Tony's Reviews > Buckley: William F. Buckley Jr. and the Rise of American Conservatism

Buckley by Carl T. Bogus
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Jan 04, 2012

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BUCKLEY: William F. Buckley Jr. and the Rise of American Conservatism. (2012). Carl T. Bogus. ***.
Back in the day, I was an avid fan of “Firing Line,” the talk show hosted by Buckley. All of my group of friends would gather the following day and sit around talking about the interview of the previous night. I don’t think we caught all of the meaning of many of the interviews, but we were enthralled by the wit and erudition of the host. It turns out that Buckley’s primary skill as a debater was on view throughout this program, and he managed to do his homework before each show so that he always came out on top of any discussion. He was raised with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, and much of his philosophy came from his father – a man who made his fortune in Mexico around the turn of the century from oil. Like his father, Buckley attended Yale, where he immediately became a member of the most exclusive clubs. He was an average student, but, overall did well as a result of extremely high marks in Spanish courses – a language he was already fluent in. He started his writing career early by being named as the head of Yale’s newspaper in his senior year. After graduation, he quickly came to popular attention when he published his first book, “God and Man at Yale.” The book was a surprising best seller and Bill was off and running. At one point, to avoid being called up for the draft, he interviewed and was hired by the CIA. When he resigned from the CIA, he began expostulating his political stances – newly defined as Conservatism. “The conservative movement was born on November 19, 1955, the publication date of the first issue of “National Review.” The publisher’s statement, signed by William F. Buckley, Jr., then still just shy of his thirtieth birthday, set forth what have become the most famous words in the history of modern conservatism. “National Review.” he declared, ‘stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so.” Most of this book is really about “National Review,” and its stance towards political and social events that were occuring during its lifetime. It managed to express an opinion about most everything going on in the nation and the world in each issue. Examples of various articles and positions provided by the magazine are given by the author of this book, and include race relations, The John Birch Society, Barry Goldwater (I learned, “[That] in 1960, Goldwater published a slim but powerfully written political manifesto titled “The Conscience of a Conservative.” The book became an instant classic within conservative circles, and it made the junior senator from Arizona the foremost conservative politicial in the nation. The ghostwriter for the book was Brent Bozell. Bozell had been commissioned to write the book, not by Goldwater, but by a small group that wanted to make Goldwater into a contender for the 1960 Republican presidential nomination.”) The ultimate backers of this group were also high ranking members of the Birch Society, a group that Buckley thought was a threat from the right. The author manages to discuss various types of conservatism, but manages to include a special place for Ayn Rand and her philosophy of “objectivism,” that will probably bring back memories to many of us older readers. Buckley managed to maintain a special circle in Hell for Rand and her political leanings. This study by Bogus ostensibly ends in 1968, but there are the usual flash-forwards and backwards that are needed to round out his presentation. Although interesting as a study of modern American conservatism, this work is not a biography of William F. Buckley. If you are looking for that, you will have to go somewhere else.
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