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.
National Review has never been better. Happy Anniversary!
–William J. Bennett is the host of the nationally syndicated radio show, Bill Bennett’s Morning in America, and the Washington Fellow at the Claremont Institute.
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.
–Richard Brookhiser is a senior editor of NR and the author of Gentleman Revolutionary: Gouverneur Morris, the Rake Who Wrote the Constitution, among other books.
–Ward Connerly is founder and chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute.
–John Cornyn (R., Texas) is an United States senator from Texas and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
–Orrin G. Hatch is a Republican senator to the United States Senate from Utah. Senator Hatch is former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
–Laura Ingraham hosts a nationally syndicated radio show.
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 is editor-in-chief of First Things.
–John J. Miller is national political reporter for National Review and the co-author, most recently, of Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America’s Disastrous Relationship with France.
– 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.
–William H. Pryor is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
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.