Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.
Subscribe   Subscribe   MI on Facebook Find us on Twitter Find us on Instagram      

Huffington Post


Barely Relevant Notes on Bill Buckley

February 28, 2008

By John Leo

He never wasted a minute. One night at the Buckleys, Bill rose from the dinner table, patted his breast pockets absently and excused himself, saying he had to find his cigars. When he returned seven or eight minutes later (cigarless), it seemed clear he had batted out a column at warp speed. He and Pat were leaving early the next morning for Gstaad. Why not use that downtime between entrée and dessert?

He had a phenomenal ability to convert critics into friends. As a snotty young liberal, editing a liberal Catholic paper in Iowa, I once wrote that Buckley's attempt to generate an army of young conservatives was an illusion, since this alleged army could convene comfortably in the back of a Volkwagen. This unastute judgment drew a thunderous printed retort from WFB, who for some reason had been reading the Catholic Messenger of Davenport rather closely. An invitation to meet him duly followed and we became friends.

He taught a generation of debaters and polemicists that adversaries were to be opposed, but not loathed or hated. (Gore Vidal was the understandable exception.) His style was to fight tooth and nail, then invite his opponent out for a drink or dinner afterwards. His detractors saw this as a ploy to unsettle opponents. Occasionally it was. But debate was about ideas. It wasn't personal.

In the early debates, I regularly made money betting someone that Bill would use at least two of these three terms: "paradigm," "charismatic" and "mutatis mutandis." When audiences caught on to these words, he dropped the first two. But he loved the rhythm of "mutatis mutandis" too much to let go.

Until about the mid-60s, he occasionally would descend into slippery rhetoric, such as "mincing" and "epicene" for protestors of the Vietnam War, and "tribal" for the black caucus. He seemed astounded by this accusation of unpleasant meta-messages, and as far as I could see, he dropped them.

In 1965, when he ran for mayor of New York City, with no danger of winning, he tossed out a number of ideas that were clearly ahead of their time (bike lanes, for instance, and charging drivers a dollar to enter Manhattan during the day). He drew 341,000 votes and may have put John Lindsay in office. Lindsay won by 102,000 votes.

The key to serving fresh seafood on his boat was simple--he pulled up somebody's lobster trap, removed several lobsters, put way too many dollar bills in a bottle to pay for them and placed the corked bottle in the trap. Shopping made simple.

Original Source:



5 Reasons Janet Yellen Shouldn’t Focus On Income Inequality
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, 10-20-14

Why The Comptroller Race Matters
Nicole Gelinas, 10-20-14

Obama Should Have Picked “Ebola Czar” With Public-Health Experience
Paul Howard, 10-18-14

Success Of Parent Trigger Is Unclear­—Just As Foes Want
Ben Boychuk, 10-18-14

On Obamacare's Second Birthday, Whither The HSA?
Paul Howard, 10-16-14

You Can Repeal Obamacare And Keep Kentucky's Insurance Exchange
Avik Roy, 10-15-14

Are Private Exchanges The Future Of Health Insurance?
Yevgeniy Feyman, 10-15-14

This Nobel Prize-Worthy Economist Figured Out How To Destroy Terrorism
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, 10-15-14


The Manhattan Institute, a 501(c)(3), is a think tank whose mission is to develop and disseminate new ideas
that foster greater economic choice and individual responsibility.

Copyright © 2014 Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Inc. All rights reserved.

52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10017
phone (212) 599-7000 / fax (212) 599-3494