tv [untitled] CSPAN June 29, 2009 7:30am-8:00am EDT
laws against medications that be given to the intractably ill and he campaigned about that for many years so this is not -- you know, this is not something he would have been ashamed at on a policy level. but, you know, look, in the whole man, it's a small matter but it is an aspect of him. and it was -- it was an aspect of, i'm living my life and i've got a zillion things to do and how do i do it and one way i do it is with the help of priscilla and all my coworkers. another way i do it with the help of francis bronson and another way i do it with my discipline and another way i do it with writing columns in my car driven by jerry garvey, you know, there were like many, many ways and this seemed to him to be another way.
and, you know, i guess, the point -- part of the point is that when a man is biting off so much and chewing so much and getting so much right, it's not strange that there may be some things that he doesn't get right and that has to be part of the picture, too. yes, sir? >> since the name of christopher buckley has been mentioned by the last questioner, i feel that i can ask this question. how -- >> are you a team? >> tag team? >> yes, yes. invisible tag team. do you have any views on what christopher buckley has done? i mean, my -- among the choices -- this is a multiple choice question. a, you know, the powerful father figure rebelling against that, b, that he is actually sort of a believer in utopian socialism on
c, that he's just stupid? [laughter] >> god! there's -- what do they call it a poisoned bill? no, i don't have views on what christopher has done. he wrote about bill's death and writing about his life. next question, in the very back corner. >> i was wondering if you could comment on buckley's relationship to his alma mater, yale? and a man at yale, very critical of the aspects of the education in the late 1940s. >> uh-huh. >> that he received there. did his feelings evolve in any way over the years and to the best of my knowledge for all of his prominence i don't know if he was ever honored by yale but perhaps you could set me straight on that.
>> well, there was -- yale was founded in 1701 so they had a tricentennial and there was a big thing in the yale bowl. didn't go to it but there was like a celebration of famous alumni and things that were produced by alumni and bill told us afterwards -- he said, i shared the stage with big bird. [laughter] >> but that tells you that he went to this and was part of this. certainly, there were yale institutions, primarily, the yale daily news. [inaudible] >> oh, okay, there's that too. but the yale daily news is certainly something that he loved and cared about and kept touch with for years. he would also go back to the yale political union which he'd been a member of as a forum for debates and this was useful to him because he would film the debates and use them for firing line but that was a forum that he picked and cared about. he taught at least one writing course at yale.
so, look, he did not burn every bridge. but he did see, and i think he saw quite correctly in the late 40s, very early '50s, yale was running a con, you know, and yale was conveying an impression to its alumni saying that, well, you know, you're all christian capitalists and we're the school that stands for that. and they didn't anymore. they had change. they probably changed, you know, as recently as the '40s. so they were sailing under false colors and it was a very bill-like thing -- i mean, it's related to dear arthur or dear barfer. you know, you're saying you're doing something else. this is what you're doing. and i'm going to tell everybody that this is it. and, you know, maybe the final point is that you can do that but it doesn't mean you have to
burn the place down or never cross the stores again and obviously, there was -- i think he still had a connection to skull and bones, the senior society he was in. there were certainly friends he made at yale who were his dear friends he had all his life. it was a complex picture but he would never have forsworn the truth that he told in yale back in 1951. yes, sir. >> michael myers. i wonder since you were his protege and he was his mentor and how many sleepless nights did you have after that and how do you deal with it in terms of not lashing out at your mentor but my question question is, i remember bill buckley as a conservative and in terms of movements of him during his life
he was really reticent and maybe not a johnny-come-lately to the use of federal power in terms of his civil rights movement and a conservative's point of view that the federal government should not be used against states rights and did he use the federal power to create and to enforce equal opportunity, equal access? >> well, you know, in terms of my reaction, i do go into this in great detail. and obviously i think i said my first reaction was the hall of pain and it was my second, third, fourth, and fifth. but, you know, one is an adult and one has to get through the day and the week and the year and that -- and the process of that helps you also deal with the negativity and the emotions.
as far as, you know, bill wrote things about the early civil rights struggle that are embarrassing to read now. deeply embarrassing to read now. and he acknowledged that. and he admitted that he had been wrong. and i think, you know, there were many factors in were play. one of the ones that occurs to me is the influence of harry jaffa. if anyone had telled with harry jaffa, it's a job. but harry jaffa is a brilliant man and a brilliant historian and his -- the point of his life is that the declaration of independence is the central document of the american revolution. and, therefore, of american history. and i have to say the more i have read about that period confirms what harry argues.
i tell a story of a lunch that bill invited me to. he was going to meet harry at paonis and we got there first and, you know, harry comes in a little late but bill had said in passing in a column, you know, if the british -- if george iii had captured george washington he would have been justified in hanging him as a rebellious subject and harry started in before he even sat down, you know, bill, if he's rebelling in a cause of justice, how can it be justice to hang and him on and on and on and before the salad came, he had bill saying, well, right, you're right, harry, you're wrong to say that. and, you know, that's harry's relentlessness but i think it was his grasp of a very important point about american history which was dramatized in the civil war where, of course, lincoln embraces jefferson and the confederacy explicitly
repudiates him. and so the issue -- and this is the vice president of the confederacy. he gives a speech where he said the founders were wrong because his cornerstone was human equality but we know men are not equal. they are unequal. some men are fit to be slaves and our cornerstone will be human inequality. it does not get any clearer than that. and bill always loved a good argument, well made. and harry certainly did that and i think that was part of the process of bill changing his views on that issue, yes, sir. herb? >> as one of the 20 people who wrote to you when you were in high school in rochester. i thought i would ask a youth-oriented question. i could picture bill buckley graduating from yale this month riding an updated version of god and man and yale but i'm not
sure he would founded the "national review." would he have used the other media or we've founded the "national review"? >> well, that's an accident question and it's a very deep question about people's talents and people's opportunities. bill had brilliant skills as a journalist, you know, at 750 words at the top of his game just didn't get better and that was the form that existed in the years that he lived and worked. on television he was made for the television era that he entered. and that he transformed. i mean, remember, "firing line" starts in 1966 and what's there? it's walter cronkite and johnny carson and, you know, huntley brinkley are sort of the edgiest things in mainstream television and "firing line" is like from another galaxy. it starts with a brand of
concerto. it's bill mannerisms and accent and whatnot and also the content of what he's saying. and one of the very interesting anecdotes that came my way, this was years ago, i was on some sort of panel at the new school and afterwards an old man came up to me and he said do you see mr. buckley? i said yes, i do. he said will you thank him from me. i'm a man of the left but "firing line" was the only place in the late '60s where left wingers could get to say their views at length. and, you know, there's some truth to that. now, bill let them say that so he could duke it out with them. but he let them say that. and, you know, the media has changed. the media has moved on. it's just like -- you know, it's like it's all a trailer. it's all a teaser. it's this, this, this. if jesus came back now, he would not get an hour of television. [laughter] >> he simply wouldn't.
so, you know, bill was suited for his time. what are bills today going to do? they are going to have to be suited to their time and also people, you know, are unique. a lot of conservatives are saying, where's the next reagan? there isn't going to be a next reagan. there isn't. there will be somebody else. where's the next buckley? not going to be one. but there will be somebody else doing something -- doing it differently, doing it somehow differently. so -- i mean, that's a fruitful line of inquiry. i mean, i pursued it in this book and i hope i did justice to it. but the way that his talents fit with his message and with the opportunities and the resources that were out there was an extraordinary thing. and, of course, he had to seize it and make it happen, and he did.
yes? >> bill buckley edited a magazine, had a television show and wrote 56 books, nonfiction and fiction, played the harpsichord, sailed the world was there anything that he wanted to do that he, in fact, never did? [laughter] >> priscilla -- he did say there's a questionnaire called the prust questionnaire. it's like alc parlor game, you know, if you could come back what would you want to be in your next life and so on. and one of the questions i remember because he took. one of the questions is was there any talent you wish that you had, and he said he wish he had an excellent and comprehensive memory. i thought his memory was pretty damn good, but, you know, that's
interesting that he would say that and, of course, when you think about it, both in terms of his social class and the impact he made in the profession he followed, he met everybody. so there was an awful good stuff to remember and he told it to us, you know, entertainingly and delightfully so he seems to have felt that, you know, he could have done it a little better. he had a full life for what he wanted to do with it. one of the things he said in his letter to me when he said i wasn't going to succeed him, he said you don't want to be in a job which is not suited to you because certain responsibilities -- and his phrase was they become asphyxiative, very buckley-like construction. and even at the time when i was going through my sturm and drawn
and wailing and weeping even then i noticed this is not a letter addressed to me. this is bill also writing to himself about himself. i don't know how far those thoughts went. clearly, they were there. i mean, he loved that tempo. he loved that routine. he loved all the stuff. but to me clearly there was also in him at least a doubt, well, maybe is some of this clutter? but is he going to change it, no, no. he put his chips on it and he was good on so much of it that he continued on with it. yes. >> my earliest memory of bill buckley is when he ran for mayor in new york in 1965. i was wondering why he never again ran as a candidate for public office? >> he thought about it.
i mean, i remember one of our directors' dinners and val galbraith was traveling from paris and much wine was consumed and van was the most bold man. so van was van and van had had a few and this was sort of like late in reagan's first term. it was not clear that reagan was going to run again. there was real doubt out there and a lot of it fueled by nancy 'cause she was not sure that he could win reelection. you know, there was a very bad recession and she didn't want her husband to risk defeat and that sort of fueled a lot of uncertainty and speculation. so van said, well, bill, you should run. yeah, and he was kind of serious
about this. he was kind of serious about this. and bill was listening to it kind of seriously. i mean, not seriously, seriously but kind of seriously. and i did one of the things that just kind of astonished me when i thought about it 'cause i remembered what happened. i got up to go -- i had a few myself. you know, bill shook my hand as i was leaving and i said well, the discussion has taken an unserious turn. what a rude thing to say. what a rude thing to say. and should he have run for president smever? no, i don't think so. i don't think he was cut out for it. it's not my place to say that. i mean, time and history and circumstance would say that. not my place to say it. so, you know, love is rough. i mean, there's -- there's a lot that goes on and a lot that -- a lot of mistaken things that that
go on. but i think he did -- you know, he did think of it and my final judgment in the book is bill would have been a better president than franklin pierce but that's not a good test. [laughter] >> anyone else? yes, in the -- henry stern. >> you said that there might be another person like bill buckley but it wouldn't be buckley doing something else so what i wanted to ask was, who would the bill buckleys of the past going back 10, 20, 30 years who were the conservative intellectuals who had so many diversified interests and made such an impression as he did. >> well, let me broaden your question and take it beyond the universe of just conservative intellectuals. he had some resemblances to
alexander hamilton. now, hamilton held government positions. he was treasury secretary most eminently did other things as well. but they were both journalists. they both wrote very fast. they wrote well. bill was a better writer. they were incredibly disciplined, and they also had this -- you know, this go to hell streak, this dear arthur, dear barfer streak and, you know, bill set up his life to encourage that but it got hamilton in trouble. i mean, it was a big mistake to tell thomas jefferson that the man you most admire is julius caesar which hamilton did as a leg-pull. joann freeman said she was pulling jefferson's leg. big mistake because thomas
jefferson nod humor and he thought the plot is revealed. [laughter] >> federalism tipped its hand. i just got an email from a friend of mine, a historian named al felzenberg and he's considering a political biography of bill and the parallel he came up with -- and this was fascinating was frederick douglass. and frederick douglass was also a private man. he never held office. but he was a journalist. he was an eloquent orator. he was an organizer. he was a networker. he was a wire-puller. he was, obviously, an outsider for the obvious reason that he was, you know, a black man in pre-bellum america. i'm excited to see al work this out 'cause i thought, gee, this
is interesting. there are people that you can find some resemblances to and we just have to -- you know, we can't produce the next one. we just have to be sure that the opportunities are there and that when they knock on the door those doors will open. yes. [inaudible] >> at the moment that we speak, we have two books on hand, very much on hand. chris buckley book and your book here. and chris buckley's book has not -- has been on the bestseller list for some weeks. >> i haven't looked. [laughter] >> in each case we have two brilliant writers writing about the great man, at least the current great man and adjourn
-- journalistically speaking and the other media for chris' book have in my view and my wife's and my son's view come out rather negatively on bill. why? why the excerpts in journalism so often are just picking out the negativities and coming along. there's danger there and i'm saying to you -- i read only one review of your book coming out and it had some emphasis on the negative. acsixteen situate the positive is a song from world war ii and one must importantly as one reviewer said of chris' book, read at least the last half where he acknowledged how much bill was, my word, a titan and not that we have to be in awe but in understanding him and
let's not go with the journalism part. journalism is here and so on. but i just wanted to remind us and in that way, if you don't mind, rick, i'd like to say that you and chris are brilliant book ends in acknowledging bill's greatness. >> well, thank you, joe, for that compliment. journalists do what they do, you know, i'm one of them. i know what they are do. in the right circumstances i do it myself. but you also -- and i found this -- when i'm writing about people of the past, i think i found this most strongly with the adamses and if i have a quarrel with some of the john adams revival is that it sugar coats. that doesn't do him any favors. john adams was a complex, complicated man.
and to make him a kind of a plaster image it's sort of doing what i'm doing at 15 looking for an idol. that's the equivalent of that. and you can't -- you know, you shouldn't try to do that. and, of course, there will be many more books. you know, samuel johnson died, there was a rash of books. we all remember boswell because he wrote the great book and that's the book that lasted but there is there were hester frail and there was this friend and that friend and, you know, everybody wanted to get out there and they wanted to get out there because they knew that a great man had left their midst. and they all had a take on it. and they wanted to get down. so, you know, two books -- there'll be 10 by this time next year. do we have time for -- how am i doing on questions here? time for more? okay. i think i got the hi sign.
the concerto will play. i think we're done. [applause] >> there are books for sale right outside. it's a great book. >> thanks. >> richard brookhiser is a senior editor of "national review." he's the author of several books including what would the founders do and george washington on leadership. mr. brookhiser was the recipient of the national humanities medal in 2008. for more information, visit the author's website at richardbrookhiser.com.
list? >> well, i just finished a couple of books i would highly recommend. john mecham's biography of andrew jackson, which is fairly recently out. it's a fabulous, sort of different look at andrew jackson from previous biographies that i've read of him and i've read several. it really focuses mostly on his presidential years and also a good deal about his personal life, how important his family was. his wife died right after his election and so was never in the white house. but he had a collection of relatives who served as advisors and sort of supported him and this really delves deeply into their relationship with him and also the infamous -- what was commonly referred to as the peggy eaton matter, which was the wife of one of his cabinet members who had been maligned similar to the way his wife had been maligned during the campaign and he defended her and made it into a really big issue.
so, you know, meacham's a good writer and it's a good read. i also finished a book actually since then that's older, been out a couple of years by michael korda, a biography of eisenhower. it dawned on me i never read any eisenhower books and felt like that was a gap in my reading that i needed to fill. and i would highly recommend that to everyone as well. i'm going to move on to a book -- the author actually escapes me of a book that's been out a while called the best year of their lives. it's about 1948 in the life of richard nixon, lyndon johnson and john f. kennedy, which was recommended to me by senator barrasso, a senator from wyoming
who's a voracious reader. there's also a book about the republican leader of the senate coming out june 15 by an author named john david dyche. it's called republican leader, a political biography of senator mitch mcconnell. i expect i will read that if not seen it, although i did -- was interviewed by the author and since it's about me i expect i'll read it. ..
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