Memories of William F. Buckley
There’s more than one man can write about the recently departed William F. Buckley at, of course, National Review. So I’ll just relate two personal anecdotes.
The one time I met him personally was 1993 or so, when I was studying at Notre Dame and he was on campus to give a public speech and then address a private gathering of, I think, the College Republicans. The latter gave me my one opportunity to meet him face-to-face. What I remember happening was that a crowd of hundreds had crashed the small Student Center meeting room where the reception was to have taken place. It was all Buckley could do to get from one end of the Student Center to the other. By pure coincidence that he came upon the spot in front of me for about 10 or 15 seconds of stoppage during that process. Not exactly Altamont, but as close as College Republicans get. He and I didn’t exchange any words, but apparently there was a major-network camera there to record the moment for a segment on Buckley for “60 Minutes” or some similar newsmagazine show. I didn’t notice it. Weeks later, a couple of my colleagues in the department called me to tell me that they had been watching that newsmagazine show “and all of sudden, there’s Victor, standing in front of Buckley, looking at him with the worshipful eyes of a puppy-dog.” Erin and Kevin were quite explicit that I was at the center of the image and it was obviously me and I never said a word because I had such a starry-eyed look on my face. My one moment on national prime-time TV and I never saw it or even knew it was coming.
The other was watching Buckley in high school and college. Firing Line was a Sunday afternoon ritual for me and my father (the McLaughlin Group came on right after, at least on the San Antonio PBS affiliate), as were the 4-on-a-side panel debates that Buckley hosted in PBS during primetime usually two hours long (really, 2 hours in prime time). The debates were usually moderated by Michael Kinsley (another favorite of mine and my father’s, from Crossfire; he and Pat Buchanan were the best pair on that show), but always with the questions worded so that Buckley was on the affirmative side and would give the first and last speech. Organizers privilege, obviously. The first exchange to come to mind when I started writing this paragraph was one with Rep. Charles Rangel. The subject was drug legalization (Buckley furr it; Rangel aggen it) and the congressman was demanding to know what would be the legal status of drug sellers. “Who’s gonna be selling the crack, the smack. Is it gonna be anybody who wants to …” and Buckley interrupted with “that’s a detail. but I would never wish to interfere with your desire that in matters of commerce and trade, that the government should control everything.” Rapier wit and pertinent point combined — that was Buckley. But one of several episodes of Firing Line I remembered as having made an impression on me as a teenager happens to be available via YouTube. WARNING, it’s an hour-long and consists simply of two people talking in two chairs about one subject (yes, kids, they once really did show programs like that on TV). It is Buckley and Kenneth Minogue of the LSE, discussing ideology and political philosophy, and it was one of the things that made me want to be a political scientist (OK, that didn’t work out, but here they are … one hour, in order, after the jump)
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