A professed liberal’s assessment of the rise, reign and enduring legacy of William F. Buckley (1925–2008), the godfather of the modern conservative movement.
Bogus (Law/Roger Williams Univ.; Why Lawsuits are Good for America: Disciplined Democracy, Big Business, and the Common Law, 2001, etc.) offers not a traditional cradle-to-grave biography but an ongoing conversation about and argument with Buckley—with long (often overlong) asides explaining the historical contexts of events involving his subject. The author admires Buckley as profoundly as he disagrees with him. He praises him throughout for his humor, prolificacy, energy, writing, debating and managerial skills and devotion to his family and causes. But for Buckley’s principal ideas, which, Bogus writes repeatedly, came directly from his father, he has much disagreement and even disdain. Nonetheless, he recognizes that Buckley changed American history, “a feat so great that it is almost impossible to overstate.” Bogus writes about Buckley’s influence on Ronald Reagan, Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh and numerous others, and he shows how Buckley assembled a team that propelled National Review into a position of influence. The author revisits Buckley’s father’s involvement in the Mexican Revolution (he met Pancho Villa), swiftly summarizes Buckley’s education, his early writings and his efforts to avoid combat in World War II and Korea. He establishes the primacy of religion in Buckley’s weltanschauung and chronicles his awkward, tone-deaf writing about civil rights, his symbolic run for mayor of New York, his advocacy of wars in Vietnam and elsewhere and his moves to distance NR from the Birchers and other extremists.
A disagreeing but rarely disagreeable argument with a figure far easier to debate on the page than in person.