On Geoffrey Kabaservice:The William F. Buckley Jr. biography review and more by Political Observer

Here is a podcast from the FrumForum of August 13, 2009, an interview with Professor Kabaservice that is impressive in its depth of historical, political analysis,his impressive erididtion, that he displays to great effect. I just read his review in the New York Times Book Review of December 11,2011 of Buckley:William F. Buckley and The Rise of American Conservatism by Carl T. Bogus, but let me quote in full the revelatory first paragraph:

“William F. Buckley Jr. was an immodest man with much to be immodest about. Not only was he the high priest of the modern American conservative movement and the founding editor in chief of its leading intellectual publication, National Review; he was also a gifted polemicist, best-selling novelist, sesquipedalian speaker, television star, political candidate, yachtsman, harpsichordist, wit and bon vivant. Small wonder that I once saw him nod approvingly when a tongue-tied freshman referred to his 1951 autobiographical best seller as “God as Man at Yale.” He performed his many roles with such panache, and such obvious enjoyment of being William F. Buckley Jr., that he captivated people who otherwise would have despised someone who did much to move the United States politically to the right from the early 1950s until his death in 2008. But even liberals had to laugh when Buckley, asked whether he slouched in his chair as host of the TV program “Firing Line” because he couldn’t think on his feet, drawled, “It is hard . . . to stand up . . . under the weight . . . of all that I know.”  

One can be ” a gifted polemicist, best-selling novelist, sesquipedalian speaker, television star, political candidate, yachtsman, harpsichordist, wit and bon vivant”  if one is born to wealth and has an aspiration to change the world, with an assist from what appears to be an ego the size of his aspirations, and the time to indulge your interests, while not having to earn a living. Mr. Buckley never faced the challenge of that life question and perhaps he was as special as he believed himself to be. This seems to pass by Professor Kabaservice as he takes a tumble while genuflecting in front of the alter to the great Mr. Buckley.

One of the myths of the American nation is that of the self-made man, it is one of those bedrock beliefs, in the ability of all, no matter their circumstance to make good. Does Mr. Buckley fit in that mould, even if a bit ackwardly? He was self-made in his ideosyncratic personae but was he as special as his self-concept? He was a propagandist who paid to produce a magazine and a television show and he engaged in that  non-stop campaign that only ended with his death. Another stock character in the American story is the sycophantic public intellectual who surrenders his critical capacities in the interest of cultivating the powerful. Although Professor Kabaservice does not seem to fit that category of public intellectual, perhaps he has been led by personal affection for Mr. Buckley, to his eccessively complementary stance. He is critical of the shortcomings of the biography itself but not of the the man William F. Buckley Jr., he treats him as poltitically off limits, indeed as some sort of political saint. While Mr. Buckley  struck me, as on almost every occasion, unctiously self-congatulatory, even rather repulsively smug, except in his last television interview when he said that he regretted not supporting the Civil Rights Bill, a very surprising moment indeed.

Political Observer       


About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer.
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