Thursday, February 28, 2008

William F. Buckley Jr., RIP

It might be said that a great man is indeed great if the lives of those around him would be different had he not lived. By this definition, William F. Buckley Jr. was a great man. Much has been said and written and no doubt much more will come—fitting tributes by his many admirers and friends, perhaps derision and scorn from his numerous philosophical opponents. But it might also be said that only truly great men have so many loyal friends and ardent enemies.

Godfather of "C"
Would we have had a Barry Goldwater, a Ronald Reagan, or the thriving and intelligent set of noble right-leaning minds of today had we not had a Buckley? Perhaps another intellectual godfather of the “Big C” Conservative movement would have stepped into the fore—and perhaps not.

But for today, we hopefully lay politics, economics, and religion aside and remember the man himself. Astute and intelligent, urbane and erudite, brilliant in debate and discourse, and possessing of a complex and extensive vocabulary for which he is well known. In fact, his command of the English language and lexicon were sufficient to send the most learned grammarian scurrying for an unabridged dictionary—one that Mr. Buckley himself might have edited.

That Accent
He also possessed a unique accent—often humorously imitated—that many thought affected. Rather, it was due to spending his formative years in Mexico City (his father was stationed there) and learning native Spanish—a language he adored his entire life—then French as a second language before attending school in England where he learned British English as his third. Cap this off with the distinct lingual influence of University at Ivy-league Yale and life in Connecticut…there you have it. But though certainly not affected, that unique accent proved effective in probative interviews and scintillating debates on his long-running “Firing Line” television show and upon the world stage.

An Interesting Life
He authored literally dozens of influential books—fiction, non-fiction, and instructional—and thousands of articles. We remember his ardent defense of Catholicism, his National Review magazine, the thousands of television appearances, his ever-present humor and willingness to laugh, the political candidacy and activism, military service and brief employment with the CIA, accomplished musicianship (harpsichord and piano)…this is an interesting life not done justice here.

Many of us were secretly concerned for Bill Buckley after the death of his loving wife and life-long partner Patricia last year. Their love and affection for each other was clearly profound and respectful. Buckley’s health had suffered over these last years and devoted souls are made more fragile when the object of devotion is lost. They are joined now in the heaven of their life-long Roman Catholic faith—and Saint Peter himself best mind his questioning at the gates.

William F. Buckley Jr., died on February 27, 2008, at age 82. He is survived by his prominent son Christopher, his extended family, and a very long list of colleagues and admirers. RIP.

Be well,

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Rush is Wrong on McCain, and Obama is Not Carter
The bitter-sweet and conflicted case for a John McCain Presidency

Much has been made regarding John McCain’s now seemingly inevitable ascendency to the Republican nomination. Rush Limbaugh—famously or infamously—has been calling for a Republican snub of the apparent nominee on Election Day. Other radio hosts and notable, right-leaning pundits have joined the call.

Their frustration is plainly seen and understood. John McCain has—by many accounts—flirted with the idea of switching parties. Thinking back a few years it is not hard to imagine that he would have jumped had the Democrat offer been a bit sweeter. Mr. McCain now firmly calls himself a conservative, evidently forgetting that we can review his sponsored legislation and spotty voting record on the Web at our leisure. Most recently the “Snowy-haired Senior Senator from Arizona” tried to jam a truly horrible illegal immigration bill through the system—all the while hurling “racist” labels at all who dared criticize it. These are not exactly shining Reagan-esque credentials. But see—this is part of the problem , which I will get to in a minute.

Rush (et al) seems to believe that we should abandon John McCain at the altar and hope for Democrat victory in November because:

  • The economy—already on shaky ground—will be further hampered by the application of Liberal Dogma.
  • General governmental affairs and the military will suffer mightily under Liberal rule and this fact will be recognized by the people.
  • John McCain is NOT a Conservative and would therefore make many of the same mistakes as would either Hillary or Barak—so let the Democrats take the blame.
  • This will all set the stage for a triumphant return of a truly Reagan-esque Conservative candidate four years hence who will then sweep in and bring the country back into prosperity…and here is the real point…just like Ronald Reagan did after Jimmy Carter’s abysmal one-term stand.
Historical Rhyme
To my mind, this argument is flawed. As Mark Twain famously said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” Jimmy Carter was certainly elected in the wake of near universal discontent with Gerald Ford’s pardoning of Richard Nixon and the fallow state of the economy at the time (“Stagflation” had dragged on for a decade). President Carter—for all of his more charitable attributes—was, in most respects, a very poor President and leader in general. He was also a bit weak and uncharismatic. Ronald Reagan was truly a man of his time—right on economics (figuratively and literally), correct on Cold War conflicts, strong in character and personality, a solid leader…well, I could go on. His election marked a turning point for the country.

This Ain’t 1976
Today, our economy—though mildly imperiled—is many times more robust than it was in the late 1970’s. If we are destined for a Recession, most economists believe that it will be mild, and I tend to agree. Even if a Liberal Democrat is elected this time around it is likely the natural economic cycle will have ample opportunity to correct itself in four years time and position the incumbent as more hero than villain. Not that a Liberal would not do the economy harm, but Liberal policies take several years to manifest their growth-repressing inclinations.

Obama Has Never Been a Peanut Farmer
Further, the “Jimmy Carter” argument might have some standing if Hillary Clinton were the Democrat nominee. But this appears less and less likely the result. Hillary is no leader—she is an intimidator and controlling…well, let’s leave it at that. A Hillary Presidency would anger and frustrate almost as many Democrats as Republicans. But look at Barak Obama. He is polished, confident, well-spoken, carries almost no baggage that might hinder another candidate, and he can lead. He would lead towards Socialism and away from freedom—thus to our ultimate detriment—but he would lead well in those directions. An incumbent Barak Obama would be a formidable opponent in 2012. If Obama can keep his head about him and stay on track, I believe that he has the potential to professionally accomplish in office what the Democrat party had hoped to receive from Bill Clinton had Clinton been able to govern himself personally and professionally. This should make Conservatives lose sleep.

Give Me An “R”
Finally, we cannot gamble on the arrival of another Ronald Regan in four years. We are very fortunate to have had one of them in our lifetimes. To have a second is to bet against the house. We will have good men to be certain—our Conservative team is chock-full of good and intelligent men. But the too-soon sainted Ronald Reagan will be judged by history as one of the top four or five Presidents of the first quarter millennia of American History. Indeed, most lists already rank him rather high. The gap between “greatnesses” looks to be 40 to 50 years at a pop. We are not yet due for another. To expect any candidate to attain “Reagan-esqe” stature is to be unfair to that man.

With Jaw Clenched and Nose Held
John McCain is not my candidate. I feel personally (politically and philosophically) betrayed by him on several fronts and if he is elected we will have to keep an eye on him at all times (our RIGHT eye) to make sure that he does not create a legacy for himself that we would have to clean up later (amnesty, etc.). To his credit, he has remained stoically “correct” on completing the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan, putting to the side all those who claim that he is “totally and completely” off the track.

To many, John McCain veritably defines the term “RINO” (Republican In Name Only) and I largely agree. But a R(h)INO trumps a Rabid Donkey when there are no Elephants in the room (or Bull-Moose, for that matter). I am not saying that we, as a philosophically-bound group, should grow accustomed to “settling.” Rather, I suggest that we should do a better job of finding and funding our candidates and that we will do better in the long run if we make “Reagan-ism” an objective instead of an entry-level qualification for our support.

Barring a shocking revelation or bizarre turn at the convention, I will cast my vote for John McCain on Election Day—but I may not feel good about it in the morning.

Be well,