William F. Buckley Jr., 1925-2008

More strange new respect for Bill Buckley, this time from James Kirchick at the Plank. Kirchick cites Buckley's famous riposte to Gore Vidal -- "Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in your goddamn face and you’ll stay plastered” -- in order, rather oddly, to praise Buckley for refraining from personal insults except in that one uncharacteristic instance.

I leave it to the reader to measure the distance between "you queer ... I'll sock you in your goddam face" and the remark I quoted yesterday: "I wonder how these self-conscious boulevardiers of protest would have fared if a platoon of American soldiers who have seen gore in South Vietnam had parachuted down into their mincing ranks?"

I'm sure Buckley was nice to black people too, even as he wrote things like this, in 1957:

The central question that emerges ... is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes—the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.
Buckley later said he regretted opposing civil rights legislation, and supported the establishment of a national holiday on the birthday of Martin Luther King. He changed his mind, in other words, after the battle had been fought, with him on the wrong side, just in time to be in the right on a matter of pure symbolism. He was by all accounts a charming and generous man, and he propagated a worldview that consisted largely of sympathy for the overdog. He was certainly more amusing and less odious than Sean Hannity or Dick Cheney, but that's a judgment that leaves a lot of room for odium. Now he's dead, and his decency and fairness are gone with him. What survives is the movement he built, which reflects not his personal manner but the actions he took and the positions he chose, and which stands athwart America, shouting Fuck you, you queers and blacks and poors! in language that Buckley used only in occasional slips but that expresses his meaning more than adequately.