Monday, July 12, 2004

"Got his head knocked off by a golf ball. Tragic! Tragic!"

As Sherlock Holmes might say, I am wondering....just wondering!

I've complained about Buckley before, but his retirement is making me wonder what, when you come down to it, is the big deal about him. Oh, sure, he may have gotten the conservative movement started way back when, done a lot, had an influence, etc. But "What have you done for me lately?" as the fella says. His columns, for example: The vast majority posit no solid point of view at all, merely present facts. (Notable exceptions involve religion. More below.) A rather annoying point about them is that he loooooves to number his points and paragraphs. It makes them look like unfinished outlines, not essays. And the big words and convoluted grammar just distract from the point he is (or isn't) trying to make.

But the recent pieces written about him reveal a few much more troubling points. Take this, for example- but the same things have appeared elsewhere as well.

First, it's quite clear that the Left likes Buckley because he allows them to posit that there is one- just one- intellectual on the Right; ergo, all other Rightists are boors. Buckley is rich, upper class, educated- all the things they like. The point is often made explicitly. And Buckley seems to encourage it, and National Review links to such pieces.

A few months back, Rush Limbaugh (disparaged by name as the "other type of conservative" in some of the pieces just mentioned) was given a similar treatment in Time Magazine. They asked him similar things- where he disagreed with Bush, ideas on the war, etc. He refused to answer, stating that he knew that if he did, that would be the headline. Buckley seems oblivious to this. Since his announcement, he's allowed all interviewers to lead him into condemning Bush. And they've highlighted it.

At least, I hope he's oblivious. He has seemed to be going out of his way to stress this, even praising the American Conservative magazine, a "paleo-con" publication. So he's either turning his back on his followers or dumber than a bag of hammers. And I don't particularly hope for the latter.

But he walks into other things too. "Do you have gay friends," they ask, and he answers, as if it were a normal question. He doesn't attack the foundation of their points. And he feels that job number one for Bush and the G.O.P. should be gay marriage. There's the Catholic, stressing religion above all. (He was educated in an English Catholic school. I wonder if there's a persecution complex imparted there- Cromwell and Henry VIII and all that.)

Anyway. Let's see how the magazine changes, if at all, without him. The drugs thing, for example, always seemed to me to be a personal crusade of his. Oddly, the articles on him now have the flavor of obituaries. Me, I hope he lives many more happy years. However, he should either (borrowing his style):

1) Get a solid conservative education, for example by reading some current stuff that's out there;

2) Learn from Rush when and how to talk to the press; or,

3) Keep his mouth shut.

On a more local level: I heard State Senator Malcolm Smith speak at a little get together in my neighborhood yesterday (his district only touches us slightly, but you get support where you can). And you know what? Sure, he's a Democrat, and all that- but a more solid point of view I've never heard. I think things are different in the black neighborhoods of southeast Queens (he's a Floyd Flake man). And a nice guy, too.

Later, people!


Sussman said...

1. Yes, Mr Buckley’s columns have been bad for a number of years, for the reasons you mention. But, when I think about all the things he did that improved American politics, I am very, very grateful. Lately? He wrote an enjoyable novel called Spytime.

2. Marriage is important to Mr Buckley, not because he’s a Catholic, but because he’s a Conservative (like President Bush . . .).

3. What’s wrong with being rich, upper class, or educated?

Nachum said...

1) Granted. But a novel?

2) That's OK. But more important than Iraq?

3) Nothing, unless you're supposedly the party of the lower class.

Sussman said...

1) I enjoyed it. That says something.

2) The Iraq War is the biggest issue in this election. But if Mr Buckley says that defending the institution of marriage is *that* important, I am willing, at least, to think it over. Mr Buckley is like the Pope. He is not infalliable, but he is always interesting.