Amid the swamp that is contemporary politics — the vitriol and hate, the hypocrisy and moral compromise, the elitism and arrogance of power — it was moving to read my friend Herb Stupp’s poignant tribute, in the February 27 New York Post, to “one of the most humble public officials anywhere”: former U.S. Senator James L. Buckley.
Unlike Herb, who as state chairman of Youth for Buckley was instrumental in his historic 1970 Senate campaign victory, I do not know Jim Buckley personally. But Herb and others who know him have always confirmed what all of us could easily observe: that James Buckley was that all- too-rare public servant — a man of unyielding principle and unfailing civility.
“In the Senate,” Herb writes, “Jim Buckley was known for his personal cordiality and his steadfast adherence to conservative principles.” Citing his “unimpeachable honesty, gentility and ethical standards,” Herb observes that “No hint of impropriety has ever attached to Buckley’s decades-long service” in all three branches of our national government.
While I am sympathetic to just about all the conservative principles James Buckley has espoused over the years with unsurpassed grace and erudition, his pro-life efforts stand out for me as a particular profile in political courage.
After the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling in January 1973, Sen. Buckley moved swiftly to craft and sponsor a human life amendment to protect the unborn. Some of his conservative supporters were less than pleased.
Sure, he could and should vote pro-life, they reasoned. But having to face re-election in New York, one of the most liberal states in the nation — with, as he himself noted, the “most permissive” state abortion law prior to Roe — couldn’t he let other senators, from more pro-life states, take the lead on this hot button issue?
But it was clear that to James Buckley, this was a foundational issue; of “paramount importance,” he said, because it attacked not only the unborn — unjust and horrific as that was — but “the most cherished principles of humanity.”
Having taken office just two years before Roe was promulgated, one wonders if perhaps, given his devout Catholicism, he felt that maybe God had guided him to run for the Senate precisely so he would be there to lead in this defining struggle of our age.
In any event, one sensed that for him, it was hardly worth being a United States senator if he could not stand up and lead on a matter as fundamental as the protection of human life.
He would not be deterred by the political risk; for as Herb Stupp writes, he “never let politics get in the way of doing what was right.”
Herb alerts us that on March 9, when James Buckley turns 99, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis of Staten Island will introduce legislation renaming Staten Island stretches of federal beachfront in honor of the man who helped protect them.
An ardent environmentalist, Sen. Buckley co-sponsored legislation creating the Gateway National Recreation Area, which protects Atlantic beachfronts in Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and New Jersey.
As I said, I do not know Jim Buckley. But one of my most treasured possessions is a simple framed photograph of us shaking hands, as I finally got to meet him at a Human Life Foundation dinner in 2012, when he was honored with the Great Defender of Life award.
Already 90 years old, he was as eloquent as ever in his address, and as warm and gracious personally as I’d always heard.
He has always been my model of what a Catholic public servant should be. I will be contacting my representatives in the U.S. House and Senate, urging them — in the spirit of principled bi-partisanship that Sen. Buckley also exemplified — to support Rep. Malliotakis’ legislation. I hope you will do so as well.
In conferring this much deserved honor upon an exemplary public servant, the current Congress will also comport itself honorably — something that these days occurs all too rarely.
For three decades, Rick Hinshaw has given voice to faith values in the public square, as a columnist, then editor of The Long Island Catholic; Communications Director for the Catholic League and the N.Y. State Catholic Conference; co-host of The Catholic Forum cable TV show; and now editor of his own blog, Reading the Signs. Visit Rick’s home page at rickhinshaw.com. Read Rick Hinshaw's Reports — More Here.
© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.