William F. Buckley

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"Idealism is fine, but as it approaches reality, the costs become prohibitive."
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And a dirty dozen more
“The central question that emerges—and it is not a parliamentary question or a question that is answered by merely consulting a catalog of the rights of American citizens, born Equal—is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes—the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.”

William F. Buckley Jr. (November 24, 1925 – February 27, 2008) was an American political commentator from the mid-twentieth century. A prominent conservative in a time when that seemed almost oxymoronic, Buckley is sometimes seen as an ancestor of the modern American right-wing, although in many ways he differs radically from the modern right. Most especially, his was an intellectual conservatism; he matriculated at Yale and became well known for his erudition and powerful argumentative skills.

Buckley's prominent works included God and Man at Yale, a critique of secularism in academia; Firing Line, a political debate TV show in which he displayed both the aforementioned erudition and a willingness to actually listen to his opponents; and most importantly, the conservative paper National Review. (You can see how well the National Review has turned out without him.)

Buckley ran for Mayor of New York City in 1965 as the candidate of the Conservative Party, against liberal Republican John Lindsay (who won) and Democrat Abe Beame. Buckley came a distant third, scoring 13.4% of the vote. Buckley's brother, James Buckley, fared better in politics, serving as New York Senator from 1971-1977.



If we have reached the point where rank-and-file conservatives see nothing amiss with giving Hannity an award named for Buckley, then surely there’s a Milton Friedman Prize awaiting Steve Bannon for his insights on free trade.
—Bret Stephens[2]


  • Buckley’s career began in 1951 with the publication of God and Man at YaleWikipedia's W.svg, an attack on his alma mater that urged the firing of professors whom he felt were insufficiently hostile to socialism and atheism. Despite this early assault on academic freedom, Buckley in later years routinely took offense at what he saw as liberal “political correctness[8]
  • During the Cold War, Buckley advocated preemptive strikes against disfavored nations. In 1965, four years after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, he continued to call for an invasion of Cuba. The same year, he called for a nuclear attack on China’s nuclear production facilities. In a syndicated column, he urged a nuclear attack on North Vietnam.[9] Paradoxically, he was an outspoken critic of Dubya and neoconservatism in general after the Iraq War.[10]
  • Wanted to outlaw tobacco use in America, though oddly he himself was a smoker.[11]
  • Suggested that prostitutes and addicts with AIDS be tattooed so as to warn others.[12]
  • He championed the release of convicted murderer Edgar H. Smith, establishing a defense fund with top-notch lawyers. After Smith's eventual release, Smith was convicted of the brutal assault and stabbing of another woman, and he finally confessed to the first murder.[13]
  • Republican drug policy is a legacy of the 60s, when marijuana was associated with hippies and the unrest that came with them. When Richard Nixon ran for President saying he spoke for the "Silent Majority" and Ronald Reagan ran for governor saying he would "clean up the mess in Berkeley", both of those platforms involved hard-line stances against drug users. William Buckley Jr. (himself a pill-popper who admitted to smoking pot on his yacht in international waters[note 1]) was the ideological driving force behind those policies. He believed that with the new research on addiction being an illness meant that drug users were carriers and would introduce drugs to others. By incarcerating them, the idea was that drug use would be contained within a generation.[14] By '88 he admitted that he was wrong and that the policy was a failure and harmful.[15] Too bad, by then interests were vested in the continuation.
  • Helped inadvertently radicalize the Republican Party, probably more than anyone else.[16] Along with throwing out the loonies, he then started to purify the GOP of those who he thought weren't true conservatives. This meant the fairly respectable Rockefeller/Eisenhower/Lincoln Republicans who had formerly dominated the party. He mainly did this by throwing his support behind Barry Goldwater and on at least one occasion he went so far as to endorse a certain Democrat for senator just so a liberal Republican would lose.[17][18] He admitted his Mayoral campaign was mainly designed to sabotage John Lindsay, whom he considered too liberal a Republican.[19]
  • Brought laissez-faire to the New Right, which was at odds with the more traditional stance of not touching regulation one way or the other so long as it wasn't needlessly damaging to the economy. This would encourage the GOP to deregulate nearly everything they could get their hands on, and this is what we got.
  • Spoke very favorably of fascist dictators such as Francisco Franco[20] and Augusto Pinochet[21] because they opposed communism and despite the fact that the left-wing governments their coup d'etats toppled were democratically elected. He even praised Franco after Franco's death.
  • Supported Joseph McCarthy and McCarthyism, which he never seemed to regret.[22] Freedom if it's only your freedom, right?
  • Prior to renouncing his racist views in the mid 60's, he used the National Review to support segregation. He even wrote an article in support of white supremacy, and he never really apologized for the article.[23]
  • Set the "groundwork" that would get Saint Ronnie elected president.
  • In a debate with Carl Sagan he argued strongly in support of stockpiling nuclear weapons as a means to keep the USSR in check, even though both sides already had enough nukes to destroy each other multiple times over.[note 2]
  • Brought Dinesh D'Souza to prominence (and I think he might want to undo if he had the chance).



  1. According to Christopher B., he was a pretty ardent user. In his book "Losing Mum and Pup," the younger Buckley writes that his father developed a habit of downing sleeping pills, booze and Ritalin in an attempt to moderate his alertness and his sleep. "Pup’s self-medicating was, I’d venture, a chemical extension of the control he asserted over every other aspect of his life," Christopher wrote.
  2. It should be pointed out that not all nuclear weapons will find their targets; some will be shot down, malfunction, or otherwise miss their marks. Furthermore, some high-value assets, such as the Three Gorges Dam, are built to withstand nuclear attacks.


  1. National Review editorial, 1957
  2. Stephens, Bret, "Sean Hannity Is No William F. Buckley", NYT 6 July 2017.
  3. Roger Chapman. Culture Wars: an encyclopedia of issues, viewpoints, and voices (2009)
  4. Jennifer Burns, Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right (2010)
  5. Freeman, Neal B., "Bill Buckley’s Lesson for Today’s Conservatives", WSJ (Updated Feb. 27, 2016 8:11 a.m. ET).
  6. Though wingnuts have hated him ever since he endorsed Obama in 2008. [1]
  7. http://www.thenation.com/article/donald-trump-is-ridiculously-wrong-about-william-f-buckley/
  8. Kohler, Robert, ": Liberal Arts Education Is Focus of the 'Firing Line'", L.A. Times 6.10.93.
  9. Vidal, "A Distasteful Encounter with William F. Buckley Jr.", Esquire, Sept. 1969.
  10. Oh boy, did Buckley have quite the weakness for No true Scotsman
  11. http://www.nysun.com/opinion/my-smoking-confessional/67349/
  12. "Crucial Steps in Combating the Aids Epidemic; Identify All the Carriers"
  13. Edgar H. Smith, death row inmate whose release was championed by William F. Buckley Jr., dies at 83 by Paul W. Valentine (September 23 at 9:00 PM) The Washington Post.
  14. Randall, William F Buckley: Rest In Praise", FAIR 6.1.08.
  15. "The War on Drugs is Lost"
  16. Tracinski, Rovert, "The End of Republican 'Fusionism'?", Real Clear Politics 5.1.08.
  17. Judis. William F. Buckley, Jr.: Patron Saint of the Conservatives
  18. http://www.nationalreview.com/content/did-he-kiss-joe
  19. http://www.city-journal.org/html/william-f-buckley%E2%80%99s-unmaking-mayor-10367.html
  20. National Review, 10/26/1957
  21. National Review, 11/23/1998
  22. Buckley, William F. (1954). McCarthy and His Enemies: The Record and Its Meaning. Degenery Publishing, p. 132. ISBN 0-89526-472-2.
  23. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/11/magazine/11QUESTIONS.html?ei=5070&en=a78be4479c624bcf&ex=1204952400