Conservative author, essayist, columnist, pundit, smug asshole, gadabout, secret spook, and blue-blooded creep William F. Buckley is dead. Buckley, 82, suffered from diabetes and emphysema, though his cause of death is not yet known. And with him died respectable, intelligent, genteel-but-cut-throat New York Conservatism.
Buckley was born in New York City, to a wealthy Irish Catholic and a Southerner. The family moved to Connecticut, he was schooled in Paris and London, and he attended Yale—the perfect resume for a man who'd become a caricature of condescending East Coast snobbishness before that was turned into a Liberal trait. It was a caricature Buckley happily lived up to, dropping ten-dollar words into his prose with obvious obnoxious glee, tempting lesser writers to imitate his parody-of-erudition style at their peril. It's a perilous task because few can match his skill with a biting quip:
Ten years ago [Gore Vidal] wrote in The Nation an essay denouncing pro-Israeli activity in the United States as divided loyalty. The article and its implications were denounced by Norman Podhoretz, editor of Commentary, as "the most blatantly anti-Semitic outburst to have appeared in a respectable American periodical since World War II." Mr. Vidal retorted by questioning the patriotism of Mr. Podhoretz and his wife, the author Midge Decter, and reacted to another critic of his article, a rabbi, with the sigh, "Luckily, I am used to being lied about." I commented at the time that anyone who lies about Mr. Vidal is doing him a kindness.
Buckley zinged liberal-leaning author/essayist/blue-blooded creep Gore Vidal many times in his lengthy career, though not always with such class. In what is still arguably the greatest live TV moment ever, Buckley and Vidal got into a heated exchange on ABC news in 1968 that quickly turned personal (and AWESOME):
Listen to that dueling received pronunciation! In case you missed the meat of the debate in the crosstalk, Vidal called Buckley a "cypto-Nazi" (which Vidal later, accurately, corrected to "crypto-fascist"), and Buckley responded with, "listen you queer ['quee-ah'], stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I'll pop you in the goddamn face and you'll stay plastered."
Buckley and Vidal later repeatedly sued and counter-sued each other for libel and such, which was the style at the time.
Buckley founded The National Review in 1955, when the New Deal and World War II had basically made "true" conservativism temporarily obsolete in American letters and thought. He championed the candidacy of MAVERICK ARIZONA SENATOR Barry Goldwater, a dangerous nut who lost in a landslide, but whose followers and ideas would eventually come to dominate the nation's political scene.
The National Review still exists, Goldwater Republicans are still enjoying the fruits of their eventual success, and the conservative movement as a whole has seized upon the culture wars with such fervor that a high-falutin' fancy-talkin' New York college boy like Buckley would never, ever achieve such prominence in the movement he nurtured, should he come around today. Because he'd obviously be a big stupid quee-ah.
So fuck him for foisting upon us this anti-intellectual bullshit mess of a nation we've become, but we're glad that his followers helped destroy the intellectual heart of his ideology.
Buckley is survived by his hip satirical novelist son Christopher, his pale imitation of its former self magazine, and George Will's wardrobe and middle initial.