I watched him, as you did, over the decades -- surely an American fixture. Superb writer, and I suppose, one of the most dangerous debaters of the 20th Century. I loved the intelligence, the unrelenting drive to win, the vocabulary, the imitatable quirkiness, the glimpse of unrepentent Eastern Seaboard wealth, the mental world -- that love of Idea.
But note: his rich soil provided the fields wherein were planted much that should not have been cultivated.
As a devout, conservative Catholic, he could brook no compromise with 'progressive' ideas because they harbored secular -- and routinely, materialist -- assumptions. As a rich man, he saw freedom first as a libertarian, economistic distancing from any centralizing control: in America's case, the Federal Government.
Before I mist over too much about him, I do have to consider that, even in Charlie Rose's clip-tribute to him, Buckley, conceding the errors of McCarthy, still -- still, in his 80s -- maintained that those who demonize McCarthy now are worse.
Yes, the George Will quote from the 80s does tell it: before Reagan, there was Goldwater, and before Goldwater, there was The National Review, and before that the idea gleaming in Buckley's mind. If we take that provenance forward, we come to the opportunistic formulizations of Bush Senior, the crackpot manipulation of Newt Gingrich, the proto-fascism of Limbaugh, O'Reilly, and Coulter, and the Messianic reactionary mess of Bush Junior and company.
There. I've dried my tears. Ready to face the world. It now needs re-orienting.