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Bill Buckley, Champion of Conservatism

Wednesday, 27 Feb 2008 05:04 PM

By Phil Brennan

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Back in 1961, when I was working for the House Republican leadership, Bill Buckley wrote and asked me to write a Washington column for the National Review magazine.

Rep. John Byrnes, my boss at the GOP Policy Committee, said I could if I did not use my own name. As a result I became Cato, the name Bill and his sister, Managing Editor Priscilla Buckley, bestowed on me.

For the next three years I wrote the Cato column and although my personal contacts with Bill were limited — he was in New York and I was in Washington — he treated me with kindness and respect. When my check arrived, it always came accompanied by handwritten notes from Bill, always complimentary of my work.

When he sent a copy of one of his books he inscribed it “In admiration,” high praise indeed coming from a master of our craft.

On one occasion when I came up to New York to attend an editorial meeting at NR, I watched Bill go from one position to another as he ran the meeting. At one point he would be sitting on a table in the lotus position, in the next he’d be sitting on the floor, or lying back with his head resting on a chair, all the while brilliantly commenting on various issues or advancing editorial ideas. He did everything but stand on his head.

He gave no indication that this was anything but the appropriate manner for conducting an editorial conference. It left me wondering what the reaction would have been if President Eisenhower had run a Cabinet meeting in that fashion.

In the years after I stopped writing for Bill I occasionally ran into him and he was always warm and friendly. The last time I saw him was in Boca Raton, Fla., where I have lived for the last 40 years. He was a guest speaker at Florida Atlantic University, and we had a pleasant chat while surrounded by an adoring mob clamoring for his autograph.

In the years I knew him I never lost sight of the fact that here was the one man who single handedly revived conservatism in this nation. Until he came on the scene, along with millions of my fellow Americans, I wasn’t even aware that I was a conservative, although my entire political and philosophical faith fit into what Bill defined for us as the conservative mold.

In an age that mocks religious faith and its adherents, Irish Roman Catholic William Francis Xavier Buckley proudly lived his faith and brandished it defiantly in the faces of his detractors.

Without Bill Buckley, there would never have been a Goldwater revolution that captured control of the Republican Party and revived its fortunes. Without Bill Buckley there would have been no Reagan revolution, and America today would be different and poorer and still mired in an endless Cold War.

Rest in peace, gentle warrior.

In admiration.

Phil Brennan

* * *

Phil Brennan is a regular contributor and columnist of Newsmax.

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