol and O'Reilly and Hannity and Bush" [...]

William F. Buckley, Jr., 1925-2008: Anguis in herba.

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