The GOP Civil War
A longtime combatant looks at the GOP, and conservatives’ place in it, from the early days of NR on.

Ronald Reagan and WFB confab with Barry Goldwater before NR's 20th-anniversary dinner, November 17, 1975.


Neal B. Freeman

I understand that you’ve been involved in the GOP civil war for some time.

Only 50 years or so. I came in late.

How did you first become involved?

I headed Youth for Goldwater in New York.

Wasn’t Goldwater’s principal opponent for the Republican nomination, Nelson Rockefeller, governor of New York at the time?

I had grown up in New York and at some point began to fear that Rockefeller would be governor for life. Mine, as well as his.

Why didn’t you support Rockefeller?

His big-government Republicanism was ’roided up. He treated the municipal-bond market like an ATM machine. If he had stayed in office another term — he served three and a half, before being named vice president by Gerald Ford — he would have bonded trash collection, not just landfills.

He’s been called a supply-side bureaucrat. What’s that?

It’s somebody who borrows money to build a huge development in the middle of nowhere in the expectation that government workers will fill the space available. They did, of course. The result was Albany, N.Y., which makes the Soviet-era parts of Bucharest look good.

You’re referring to his famous “edifice complex.”

Every conservative knows in his bones that the threshold question in politics is whether or not to enlarge city hall.

How would you characterize Rockefeller’s politics?

A classic liberal cocktail of class privilege with a splash of ideological presumption.

Explain, please.

He wanted to open opportunities for all people to advance, he said urbi et orbi, but only in tiny, mincing steps that would never permit low-born types to approach his own station in life. The freezing of privilege seemed at times to be bedrock principle for him, unlike his other principles, which were ethically situational.

And the ideological presumption?

That he and his heavily subsidized entourage of academic experts, minority-group leaders, and nonprofit executives could design, implement, and enforce social arrangements superior to any that might arise organically from a benighted citizenry.

He must have done something right.

He hired competent people. If Rockefeller had been in charge of Obamacare, it would have been up and running and wrecking the health-care system on schedule.

Did he do anything else right?

Well, some people said he died heroically.

I thought he died in the arms of his 20-something mistress.

That’s never been confirmed, but he was 70 years old.

What was your relationship with Goldwater?

We were not close in the ’64 campaign. He seemed to think my name was Fred.

What drew you to him politically?

He was not a student of Madison, much less Tocqueville, but he was dead right attitudinally. He carried a giant chip on his shoulder about the intrusions of government. Over the years I heard him say dozens of times about one government program or another, “It’s none of their goddamn business!” Barry used a lot of exclamation points.

Remembering WFB
National Review's founding father and longtime editor, William F. Buckley Jr., was a prolific author and syndicated columnist; the frequently imitated but inimitable host of Firing Line; an indefatigable public speaker; and sailor, skier, and joyous friend to uncounted numbers of people. Herewith, a selection of photos chronicling a fraction of his activities over 58 years. -- Linda Bridges
WFB on the lawn at his home in Stamford, Connecticut, with the Long Island Sound in the background, c. 1985. An interviewer once asked: If you could live anywhere in the world that you wanted, where would you live? And he answered: “Where I live.”
A typical Firing Line dilemma: Which error shall I nail first?
On WFB’s wedding day, July 6, 1950, with WFB Sr.
Some five years later, with his son, Christopher
Bill with seven of his nine siblings, and spouses, c. 1958, in the patio at the Buckley family home, Great Elm, in Sharon, Connecticut.
At sister Priscilla’s 40th birthday party, in 1961, at the Unon League Club in New York. Left to right: Pat, National Review associate publisher Jim McFadden, Bill, sister Maureen (who had been an NR staffer in the early days), conservative impresario Marvin Liebman
Bill and Pat at the maisonette on 73rd Street, c. 1970. See Lawrence Perelman’s article “In WFB's Footsteps” for more on the Bösendorfer piano. The dog is a Pekinese, Horrible Foo.
Touch football at Great Elm, Thanksgiving weekend, c. 1971. Bill and Priscilla with numerous nieces and nephews
With Christopher on Cyrano, c. 1976
Skiing with friends in Gstaad, Switzerland, during the annual book-writing sojourn, c. 1980
More skiing buddies: With Lawry Chickering and Nobel Prize-winner Milton Friedman at Alta, Utah, c. 1979
With skiing buddy and political adversary John Kenneth Galbraith in Gstaad, c. 1984
Celebrating an early jape at National Review, in the first, cramped offices on 37th Street, 1957.  Left to right:  Priscilla, managing editor Suzanne LaFollette, senior editor James Burnham, Arthur the donkey, senior editor Willmoore Kendall, Bill
A bright idea has just struck! WFB in his office at 150 East 35th Street, c. 1969, in front of the wall of photos, fan mail, and hate mail
One way of getting to work: WFB riding down Park Avenue on his beloved Honda, c. 1970
A more conventional way of travelling: In the limousine, with Rowley, the Buckleys' first of many Cavalier King Charles spaniels, on his favorite perch in back, c. 1975
Editorial conference, Tuesday morning, c. 1973, in the conference room; WFB flanked by Jim Burnham and Priscilla
Editorial Wednesday is heating up at 150 East 35th, c. 1975.  Note Royal typewriter (pre computers), and, to right, a gift from a fan: a flag-waving device called the triple bifurcated chauvinator
Sometimes the press of work gets out of hand, c. 1976
But usually there's time to greet a visitor, c. 1980
A characteristic pose while breaking for a phone call, c. 1977
Dinner on an editorial-Tuesday evening, c. 1989, with Jim McFadden and new editor John O’Sullivan, at WFB's favorite restaurant, Nicola Paone (of blessed memory)
A debate during WFB’s “paradigmatic” mayoral race, 1965. He is less than thrilled by the debating style of his opponents, Democrat Abe Beame and liberal Republican John Lindsay.
A more festive campaign picture
The famous (infamous?) debate with Gore Vidal during the 1968 presidential campaign
At a Hollywood political event c. 1975, laughing with Hollywood maverick Morrie Ryskind, one of the magazine’s early backers and a contributor to the very first issue of the magazine.
With Ronald Reagan and National Review publisher Bill Rusher before NR’s 20th-anniversary dinner at the Plaza Hotel in New York, November 17, 1975
The famous Firing Line Panama Canal debate, January 13, 1978, in Columbia, S.C. As Bill later put it, "I won the debate, Ronald Reagan won the presidency."
Greeting Pope John Paul II, with David Niven and Malcolm Muggeridge, 1980.
El Presidente greets his old friend after toasting the magazine at a party celebrating the opening of NR’s new Washington office, March 20, 1983. In background, left to right: Rick Brookhiser, Priscilla Buckley, Joe Sobran, Jeff Hart
At NR's 30th-anniversary party, October 22, 1985, again at the Plaza; principal speaker: President Reagan. Left to right: George Will, Nancy Reagan, Norman Podhoretz, and WFB
Receiving the Medal of Freedom from President Bush, with Barbara Bush looking on, November 18, 1991.
On the ketch Sealestial, in mid-Atlantic, 1980
Ave atque vale
Updated: Nov. 24, 2013