Friday, February 29, 2008

WFB: A rememberance

That video is impossible to concieve of in today's political environment, even though it took place 30 years ago. Imagine Hugh Hewitt debating Mitt Romney over the Iraq War and you begin to get an idea of what was taking place. Not only was Buckley gracious, erudite and intellectually honest to a fault, he was debating his greatest political bedfellow. Ronald Reagan. In a world where commentators are often reduced to being cheerleaders for their side, Buckley's willingness to debate a man whom he believed should be President stands out. Not only did Buckley debate him, but he honestly engaged Reagan. Watch that closing argument again. Buckley wasn't pulling any punches.

William F. Buckley had two qualities that I value and that most commentators lack: intellectual honesty and a willingness to be friends with his intellectual adversaries. His friendship was not a mere affectation. Nor was his intellectual honesty. When he wrote that the war was a failure, it wasn't a desperate attempt to get his name in newspapers. Or a bid to get invited to the best parties, since he hosted them.

I love reading Buckley if for no other reason than to expand my vocabulary. And along with George Will, he shows that one can be a conservative (or a Whig in Will's case), while remaining friendly with those who oppose your policies. That kind of true friendship -- Reagan and Tip O'Neill sharing drinks after savaging each other on camera comes to mind -- is sorely needed in Washington.

I propose a toast to William F. Buckley -- it's the same toast Reagan once gave to Tip.

If I had a ticket to heaven and you didn't have one, too, I'd give my ticket away and go to hell with you."