William F. Buckley Jr. – The Maker of a Movement by Lee Edwards: Quotations


Truly, there are few people who brought together the conservative movement so forcefully and so cleverly and with so much wit than William F. Buckley Jr.. In Lee Edwards’ biography of William F. Buckley Jr., he is able to trace not only the threads that made the man of the popular television show, Firing Line, but also the threads of a family man, capable of uniting the conservative philosophy during some of America’s darkest times, and leading that movement to the pinnacle of Ronald Reagan.

Below are a few quotations from Lee Edwards and his many references surrounding the life of one of the conservative movement’s greatest men.



“If I’m still famous, try to convince the cardinal to do the service at St. Patrick’s. If I’m not, just tuck me away in Stamford.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 11

“Buckley and National Review did more than yell ‘Stop!’ at history; they turned it around, first of all by establishing a coherent and respectable conservativism.” – Michael Barone

“We must do what we can to bring hammer blows against the bell jar that protects the dreamers from reality. The ideal scenario is that pounding from without we can effect resonances, which will one day crack through to the latent impulses of those who dream within bringing to life a circuit which will spare the republic.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 12

Chapter 1 – Growing Up Conservative

“There was nothing complicated about Father’s theory of child-rearing. He brought up his sons and daughters to be absolutely perfect.” – Aloise Buckley Heath, Oldest Daughter of Buckley Senior

“What education did not occur in the classroom, writes Buckley biographer John B. Judis, took place at the dinner table. The father made the children defend their intellectual and political positions.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 18

“The dominant personality of the family was “Father” – Will Buckley, who loved America, trusted the free market, and hated communism with equal passion. He detested Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. He did not try to mold his children into exact copies of himself, but saw to it that they were prepared, intellectually and morally, to make a difference in whatever profession they chose.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 19

“He worshiped three earthly things: learning, beauty, and his family.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 19

“I found that there were actually very few prerequisites to the good friend: he had to have a good sense of humor, a pleasant personality and a certain number of common interests.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 26

“He prevailed and learned a key lesson: editorial control of a newspaper, or a magazine, must rest with one person, not a board.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 29

“The answer [to restlessness of young intellects], philosophically, was a combination of conservatism, with its emphasis on order and custom, and libertarianism, with its belief in individual freedom.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 30

“We deeply bemoan our inability to allure without antagonizing, to seduce without violating. Especially because we believe in what we preached and would have liked very much for our vision to have been contagious.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 30

“They [the Yale debate team] were extremely effective and dedicated, and struck some of us as rather unusual that people of their relatively young years could be so fiercely ideological. Many of us wished that we could be as certain about anything as they were about everything.” – Alan Finberg, pg. 31

“While conceding the validity of academic freedom for a professor’s research, Buckley insisted that the professor did not have the right to inseminate into the minds of his students values that were counter to the values of the parents paying his salary.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 44

“He said that the faculty members who fostered atheism and socialism ought to be fired, because the primary goal of education is to familiarize students with an existing body of truth, of which Christianity and free enterprise are the foundations.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 44

“Individualism is dying at Yale, and without a fight.” – William F. Buckley, pg. 44

“[Intercollegiate Studies Institute:] to promote among college students, specifically, and the public, generally, an understanding of and appreciation for the Constitution of the United States of America, laissez-faire (free market) economics and the doctrine of individualism.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 48

“Then and always, Buckley honored the principle of standing by your friends and colleagues when they are under attack.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 51

Chapter 2 – Getting it Right

“May it (National Review) become a mighty factor in saving our country from further follies of collectivism and the communist menace behind them.” – Robert Welch pg. 56

“That is what conservatives must decide, how much to give in order to survive at all; how much to give in order not to give up the basic principles.” – Whittaker Chambers, pg. 61

“[H]e would assess a political situation as accurately as he could and then take corrective action.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 61

“Chambers argues that America faces a transcendent, not transitory, crisis; that the crisis is not one of politics or economics but of faith.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 63

“Chambers writes that Communism is “the central experience of the first half of the 20th century, and may be its final experience” unless the free world discovers a “power of faith” that will provide two certainties: “a reason to live and a reason to die.”” – Lee Edwards, pg. 63

“Buckley performed like ‘Braveheart,’ lopping off the heads of one faculty lord and knight after another… It was a devastating performance, an inspiration.” – Campaigne, pg. 69

“I will use my power as I see fit. I mean to live my life an obedient man, but obedient to God, subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth.” – William F. Buckley, pg. 71

“Editor Buckley clearly had certain goals in mind for his magazine: keep the Republican Party – the primary political vehicle of conservatives – tilted to the right; eliminate any and all extremists from the conservative movement; flay and fleece the liberals at every opportunity; and push hard for a policy of victory over Communism in the Cold War.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 72

“Careful to protect the advances that had been made, Buckley acted decisively when he saw it necessary to dissociate the conservatives movement from the irresponsible Right.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 77

“The problem of assigning priorities to the two objectives is not merely a problem of intellectual discrimination, but of moral balance.” – William F. Buckley, Social Security versus Communism, pg. 79

“You have once again given a voice to the conscience of conservationism.” – Ronald Reagan, pg. 82

“What a great heart – eager to spread joy, and ready to share grief.” – Joe Sobran, pg. 84

“I learned a lot of things from Bill Buckley, but the best thing he taught me was how to be a Christian.” – Joe Sobran, pg. 84

“[B]efore the conservative movement could be a major player in American politics: it had to be philosophically united.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 86

“Freedom, Meyer argued, was the indispensable condition for the pursuit of virtue. Freedom was the ultimate political end of man as man.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 87

“For a few stunning days, early in November in 1965, the freedom fighters of Budapest held the entire Communist world at bay. America was struck by the intensity – and efficacy – of the anti-Communist spirit, and we were breathless with wonder and admiration. But in the end, we did nothing. ‘For a while,’ Mr. Eugene Lyons, a wise and veteran American anti-Communist, remarked to me, ‘it looked almost as though Budapest would liberate the United States.'” – William F. Buckley, pg. 90

Chapter 3 – Cruising Speed

“He knows he’s quick, but doubts he’s deep.” – William Rickenbacker (Concerning Buckley)

“The grief was spontaneous and, in most cases, wholly sincere. Not because Mr. Kennedy’s policies were so universally beloved, but because he was a man so intensely charming, whose personal vigor and robust enjoyment of life so invigorated almost all who beheld him.” – William F. Buckley, pg. 95

“Buckley argued that if conservatives in politics wanted to be successful they had to steer a middle course between the ideal and the prudential.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 100

“Along with T.S. Elliot, he believed that there are not permanent defeats because there are not permanent victories.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 100

“Bill knew that if conservativism had any future, it had to be a hard political movement as well as a soft intellectual movement.” – John O’Sullivan, pg. 104

“No, I think I’ll just contemplate the great eloquence of my previous remarks.” – William F. Buckley (When asked if he had any further comments during a debate for Mayor of New York City)

“If the whole world were to be covered with asphalt, one day a crack would appear in the asphalt; and in that crack grass would grow.” – Ilya Ehrenburg (In defense of Boris Pasternak)

“The effect was as if Sir Hartley Shawcross had suddenly risen from the prosecutor’s stand at Nurembur and descended to embrace Goering and Goebbels and Doenitz and Hess, begging them to join him in the making of a better world.” – William F. Buckley, pg. 116

“The United Nations is the most concentrated assault on moral reality in the history of free institutions.” – William F. Buckley, pg. 116

“It is not wide of the historical mark to say that during the years Firing Line has been produced, socialism has collapsed.” – William F. Buckley, pg. 125

“His son, Christopher, wrote that his father’s greatness “was of a piece with the way he conducted himself at sea.” Great men, he said, “always have too much sail up.” They take great risks and they are ever impatient – for the next adventure.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 127

“[I]t was the voyage, not the stopping.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 127

Chapter 4 – The Builder

“We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” – Thomas Paine, pg. 131

“Communism is theoretically and empirically dead.” – William F. Buckley, pg. 131

“[T]here are no signs at all that God is dead. He appears to have survived even Vatican II.” – William F. Buckley, pg. 131

“Is it a third party that we need, or is it a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all the issues troubling the people?” – Ronald Reagan, pg. 132

“I’ll lay me down and bleed awhile; though I am wounded, I am not slain. I shall rise and fight again.” – Old Scottish Ballad, pg. 133

“The best thing Buckley did was bugging me into hiring a guy named Tony Dolan.” – Bill Casey, pg. 135

“I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.” – William F. Buckley, pg. 138

“Nothing of that size and force and sweep could have been created over a weekend or even a week or two by the assorted mullahs and miseries of our times.” – Washington Post (On the Conservative Movement) pg. 139

“He was determined not to be cut off from old friends, even if he did not necessarily take their advice.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 141

“What we do not need is anything that suggests that human freedom is going to lead us to Utopia.” – William F. Buckley, pg. 144

“To venerate life is to attach to it first importance. Surely if we were all to do that, any talk of war, just or unjust, prudent or imprudent, limited or unlimited, provoked or unprovoked, would be an exercise in moral atavism.” – William F. Buckley, pg. 145

“What the opponents of Robert Bork are saying comes down to this: (1) We believe in an activist court that does not hesitate to write social policy. (2) But that social policy must be what we favor; for which reason, (3) Bork the legal scholar, the veteran teacher, administrator and judge, is not fit to serve.” – William F. Buckley, pg. 149

“There were two overriding factors that would ultimately save Clinton in the Lewinsky affair: his wife and a broad cultural shift in the American public that predisposed it to go easy on him.” – Legacy, pg. 159

“The task ahead is to reconstruct our basic allegiance to what is right.” – William F. Buckley, pg. 160

“Any failures by beneficiaries of the free world to recognize what we have here over against what it is [, the communists,] would impose on us, amounts to a moral and intellectual nihilism.” – William F. Buckley, pg. 164

“You and I remember a time of the forest primeval, a time when nightmare and danger reigned and only the knights of darkness prevailed; when conservatives seemed without a champion. And then, suddenly riding up through the lists, came our clipboard-bearing Galahad: ready to take on any challengers in the critical battle of point and counter-point. And, with grace and humor and passion, to raise a standard to which patriots and lovers of freedom could repair.” – Ronald Reagan, 30th Anniversary of National Review, pg. 165

Chapter 5 – Last Things

“It had to be that the offense was critical, that the defense was appropriate, that the violence was proportional.” – William F. Buckley, pg. 172

“We may say that we shall not abuse this astonishing and hitherto unheard of power. But every other nation will think we shall abuse it. IT is impossible but that, sooner or later, this state of things must produce a combination against us which may end in ruin.” – Edmund Burke, On British Foreign Power

“[B]ringing democracy to the Arab world is akin to making bricks without straw.” – Andrew Bacevich, pg. 174

“One of the era’s greatest illusions was spun by President Bush – that the force of freedom was so irresistible, it would prevail in a place like Iraq even in the absence of law and order.” – Rich Lowry, pg. 178

Peter Robinson: “Bill, you were born wealthy and you’ve been famous thirty years. Why do you keep working so hard?”

William F. Buckley (looking surprised): “My father taught me that I owe it to my country. It’s how I pay my debt.” – pg. 178

“I would go to bed tired each night and come down for breakfast at eight each morning, and he would already be up in the study, attacking the next chapter, Bach on the stereo, sailboats bobbing in the water down below.” – Anthony Dick pg. 185-186

“When the young man remarked how nice it must be, doing the things he loved, Buckley quickly corrected him. He found writing increasingly difficult. Nor did he love politics, which he said was awash in sordidness and banality. He would much prefer to read or sail or visit friends, but he stayed at work – echoing what he had told Peter Robinson and others – out of a sense of duty to his country, to repay civilization for all the beauty it had given him, and to resist the designs of those “who would push the tentacles of politics even further into our lives.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 186


“He brought them all together into a unified movement by pointing out they all had the same enemy – the liberals.” – William A. Rusher, pg. 189

“He did it all. He combined George Will, the columnist; Rush Limbaugh, the voice; Tim Russert, the interviewer; Ann Coulter, the liberals’ bete noir; and Tom Clancy, the novelist.” – Rich Lowry, pg. 189

“He viewed Communism as the great enemy of America and the West, an enemy to be defeated, not accommodated.” – Lee Edwards, pg. 190


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