Cruise Journal, Part II

James L. Buckley


In yesterday’s installment, I mentioned Jim Buckley — James L. Buckley. He is a guest speaker on this cruise (National Review’s post-election cruise, a biennial affair). Introducing him to our audience, I recall the night he won election to the Senate, in 1970. He said, “I am the new politics.”

At least, that’s what I say he said. He interjects with a gentle correction: “The voice of the new politics.” Quite right: What Senator-elect Buckley said that night was, “I am the voice of the new politics.”

You know what his brother Bill was heard to say in the audience? “La nouvelle politique, c’est g**damn well moi.”

After serving in the Senate, Jim Buckley worked in the State Department — this was under Reagan. Then he was president of Radio Free Europe. Then he went on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

And he is, of course, a marvelous cruise guest. I tell the audience, and him, that I witnessed something at dinner a few years ago. Maybe more than a few. Anyway, someone asked Priscilla where she stood in the Buckley family of ten children. “I’m three,” she said. “I’m six,” Bill piped up. I got the impression they had been saying these things all of their lives.

I ask Jim, “So, what are you?” “I’m four,” he says. There was a movie last year: I Am Number Four. (My dear cousin Pasquale worked on it.)

On the panel with Jim Buckley are John Yoo and Ed Whelan. John is a law professor at Berkeley. I ask, “Did they know you were a conservative when they hired you? Were you one then?” Yes, he says — he was, and they knew. He is the only conservative on the faculty. All the top law schools, or most of them, have just one, he says. Two would be too much.

I can’t believe this doesn’t make a difference — this lopsidedness on faculties. Why do people tolerate it? Why do parents, students, administrators, society at large? They just do. It’s just normal, I guess.

Sometimes, normal stinks.

People are always yapping about diversity — they mean diversity in skin color and ancestry. They don’t give a rat’s behind about diversity of thought or diversity of opinion, which is just weird, in my opinion.

Ed Whelan is president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and a star contributor to National Review Online — particularly to our Bench Memos blog. I am feeling pretty gloomy about the election. Ed says, in effect, “You can’t out-gloom me.”

May I just say it’s amazing what people are willing to call orange juice? The most foul liquid, without a hint of orange — “orange juice.”

Might as well call a carpet a cactus.

Deroy Murdock puts on a very good show: He gives a talk entitled “How the Music of Memphis and Motown Helped to Bury Jim Crow.” It includes slides and recordings. There is a song I’ve never heard before, or don’t remember hearing: “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” Lovely, semi-haunting thing.

As the cruise continues, I talk to a number of businessmen. I ask them in what ways, specifically, the government is hurting them. They get very specific. I think, “Why in the world does the government want to do this? Don’t they want employment and growth?”

There was a saying in Russia: “If only the czar knew . . .” I think the czar knows (and knew).

I talk to a Hungarian American, born in 1946. So he was ten when the Soviets came in. He says, “We were in the basement, and they were cannoning Budapest for an entire week.” They were turning his city into rubble. They were venting their fury. The Hungarians had had the nerve to rebel.

We talk about what a clever, talented people the Hungarians are. Think of all those musicians, from that one small country! They definitely “punch above their weight.” “It’s a wonder,” says my new friend, “that the Hungarians aren’t able to build a really dynamic economy.”

Yes, that’s a strange thing.