Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley

So William Buckley kicked the bucket today. Was he a smart man? Indubitably. Was he a charismatic man? Verily. I even agree with many of his libertarian views. A good leftist need look no further than the National Review for a principled stance on the drug war and on the dangers of giving the government too much power to search and seize. From a speech Buckley gave to the New York State Bar association against the “war on drugs” in late 1995:

“I came to the conclusion that the so-called war against drugs was not working, that it would not work absent a change in the structure of the civil rights to which we are accustomed and to which we cling as a valuable part of our patrimony… I leave it at this, that it is outrageous to live in a society whose laws tolerate sending young people to life in prison because they grew, or distributed, a dozen ounces of marijuana. I would hope that the good offices of your vital profession would mobilize at least to protest such excesses of wartime zeal, the legal equivalent of a My Lai massacre. And perhaps proceed to recommend the legalization of the sale of most drugs, except to minors.”

I might also mention that he was outspoken in his opposition to the Iraq war. However, I do not agree with Buckley on a great deal. The idea, for example, that people with HIV should be tattooed on their forearms as a warning to those who would share needles with them is the sort of thing that makes one’s stomach turn. (He recommended a similar tattoo on the rear ends of people with AIDS to, as he put it, “prevent the victimization of homosexuals.”) Nevertheless, compared to the current crop of Neo-Cons who lay claim to his legacy without possessing his intellectual acumen, he was a giant and a worthy adversary.

Perhaps the best tribute I have read thus far is from leftist author and blogger Rick Perlstein who used Buckley as a source for his book on Barry Goldwater. One excerpt:

“He did the honor of respecting his ideological adversaries, without covering up the adversarial nature of the relationship in false bonhommie. A remarkable quality, all too rare in an era of the false fetishization of "post-partisanship" and Broderism and go-along-to-get-along. He was friends with those he fought. He fought with friends. These are the highest civic ideals to which an American patriot can aspire…”

See ya Bill. Your type of conservative is hard to come by these days.

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