Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley, Conservative Extraordinaire, Dies at 82

NEW YORK - 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.

"For people of my generation, Bill Buckley was pretty much the first intelligent, witty, well-educated conservative one saw on television," fellow conservative William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, said at the time the show ended. "He legitimized conservatism as an intellectual movement and therefore as a political movement."

Fifty years earlier, few could have imagined such a triumph. Conservatives had been marginalized by a generation of discredited stands — from opposing Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal to the isolationism which preceded the U.S. entry into World War II. Liberals so dominated intellectual thought that the critic Lionel Trilling claimed there were "no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation."

Buckley founded the biweekly magazine National Review in 1955, declaring that he proposed 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 urge it." Not only did he help revive conservative ideology, especially unbending anti-Communism and free market economics, his persona was a dynamic break from such dour right-wing predecessors as Sen. Robert Taft.

Although it perpetually lost money, the National Review built its circulation from 16,000 in 1957 to 125,000 in 1964, the year conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater was the Republican presidential candidate. The magazine claimed a circulation of 155,000 when Buckley relinquished control in 2004, citing concerns about his mortality, and over the years the National Review attracted numerous young writers, some who remained conservative (George Will, David Brooks), and some who didn't (Joan Didion, Garry Wills).

"I was very fond of him," Didion said Wednesday. "Everyone was, even if they didn't agree with him."

Born Nov. 24, 1925, in New York City, William Frank Buckley Jr. was the sixth of 10 children of a a multimillionaire with oil holdings in seven countries. The son spent his early childhood in France and England, in exclusive Roman Catholic schools.

His prominent family also included his brother James, who became a one-term senator from New York in the 1970s; his socialite wife, Pat, who died in April 2007; and their son, Christopher, a noted author and satirist ("Thank You for Smoking").


Despite the fact that he had “fought a good fight,” and that he has earned his rest, this is a tremendous loss for the Conservative movement in general.

My favorite memory of Buckley was the way he used to drive Phil Donahue absolutely INSANE in old “Donahue” show days. Phil would be flapping his arms like wings and squawking like a chicken by the time Buckley got through with him. It was glorious.

My favorite works by Buckley were his many excellent newspaper columns over the years, and his tremendous “Blackford Oakes” novels. Wow.

His intellectual brilliance and ability to defeat liberals with little more than that mischievous stare and profound one liners will inspire for many years to come, and will be missed for just as long.

Blessings, Mr. Buckley. Thank you.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Wrong Turn at Jericho, Kansas?

Early in 2007, a new series debutted on CBS entitled Jericho. It was awesome. It addressed in dramatic and very human terms what would happen to the inhabitants of a small, relatively isolated town in the heartland of American in the event of a nuclear war?

The actors were excellent. The plots were intricate and laden with dramatic twists. The characters were unique, their backstories invaluable to the foundation and progress of the storyline. Jericho had such promise! When CBS cancelled the series, I went NUTS! Literally. And so did millions of others.

Late last spring, tons of "nuts" arrived at CBS network HQ, a resistance campaign referenced in the final episode of the first season when "Jake" (Skeet Ulrich) is asked to surrender to the New Bern forces, and he responds "nuts!" When CBS announced that they would renew Jericho for a short second season of 7 episodes, I was elated.

I'm still watching. The first two episodes of the new season have moved quickly, introduced new characters and turned the plot in a new direction. I miss Mayor Green (Gerald McRaney) who was killed in the last episode. I also miss Mrs. Green ( Pamela Reed), who played a pivotal role in holding the town and her family together in the wake of the attack. I understand CBS did not renew her contract for the show, apparently because the cast was "too old," which I find very disappointing, and a bit infuriating. Also missing are the teenaged store owner Dale and his "girlfriend," at least thus far. All of these losses have cut a tremendous amount of potential for both developing the characters and the greater story of Jericho. I suppose with just 7 episodes this season, it's difficult to squeeze in all these story lines -- which is why they should have ordered another 22 episodes, but I digress.

Even with those characters and story lines gone, at least for now, the action and pace of the series is still excellent. But with the arrival of the new characters, a new government and nation, and a decidely inward turn to the plot direction, I am concerned about Jericho.

Unfortunately, the plot twist was perdictable. It's very "Hollywood" in the years since 9/11 and the tendency of the cultural Left to "blame America first." Last season, the United States was attacked by nearly two dozen nuclear weapons -- 23 major cities were destroyed, including most of the government in Washington, DC. What was left of the government and military separated into factions, and one faction launched a nuclear response against those whom they said were to blame. In the storyline, it was Iran and North Korea. So far, so good -- because THAT is a realistic possibility. Unless you are from Hollywood or Washington, DC.

Even during the first season viewers knew we weren't getting the whole story. We knew elements of the Government were involved in the plot. This year, however, it appears they aren't involved. Apparently, these elements of the government are COMPLETELY to blame for the nuclear attacks. Which means that the retaliatory strikes against Iran and North Korea, which destroyed those nations, were meant only to cover up "the biggest lie in history," as Jake said last Tuesday. And these evil Americans, in order to wrest control of the nation from the apparently patriotic government in Washington DC (I'm getting nauseous), sets off the nukes, then detsroys those poor, innocent Communists in North Korea and Islamofascists in Iran.

Not missing a beat, of course, this new "Government" of the "Allied States of America," has already printed up nice new textbooks for the school children of Jericho which present a clearly biased RIGHT WING view of history. This new Government is unelected, has called a new Constitutional Convention, and has shut down freedom of the Press among other civil rights.

No, I've not stopped watching yet. I'm hoping against hope that the evil elements within this new government on Jericho will be revealed to have worked with outside sources. I'm hoping that most of those who formed the "Allied States of America" will be portrayed not as dupes or fools, or else as the evil ideologues that haunt the mind of Leftists all over our land. I hope they'll get credit for trying to bring something good out of such horror -- even though some of the leeches that have attached themselves to the ASA are evil and have to be removed.

But then, I think about other series coming out of Hollywood today -- take 24 for instance -- where it's never the "bad guys" who are the ultimate bad guys, it's ALWAYS Americans. It's always government bigshots, or corporate bigshots, or military bigshots (all Conservatives, or Bible-thumpers, or greedy Capitalists) who want to overturn the noble public servants serving us in Washington, DC, or at least in the news media (the stench is almost beyond comprehension now). No, I haven't stopped watching -- but coming from Hollywood, what are the chances that any of the plot developments or character traits I've desired will come to pass? From Hollywood? I'm not sure why they didn't just go ahead and name the new President of the Allied States "Bush" or "Cheney," and dress him in SS black with a swastika emblazoned on each shoulder.

And to top it off, the "enforcers" of this new government to this point on Jericho are none other than a REAL bunch of heroes fighting now on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan -- the 10th Mountain Division! Again, I hold out great hope that these brave men will be portrayed as HEROES rather than as patsies for an evil regime. To have them protect what has so far been portrayed as an "evil government" is a very real disservice to the men and women of the 10th who've fought and died on foreign fields of battle for our nation in the current REAL war.

I still plan on watching Jericho Tuesdays at 10pm. I understand they lost almost 30% of their audience from week one to week two. I'm sorry to hear that. If, however, many of the people who tuned in observed what I did, I'm not surprised if they turned Jericho off. Just another great program that Hollywood wants to destroy, to use to superimpose their message.

I'll be watching. I'll be hoping that Jericho can right itself. But I have little confidence in CBS executives and Hollywood writers. And if things in Jericho do go the way I expect, I'll know I shouldn't have taken that last left turn in Jericho, Kansas. That will make it easier to see Jericho fade away at the end of this season.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Conservatives Get McCained - Shall We Submit?

I held my nose and voted for George Herbert Walker Bush in 1992. That was after his "Read my lips..." debacle. We got the Clintons.

I held my nose and voted for Bob Dole in 1996. He was a war hero. He was a "big government" Republican Senator who just happened to be "the next in line." We got the Clintons -- again.

I held my nose and voted for George Walker Bush in 2000. It was an act of God that he happened to be the President at the time of 9/11. He was THE leader we needed in the initial years following 9/11. Though I enthusiatically supported and voted for him in 2004, in some ways it is a vote I now regret. But He is not a Conservative either. He was fiscally irresponsible. He has failed to assert himself on a host of issues that could have made a great difference. He has presided over the surrender of Congress back to the Democrats -- though ALL elected Republicans in Washington bear the blame for that mess.

I have often said I won't be "bushed" or "Doled" again. No, now I am faced with being "McCained." After years of insults from this man, I am told I have no choice but to forget all his insults, all his betrayals of principles I hold dear, all the angry expletive laced tirades he's hurled at those who defied his views... I am told to "compromise."

I am a Conservative. I have compromised ENOUGH. I have compromised ever since Reagan left office in 1988, if not before. What shall I compromise next? What have I NOT compromised already? When do liberals and "moderates" get around to compromising? Why is it that "bi-partisanship" means Conservatives have to agree with Liberals, but Liberals have to change NOTHING?

I am a Conservative. I believe in LIFE, LIBERTY and the PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. I believe in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I DO NOT believe either Republicans or Democrats share those values today. But I will NO LONGER compromise them.

I am a Conservative. I will not hold my nose and vote away my principles again. I have done it for 20 years. I have gained nothing, and more importantly, neither has our nation. If I surrender my principles again, our nation may never wake up, may never return to it's foundational principles.

I am a Conservative, I am an American. I have had enough of the political games. I am standing on principle. Come what may.