Thursday, February 28, 2008

Buckley's Death, Part One

I'm not a breaking-news site, so I figured I would wait to post about William F. Buckley's death until I had some material. Later today, I'm going to post some thoughts from my dad, who was a fan. For now, Sam Tanenhaus, the editor of the New York Times Book Review, who's writing a biography of Buckley, took questions from readers yesterday. These three seem like a good abridgment:
Q: Who in your — or perhaps Buckley’s estimation should you know it — carries on his legacy of intellectual conservatism? If you had to nominate someone to ascend to the lectern of Buckley, who would it be? —Japhy Grant
A: Frankly, there is no one. He was an American original. He had no true predecessor and no plausible heir.

Q: Do you find yourself sympathetic to the ideas of Buckley now that you are writing about him? Have you been sympathetic to his ideas in the past? —Sam
A: I was and remain sympathetic with some of his ideas but skeptical about others. No one was better at pointing up the contradictions of liberal orthodoxy — the unstated assumptions, the reflexive equation of liberalism with virtue.

Q: William F. Buckley famously admitted to having smoked pot at least once on his boat outside U.S. territorial waters. Did he continue to smoke it after trying it? What if anything did he say about the subject? —Rich Turyn
A: If so, only seldom. But Buckley was much piqued by the counter-culture. He recently told me an amusing anecdote on this general subject. In the 1970s, Buckley and one of his mentors, the political thinker James Burnham, decided they would indulge in some current vices by smoking pot and then watching the sex-drenched film “I am Curious — Yellow.” The pot was procured by Bill’s chauffeur. It was a good plan — or seemed so, except they made the mistake of drinking alcohol first. This blunted the effects of the pot, and they both fell asleep during the film.


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