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June 30, 2006

Buckley's Regrets

Daniel Gross writes:

When William F. Buckley passes away, I hope that the obituary writers, in addition to noting his wit, his flair for language, his libertarian instincts, and his immense productivity, will also note this: At a time when a portion of the U.S. maintained a system of racial apartheid, Buckley and his magazine, time and time again, sided with the white supremacists. And in the decades since, I haven’t seen any evidence that he and his many acolytes are sorry, or ashamed—or that they’ve ever engaged in anything like an honest reckoning with their intellectual complicity in segregation.

This isn't actually the case. Indeed, Buckley has identified his position on civil rights as virtually his only error in years of publishing:

Buckley said he had a few regrets, most notably his magazine's opposition to civil rights legislation in the 1960s. ``I think that the impact of that bill should have been welcomed by us,'' he said.

It well should've. When the obituaries are written, I hope they mention that though Buckley was wrong on one of the greatest issues of our age, that though he tried to stand in front of history and yell "stop!", he had the courage to admit his error after being run over.

June 30, 2006 | Permalink

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Comments

I hadn't heard about Buckley recanting; he does deserve some small credit for that. Still, he was wrong when it mattered, just as the people who 40 or 50 years from now will admit being wrong about gay marriage (for example) are wrong now, when it matters.

Posted by: Tom Hilton | Jun 30, 2006 1:31:19 PM

Agreed. My only point is that it's not fari to say he never recanted.

Posted by: Ezra | Jun 30, 2006 1:44:25 PM

Agreed.

Posted by: Tom Hilton | Jun 30, 2006 1:57:26 PM

The next time I need an example of "damning with faint praise," I'm linking to this post.

Posted by: Cyrus | Jun 30, 2006 2:14:42 PM

The thing that I like about Buckley and have always liked (aside from the mild nastalgia of battleing my dad as to whether we should watch cartoons or Buckley on PBS) is that while I disagree with him on most issues, he has integrity and he is a strong advocate of reasonable debate. He also has made clear he has no use for fanatics - right or left. In fact I heard him say on NPR last year (Diane Rheme?) that he would rather have a polite liberal who disagrees with him entirely, as a dinner companion than a fanatical conservative who agrees with him on everything. And he has admitted he wa wrong on more than civil rights issues.

When I heard him interviewed they also talked with Tucker Carlson whom I subsequently had high expectations for - alas, I have been disapointed. While Buckley has spoken out against this administration and it's betrayal of conservative principal, Tucker has remained a partisan hack and grand apologist for the bush regime.

I disagree with him on most issues but Buckley was a great person for intelligent and pointed debate - something all to lacking on the conservative side of current political discourse - and to be fair - also a rarity on the left.

Posted by: DuWayne | Jun 30, 2006 4:34:43 PM

Um, no. Buckley offers his regret at being on the wrong side of civil rights legislation. That's far from coming clean, or confronting, even expressing regret for, the overt racism of his magazine which extended into the 1980s. Much like his vaunted anti-extremism--extremists on the right had a place with him so long as their opinions were tenable, and just look at the sort of crackpots who hang out there now--he attempts to turn the minimal necessary realignment of past odiousness into a public virtue. Go read some of that stuff. If Bill Buckley were truly remorseful for the things his magazine did for twenty-five years he'd dedicate the rest of his life to apologizing about it.

Posted by: doghouse riley | Jun 30, 2006 6:26:48 PM

I wonder how much history Robert Byrd's obituary will recall? Ted Kennedy? Bill Clinton?

New York Times, Robert Byrd obit: "Civil Rights Warrior Robert Byrd Dies"
It will conveniently forget to mention he was a warrior for the KKK.

Maybe Ted Kennedy's driving and swimming abilities?

How about Bill Clinton's contribution to the cause of feminism?

Those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 1, 2006 11:54:46 AM

How about Bill Clinton's contribution to the cause of feminism?

Or your contribution to autoerotic asphyxiation?

Posted by: Col Bat Guano | Jul 2, 2006 1:24:56 AM

"Or your contribution to autoerotic asphyxiation?"

That is some quality retort. Did you have to look those words up, or are you already familiar with them?

Lose the argument, attack the messenger. Is that rule #1 in the liberal debate playbook?

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 2, 2006 11:08:49 AM

I used to look forward to the Firing Line Debates on PBS. Buckley's dedication to the art of civilized discussion in politics was a contribution to us all. I am yet another who finds himself disagreeing with Buckley on most issues, only to still regard him as a decent and honourable bloke who would surely be a welcome addition at my dinner table. Along with his opposition to Civil Rights there was also that unfortunate support of Sen. McCarthy. Ah well, he did, at least, fire Ann Coulter before he retired.

Posted by: The Minstrel Boy | Jul 2, 2006 1:08:19 PM

That is some quality retort. Did you have to look those words up, or are you already familiar with them?

Gee, I must have missed the substantial and highminded argument in your post. It just seemed like a mindless repetition of Limbaughian talking points. Your retort above is certainly an intellectual tour de force. You're like some sort of idiot savant huh?

Posted by: Col Bat Guano | Jul 2, 2006 3:08:06 PM

"Gee, I must have missed the substantial and highminded argument in your post. It just seemed like a mindless repetition of Limbaughian talking points."

Maybe you are slow. It was a pretty simple point. Those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

I don't believe Rush was the first to coin that phrase.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 2, 2006 7:01:15 PM

Maybe you are slow. It was a pretty simple point. Those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

That's rich coming from a mouth breather like you. Your examples had nothing to do with the post and everything to do with the standard "eeeek, liberals are bad!" drivel we hear from pants wetting conservatives every day. Clinton's dick is like some sort of touchstone you can't avoid harping on.

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