Ladies and gentlemen. I join with you all on this day, so unhappy in the sense that we are losing a beloved professional colleague, so happy in the sense that we have an opportunity to express our gratitude to him.
Clif White and Jack Casey and Tom Farmer have known him much longer than I have, although I dare say not so intimately. To know anyone intimately it requires that he have the authority to question your disposition to spend money. In this respect I am certain you will all be glad to know that the guest of honor is the quintessential Republican; at least, that could have been said of him before we reached the era of high-deficit Republicanism. I don’t mean to say that he is tiresome about it, merely that he is thorough. And unrelenting. Even on Sundays. I remember the legend of Congressman Robert Rich of Pennsylvania, who was elected to the House of Representatives in 1930, and served there approximately twenty years. During the first 19 of those years he uttered only a single declamation — the same declamation — on a dozen or more occasions, each year. The debate on a spending measure would take place and, after it became obvious that it would be approved, Congressman Rich would raise his hand and, recognized, would say, “Where are we going to get the money, gentlemen?” And sit down. It is recorded that in his declining years, following a debate that had gone on for three weeks and had kept his colleagues at their desks night after night, the moment finally came for a vote on the controversial measure, at which point, nearing midnight, Congressman Rich raised his hand. The entire chamber groaned. But under the rules the Speaker was powerless, and, grumpily, he recognized the member from Pennsylvania, who, struggling against his great age, rose to his feet, looked around at his colleagues, and said, “April Fool!”
Bill Rusher is not that versatile. But as publisher of a journal that, unless Wick Allison performs miracles, holds out great promise of being the longest, most consistent money-loser in American publishing history, he is at once badly cast, and well cast. Badly cast in that it strikes anyone who for thirty years has viewed him coming jauntily to his office every morning not sooner than three minutes to ten, not later than two minutes to ten, that he could not be other than the president or vice president of a prosperous house of usury; well cast in that his serene and self-confident mien easily belies the probability that the first person he will encounter on entering his office is an irate creditor; the second, his secretary giving notice.
Our guest of honor is a man of most meticulous habits, and it is a miracle, of the kind that Providence less and less frequently vouchsafes us, that he should have endured for so long the disorderly habits of his colleagues. When so many years ago, in 1957, I asked him timidly whether he would consent to accept the responsibilities of publisher, he reached instinctively into his pocket and pulled out his notebook, presumably to see whether his notebook had any objections. Having passed that hurdle, National Review was subjected to a methodical probing over a period of three or four weeks. A few very close friends were directly consulted, among them our toastmaster, Clif White, and in due course the decision was reached. Our old friend Providence cooperated with us in keeping him away from the offices of National Review which, had he examined them, he would no doubt have returned without faltering to the relative tranquility of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. But be was trapped; and began to impose order on our affairs.
To this end be began his famous graphs. We have graphs, at National Review, charting every quiver in the organization’s metabolism. We have graphs that show us how we are doing in circulation, in promotion expenses, in political influence. We have graphs that chart the fidelity to conservative principles of most major, and all minor, public figures in America. We have a graph that will tell you at a glance whether Lauren Bacall is more or less conservative than Humphrey Bogart. Our late friend and colleague, Professor Willmoore Kendall, once dumbfounded Bill Rusher by telling him — and Bill enjoys hearing this one again about as much as I enjoy hearing that I once said that if elected I would demand a recount — Kendall said: “Bill, there is no proposition so simple that it cannot be rendered unintelligible to me by putting it on a graph.” But the graphs go on: and, for those who have the stomach for it, they will give you a synoptic understanding of the financial record of National Review over the last 31 years.