Wisdom of William F. Buckley, Jr. made world richer and the passing of this patrician trusting
plebeians more than patricians leaves legacies in National Review and conservatism.
Editor and Washington Bureau Drawer Chief at PoliSat.Com.
February 27, 2008--
William F. Buckley, Jr.'s wit and wisdom made the world a richer place and his passing
today leaves the world poorer. Although I
once wrote disparagingly of his rather severe criticisms of George W. Bush for having
been insufficiently conservative, my abiding opinion of him reflects my respect for one who not only
had an awesome intellect but also wielded it with a degree of equanimity unsurpassed by other
intellectual giants. I met him one time.
He was the featured speaker at a bar meeting in the 1970's. My wife and I had gladly agreed to
take him to the airport the evening following his speech so he could fly to New York to see his son
before his son's departure for a trip to China. When we met him in his hotel room, I drew his
attention to the fact that a red message light was blinking on the telephone. He said he'd
ignore it because it surely was a reporter seeking an interview for which he didn't have time since
we were on the verge of departing for the airport.
En route to the airport, he asked us to take him to a store at which he could purchase a flashlight
so he could better read during his flight (via a small chartered plane). He made the
purchase and we resumed travel to the airport. We conversed on the mundane as well as on
politics. He probably forgot more knowledge en route to the airport than I had amassed in my
life up to that point. His manner of conversing lacked the condescending certitude so often evident
in the ways people with great intellect address others they may not deem their equals. Indeed,
he behaved more like an old friend than a mere acquaintance despite our being quite a bit younger
When we arrived at the airport and drove him to the private hanger, his pilot greeted us with great
consternation, saying, "I've been trying to reach you by telephone for the last couple of
hours. We can't fly tonight due to severe weather between here and New York."
Hoping the weather would be permissive the following morning in time for him to meet his son, he
stoically returned to his hotel and checked-back in. Despite his disappointment, our return-trip
conversation was just as engaging as during the drive to the airport.
My wife and I were already scheduled to be elsewhere early the next day, but we offered to change
our plans in order to again take him to the airport the following morning. After
expressing both gratitude for our having taken him to the airport as well as determination not to
impose further, he insisted that he'd take a taxi to the airport the following morning. We bid
each other farewell.
The point of this story is that people with fame, fortune and power often reveal their true natures
in encounters with people not their peers. Famous, wealthy or powerful people burdened
by their own conceits are unable to "rise above" their exalted station to step down to
meet others unburdened by fame, wealth or power. In contrast, Buckley comported himself
towards us as peers-- not with an air of politeness or manners but with a genuineness I deem it
difficult to fake. His comportment did not give the lie to one of his most famous statements
(I paraphrase): "I'd rather be governed by the first twenty--five people in the white
pages of the telephone book than by the faculties of Harvard and Yale." He was a
patrician at ease with plebeians in part because he had more faith in plebeians than his fellow
He will be missed by us plebeians as well as by his fellow patricians.
Wrenn, Editor at PoliSat.Com.
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