February 29, 2008 [LINK / comment]
R.I.P. William F. Buckley
William F. Buckley was an idealistic cynic, which is much different than a cynical idealist. As a conservative, he was always skeptical of human pretenses and noble aspirations, and he constantly skewered pompous liberal pontificators with his genius-level wit. Nevertheless, unlike many conservatives, he believed in the power of ideas to change the human condition, and his entire life was devoted to waging war on behalf of conservative ideals. As is now well known, he launched the renaissance of conservative thought that launched the Barry Goldwater candidacy in 1964 (a "dry run," let's call it) and the triumphant election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.
Buckley was one of that rare breed of activist intellectuals, and he played that awkward role brilliantly. He took unpopular positions such as resisting LBJ's Great Society program (a colossal failure, as we now know) and in calling for a strong stand against Soviet expansionism around the globe. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, most people were very complacent about such matters. Buckley did have to retract a few of his past positions later in life, such as his early defense of the John Birch Society, but such occasions were rare. He stuck to his guns, and gradually the conservative movement in American regained its confidence. Those were the days...
The National Review, which he founded, has a full roundup of reactions to Buckley's death.
I was amused to find that the John Birch Society has mixed feelings about Buckley. They, of course, are a prime example of the pseudoconservative phenomenon.
I first became aware of who William F. Buckley was thanks to Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In TV variety show. (Boy, does that date me!) Lily Tomlin played the snarly-voiced telephone operator who kept mis-pronouncing names, such as "Mr. William Fbuckley, please." Since I was on the left of center during most of my young adult life, I usually grimaced whenever I watched Buckley on TV or read his columns. He was poking fun at people like me! Nevertheless, he did so with grace and charm, unlike some other right-wing pundits of the 1980s such as the egregiously offensive R. Emmett Tyrell. Buckley, in contrast, was deeply admired by many people on both sides of the political spectrum, a respect he earned over the course of a long life well-lived.
Law enforcement officials are finally taking seriously the massive number of illegal immigrants, and thousands have been deported in the last few months. Washington Post. Who could possibly deny that is a good thing? Those who have contempt for the rule of law, that's who. I figure that about ten percent of the illegal immigrant population ought to be deported, based on serious crimes they have committed. The number of felons lacking legal status might be much greater, though, and of course no one really knows. As a practical matter, the rest ought to be given some kind of "path to legal status," if not full citizenship, which is what John McCain wants. In my mind, it should depend largely on how promptly the illegal immigrants declare their presence to the authorities. If they have done anything wrong that they don't want they government to know about, that's their problem.