Quote-a-palooza: RIP, William F. Buckley Edition

“I will not cede more power to the state. I will not willingly cede more power to anyone, not to the state, not to General Motors, not to the CIO. I will hoard my power like a miser, resisting every effort to drain it away from me. I will then use my power, as I see fit. I mean to live my life an obedient man, but obedient to God, subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth. That is a program of sorts, is it not? It is certainly program enough to keep conservatives busy, and Liberals at bay. And the nation free.” – William F. Buckley Jr.

“I will not cede more power to the state. I will not willingly cede more power to anyone, not to the state, not to General Motors, not to the CIO. I will hoard my power like a miser, resisting every effort to drain it away from me. I will then use my power, as I see fit. I mean to live my life an obedient man, but obedient to God, subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth. That is a program of sorts, is it not? It is certainly program enough to keep conservatives busy, and Liberals at bay. And the nation free.” – William F. Buckley Jr.

“You didn’t just part the Red Sea- you rolled it back, dried it up and left exposed, for all the world to see, the naked desert that is statism. And then, as if that weren’t enough, you gave the world something different, something in its weariness it desperately needed, the sound of laughter and the sight of the rich, green uplands of freedom.” – President Ronald Reagan to William F. Buckley Jr., on the occasion of National Review’s 30th anniversary in 1985

“I want to say just a word or two about… Bill Buckley. And unlike Bill, I’ll try to keep my words to single syllables, or at the worst, only two. You know, I’ve often thought when I’ve been faced with memorandums from deep in the bowels of the bureaucracy what I wouldn’t give to have Bill as an interpreter…I think you know that National Review is my favorite magazine… NR isn’t a favorite only because it’s fought the good fight so long and so well, although that would be reason enough. It’s my favorite because it’s splendidly written, brilliantly edited, and a pleasure to read. In fact, I honestly believe even if I were to suffer from mental illness or convert to liberalism for some other reason- NR would still be my favorite magazine because of its wit and its charm and intellectual quality of its contents… Let me just close by saying a heartfelt thank you to National Review for all you’ve done for the values we share.” – Ronald Reagan

“Today’s America has quite a different political climate from the one into which William Frank Buckley was born November 24, 1925, mainly because he made the difference. It was an America in which the conservative philosophy could scarcely be called a philosophy; it was more like a relic under glass, its skeletal remains rolled out now and then for an occasional autopsy by Walter Lippmann or a funeral mass under the direction of George Santayana. Any distinction between conservative thought and right-wing nuttism, the holy and profane, had long ago blurred into inconsequentiality… It’s not that Bill Buckley was present at the creation of the conservative revival; he pretty much created it, beginning at Yale… If you seek his monument today, just look around. Conservatism is now the dominant American political philosophy, and liberalism the series of irritable mental gestures. But nothing disorganizes an army or cause like victory. Conservatism’s intellectual dominance now shows in its smug self-satisfaction, its various cracks and fault lines, its slow subsidence from fighting idea to just reflex, its progression from courage to hubris. And there is no new Buckley in sight, someone who could both mobilize and re-invigorate the old true ideas, even while entertaining us all. But the sea change in American ideas that he presided over is unmistakable… Something tells me we have only begun to miss William F. Buckley Jr.” – Paul Greenberg

“As everyone knows, Bill Buckley almost single-handedly created the modern conservative movement in America. Before Buckley, conservatives were scorned as ‘the stupid party’ in John Stuart Mill’s memorable formulation. Lionel Trilling argued in the late 1940s that conservatives didn’t have ideas so much as ‘irritable mental gestures.’ What could they say of Bill Buckley, a polymath whose wit could be withering, whose prose was pellucid, and whose energy was seemingly inexhaustible? Bill’s talents were so galvanic that they energized an entire movement, first among those who joined him at National Review- James Burnham, Priscilla Buckley (Bill’s sister and the magazine’s managing editor), Frank Meyer, Wilmoore Kendall and Whittaker Chambers- and then in concentric circles to include, I think it safe to assert, every important conservative thinker today. All owe Bill a huge intellectual debt, and many benefited from his generosity personally… Now that we see his life in full, we have even more reason to marvel and to honor him for what he was: a great man- a once-in-a-century figure.” – Mona Charen

“Whenever Bill Buckley was profiled in the media, he was usually pinned firmly to words such as ‘impish’ and ‘gadfly.’ It is easy to understand why. He was a wit- and a reckless wit at that. Asked what he would first do if elected mayor of New York in 1965, he replied: ‘Demand a recount.’ Bores cling to the consoling thought that such a sharp wit must also be frivolous and ineffectual, but Bill was one of the most effectual men of our time… First… he established the National Review. By reconciling brilliant but quarrelsome and more senior talents, he shaped a new philosophy for conservatives wandering disconsolately in New Deal America. Second, he used the magazine to reconcile the quarrelsome factions of conservatism- economic libertarians, moral traditionalists, foreign policy hawks- around this philosophy. Third, he used his own celebrity and ‘Firing Line’ to give confidence to conservatives nationwide by taking on eminent liberals in debate and dispatching them with better arguments and better jokes. When conservatives saw Bill jab the air with the point of his pencil or devastate a guest with some witty epigram, they would feel, perhaps for the first time: ‘They can never win.’ And as long as Bill was alive, they never could… He was a great man and a figure of great historical significance.” – John O’Sullivan

“In 1999, Buckley was interviewed for ‘Nightline’ by Ted Koppel. ‘Mr. Buckley, we have 10 seconds left,’ Koppel said at the end. ‘Could you sum up in 10 seconds?’ Buckley replied, simply: ‘No.’ In the days ahead, no one will find it easy to sum up Bill Buckley’s extraordinary legacy. His output was so prodigious and his range so immense that he routinely made the rest of us ‘feel like hopeless underachievers,’ as I wrote in a column four years ago. Today Buckley’s astonishing, history-changing output comes to an end. His life and his life’s work will resonate for many years to come.” – Jeff Jacoby

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