EDITOR’S NOTE:National Review is celebrating our 50th anniversary this week. Helping to mark the occasion, we grabbed a few friends to discuss “When I Think of National Review, I think of…” And here’s what they came up with.
William J. Bennett
When I think of National Review, I first think of its writers and editors: Jonah Goldberg, Kathryn Jean Lopez, Rich Lowry, Andy McCarthy, Ramesh Ponnuru, and others too many to name. It has elevated writers, thinkers, and arguments to a widespread, international audience. What National Review did in the 1950s and 1960s, by providing intellectual moorings to our movement from its professorial and semi-professorial writers, it has perfected today by bringing serious, lively, engaging, and often humorous thought to our movement–with a dissemination unimaginable from its outset. Today, National Review and NRO are ebullient, irreverent, smart, and fun. With the present team, “Don’t trust anyone over forty!” comes to mind-but on our side now.
National Review has never been better. Happy Anniversary!
When I think of National Review, I think of the writing. The four high points are these.
1. WFB’s Notes & Asides exchange with Arthur Schlesinger Jr. They were fighting about a blurb Bill had mischievously extracted from some public remarks of Schlesinger’s. As the exchange went on, Schlesinger lost his temper, and referred to “National Review, or The National Enquirer, or whatever your magazine calls itself.” Bill asked him, in return, what he would think if Bill began a letter, “Dear Arthur, or Dear Barfer, or whatever you call yourself…” WFB has written many, many fine things, but this was the perfect counter-punch–or counter-gouge. Barfer never tried it again.
2. The last line of Murray Kempton’s review of a memoir of Wilfrid Sheed, in which Clare Luce figured inspiringly. Kempton got to talking about Napoleon somehow, then concluded, “But her empire [i.e., her effect on Sheed] was larger than his, and his vanished, and hers remains.” From 50 mph to deep space in one sentence. Remarkable.
3. A paragraph from James J. Kilpatrick’s report on the 1972 Democratic convention, in which he describes Speaker John McCormack trying to talk above the surf of indifferent McGovernites. Kilpatrick says he looked like a heron on a stump in a swamp. In the old days, Kilpatrick goes on, there would have been a demonstration, and someone from the plasterer’s union would have done a clog dance in the aisles. But now no one listens, and when they look, “the stump was empty and the heron was gone.” Politics and pathos, indelibly combined.
4. “The Gimlet Eye” by D. Keith Mano. Every one, every word. If I quote what I remember, I will use everyone else’s space. From the canonization of Nicholas II, to the phone-sex girl. Week in, week out, Mano was the best writer this, or any American magazine has had, for the last 50 years. Will someone put them between hard covers? Il miglior fabbro.
When I think of National Review, I think of the outstanding cruises–the extraordinary opportunities for fellowship with like-minded individuals…the brilliant, star-studded educational panels…and the great food.
When I think about NR, I think about writing that is current, candid, consistent, colorful, and conservative.
–John Cornyn (R., Texas) is an United States senator from Texas and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
When I was first elected to the Senate, National Review was a voice in the wilderness advocating conservative economic policy, social policy, and foreign policy. Today we have cable news, blogs, talk radio, CSPAN, and conservative think tanks. But in the 1960s and 1970s National Review stood largely alone. The post-Soviet world that we live in, one that rewards entrepreneurship and at least takes traditional values seriously, was shaped by William F. Buckley’s magazine. National Review was intelligent, without ever losing its light touch. These happy warriors were the true “progressives” of the last 50 years.”
–Orrin G. Hatch is a Republican senator to the United States Senate from Utah. Senator Hatch is former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
I think it was 1983 when I remember walking into the offices of National Review for the first time with Dinesh D’Souza and other fellow Dartmouth Review staffers, to meet Bill Buckley, the godfather of the conservative movement. Jeffrey Hart, an NR senior editor Jeffrey Hart was one of my English literature professors who brought us in to meet “Mr. Buckley.” “What trouble have you caused this week?” he asked us with a laugh, referring to our frequent battles against political correctness and the left-wing faculty at Dartmouth College. For as long as I can remember, NR has been the most provocative, most principled, and wittiest force for conservatism. Its commentary and reporting helped put Ronald Reagan in the White House and helped inspire thousands of young conservatives in politics, the media, business and the law. Happy Birthday, NR!
One of my favoriteNational Review memories from my pre-employment days is of my Dad seeing my subscription copy of NR on our kitchen table and asking, “Exactly what kind of magazine are you reading? And did it come in a brown wrapper?”
I think I made up the brown wrapper part. But the cover had Madonna in her “Open Your Heart” getup. If your senior prom might have had “True Blue” playing or you’re a longtime NR reader-or both!-you know what I mean. I think it was a cover that went along with a Joe Sobran piece on the Non-40-Year-Old-Non-Virgin.
Now, sometimes when I realize NRO isn’t always your father’s National Review as they say, I wonder what Dad would think. Usually cool with it, I’d bet, having been a college-age Firing Line viewer/WFB admirer himself. But no doubt some things would make him wonder.
–Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.
Father Richard John Neuhaus
When I think of National Review, I think of George Wills’s remark that it is the most influential magazine ever published, and conclude he may well be right about that. But mainly I think of the people who are and have been National Review, for any magazine worth its salt is the people who edit it. And I am grateful that, as religion editor for several years and occasional contributor since then, they let me have a small part in NR’s conversation with a sharp argumentative edge–another prerequisite of a magazine worth its salt.
–Father Richard John Neuhaus is editor-in-chief of First Things.
John J. Miller
I think of deadlines, because writing for National Review is my job. But I also think of the blue borders on the cover. It’s one of the great visual signatures in the magazine world. Time has red, National Geographic has yellow–and we have blue.
When I think of National Review I think of Mrs. Patricia Buckley, the tall, elegant, and wickedly funny woman who has walked arm in arm with her husband Bill through the many rooms and corridors of his life. Pat has a large and naturally dramatic face, with big, dark, expressive eyes and a tall and nobel brow. She doesn’t look like anyone in the world, but if someone told you she was an actress who had been famous for her wit and deft mimicry you’d believe it. She dresses fashionably in a style that could be known as Dramatic Happiness. For all the big and immediate impression she makes on you when she walks in the room she is amazingly warm and clubby and girly. She wants you to sit right next to her and tell her all about your life and your son and his latest triumphs and recent challenge. She really cares what you say and has things she’s been meaning to mention. She entertains in the handsomest townhouse with what I have been told is the worst food of any great house in New York. I thought it delicious. There are a lot of toasts, which is very nice if you like that but it’s more fun to see Pat roll her eyes. She has great legs, a lot of friends, and adores her husband. Anyone would like her. But it means something that Pat, who no doubt had many futures from which to choose, chose Bill, and his life of political evangelism. She lived it with him, hosting with him, greeting with him, including more and more people in the circle of their regard, seemingly making it run seamlessly. She did this all for Bill as he made a movement, but it benefited the rest of us, too. She also made for herself a second persona, one removed from politics and big thinking. She decided to be friends with everyone who’s interesting in New York, and beyond. She chose these friends based on their essence–their capacity for fun, their irreverence, the pleasure of their company. In this part of her life she didn’t seem to give a fig for politics, and good thing. She has been a great figure in the life of the city of New York. She is a doll. We–a whole movement, a whole community of supporters of Bill Buckley and his world changing little fortnightly–are lucky to have her.
I used to hate it when I was on the Left politically and (much less so) theologically in the 1960s, and read NR out of a sense of duty. It seemed then that the image the right had of the left, and the left of the right, was inaccurate. I didn’t always understand the heritage of the disagreements, and kept trying to comprehend better. I hated NR’s humor in those days, since it so ran against my sympathies, but I liked the fact that it was there, and appreciated the cartoons, light verse, and short witty commentaries (when not too forced, as some were). I especially admired the respect for the long intellectual traditions of the West, and for the riches of pre-modern thinking on the most important things. Over time, the programs of the Left that I supported one by one failed, and I slowly concluded that the ideas of the Left were fundamentally faulty. I had to re think my political and economic starting places. In this, my sympathies lay more with the neoconservatives than with those who had been conservative for a much longer time. (Conservatives seem to come in vintages, or waves). The natural progress of the experienced mind seems to be from Left to Right. In any case, I slowly found the company of NR, and especially the brasher NRO, more home-like. There is something about the younger crowd that is very attractive–partly a touch of neo-, partly the ease and assuredness of the lifelong conservatives, a love of tradition and the tacit. And minds that are oh so active. Thanks to all!
– Michael Novak is the winner of the 1994 Templeton Prize for progress in religion and the George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute.
When I think of National Review, I think of trenchant, hilarious, and satisfying commentary on politics, culture, religion, and world affairs. I think of the gifts of its founder, William F. Buckley Jr., and its most famous subscriber, the late Ronald Wilson Reagan. I think of the joy of retrieving from my mailbox and then devouring each issue, which I have experienced for twenty five years, and I am grateful that National Review was affecting the world and especially the United States for twenty five years before I cracked open an issue. I think of the more recent joy of visiting National Review Online every single day. I am excited to think that National Review will be around for a long time to continue and expand its mission. Congratulations on 50 years. Cheers.
–William H. Pryor is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
Gstaad, Switzerland, the winter of 1988. In need of someone to help research and edit a book, William F. Buckley Jr. had arranged for me to take a two-month leave of absence from my job as a White House speechwriter. He and I worked in the enormous cellar of the Chateau de Rougemont, a medieval monastery that a century earlier had been converted into a vast residence, WFB at a desk at one end of the room, I at a table at the other. (Although the cellar was a bare, simple room, the rooms above proved magnificent–high-ceilinged and wood-paneled, hung with superb paintings, and graced with magnificent views of the Alps. Not that the Chateau, which the Buckleys rented each year, met the exacting standards of Mrs. Buckley even so. When Pat arrived from New York, she strode into the study, and, unaware of my presence, threw her fur onto the sofa, performed a slow turn, and said, “This heap.”)
WFB’s routine proved invariable. At his desk by 7.30 each morning, he would work until noon, pausing only to change LPs on the record player–classical music only–and take telephone calls. (Contesting the New Hampshire primary, both Jack Kemp and Bob Dole called for advice.) At noon WFB would break for lunch, inviting me to join him either in the dining room upstairs, where guests regularly included Taki, John Kenneth Galbraith, and Roger Moore, or in a nearby restaurant, where we would often meet James Clavell. After lunch, skiing–but never for more than 90 minutes. Once, halfway down Videmanette, WFB stopped, then waved me to his side. “Peter,” he said, “in more than four decades of skiing in these mountains, I have never seen more utterly perfect conditions.” For once, I supposed, he would wave the time limit. Instead, he peeled back his glove, glanced at his watch, an announced that it was time to quit skiing and get back to work.
After skiing, WFB would spend another three hours at his desk, intently writing and editing until 6:00. At that hour, a servant would appear to serve us each a kir and a cigar. (In self-defense, I soon arranged for my drink to consist of flat soda water and just enough crème de cassis to look like a kir.) Half an hour later, dinner. If dinner was served in the Chateau, then WFB, Pat, and I would greet guests for a drink in the study, process into the dining room for dinner proper, and then adjourn to the sitting room for nightcaps. When WFB decided the evening had run its course, he would seat himself at the piano to play “Good Night, Ladies,” a gesture that had become so famous in Gstaad that his guests–including, one evening, Princess Benedikte of Denmark and her husband, Prince Richard of Wittgenstein–always gracefully took the hint to depart.
Often, however, we would go out, visiting the chalet of Roger Moore, perhaps, or stopping at the Palace Hotel. (At the Palace one evening, WFB seated me across from the designer Valentino, then wandered off, leaving me to attempt conversation about haute couture.) Preparing to go out, WFB and I heard Pat shout down the Chateau’s circular staircase. “Bill, hurry. The Goulandrises have invited the King of Greece, and according to protocol we all have to be there before the King arrives.” WFB smiled. Then, in a voice too low for Pat to overhear, he said, “You’d think poor Constantine had never been deposed.”
After dinner, even dinner with the King of Greece, WFB would repair to the cellar, seat himself at his desk, and return, once again, to work. His only concession to the hour: He would no longer play classical LPs, but jazz. WFB would remain at work until at least 11.00.
WFB and work. I witnessed his wit, his glamour, and his immense talent for friendship. But what impressed me most was the ceaselessness with which he worked. In the two months I spent in Gstaad, WFB composed some 24 newspaper columns; wrote a play based on Stained Glass, one of his Blackford Oakes novels; returned to New York to tape half a dozen episodes of Firing Line; completed the book on which we were collaborating (On the Firing Line would be published the following year); and edited four issues of National Review.
“Bill,” I finally said one day, “you were born wealthy and you’ve been famous for thirty years. Why do you keep working so hard?”
WFB looked at me, surprised. “My father taught me that I owe it to my country,” he replied. “It’s how I pay my debt.”
That is what I think of when I think of National Review. A payment on our debt to America.