Thursday, February 28, 2008

William F. Buckley, R.I.P.

William F. Buckley, Jr., the founder of The National Review, died yesterday. I never understood why he dissented from Humanae Vitae. God rest his soul. Joe Sobran has some charitable thoughts, written a couple of years ago. (Via Laudem Gloriae)

According to The Washington Post:
He was the Connecticut millionaire's son trained to despise affectation and love modesty -- and yet . . . he had the gifts of a great comedian, gifts that are irresistible to anyone in this land that so honors the perpetual undergraduate. And such a vortex of contradictions: the Roman Catholic prep-school Skull and Bones Yalie heir to an Irish family's Mexican oil fortune. (He spoke Spanish before he spoke English.) Foe of anti-Semites, advocate of tattooing AIDS carriers on the buttocks, champion of McCarthyist Communist-hunting, and of the legalization of marijuana. His outrageousness immunized him against effective condemnation.

In 1986, he wrote in the New York Times Book Review: "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." A monster, or, as the French say, a monstre sacré, one whose grandeur puts him beyond criticism.

One imagines him in his rooms at Yale, winking at onlookers while he enwrapped some hapless one-world liberal in the python grip of prose worthy of an 18th-century political philosopher such as Edmund Burke, an Englishman who supported the American Revolution and also deeply grieved the execution of Marie Antoinette. (At the age of 8, Buckley wrote a letter to the king of England demanding payment of a war debt to America.)