EDITOR’S NOTE: This speech was delivered on February 21, 1983, at a National Review dinner at the Madison Hotel in Washington, D.C. For a little context, William F. Buckley had earlier introduced NR’s Washington editor, then John McLaughlin, in Latin.
I feel dutybound to prove that I, too, am a linguist with all of the languages that have been up here. So, in the language of my forefathers, “I’ll have another drink of that fine Irish whiskey.” [Laughter]
You know, there was a lot of talk when I first started to run for office about what was someone that had been in show business in Hollywood doing running for office. Well, you just saw a great example of how it pays off. [Laughter] In Hollywood on the set, the floor is laced with chalk marks so the actors will know where they’re to arrive at and stand and so forth for various scenes. Well, you saw how effectively I’ve managed this up here. [Laughter]
Well, John McLaughlin, I thank you. He’s your NR’s man in Washington. It’s a pleasure to be here and see that you’re looking so well. I can’t tell you how happy I am to find out there really is life after death for former White House speechwriters. [Laughter]
Today we celebrate Washington’s birthday, and I can’t think of a more appropriate occasion to celebrate National Review’s heightened profile in the Nation’s Capital; for if George Washington was the father of his country, NR has been the father of American conservative intellectual movement. And it’s only fitting that at a time when conservative issues and philosophy are finally setting the terms of debate in the halls of government that NR has come to Washington in a big way.
I see a lot of friends in this room tonight, and I hope I’ll have a chance to say a personal hello to many of you before I leave. But before I go any further, I just have to say a few words about three people who are very special to me and to NR.
Ladies first. There’s a person here tonight who is respected and loved by everyone who’s ever had any dealings with National Review. Her official title: managing editor. But I always think of Priscilla Buckley–and this is with all due respect to Marlon Brando–as the godmother of National Review. [Laughter] Priscilla, I hope we can count on you to keep the “East 35th Street irregulars” in fighting trim for many more years to come.
And then there’s an old friend of mine, Bill Rusher. When he’s not toying with the idea of a third party, he’s always been tireless and a very valued support. [Laughter] I think that all of us who follow his column and who remember his many appearances on The Advocates appreciate how much the conservative cause owes to the energetic and articulate champion of the principles that we believe in so deeply. Bill, congratulations on your fine work as a conservative leader and your outstanding service as NR’s publisher.
Finally, I want to say just a word or two about your editor, Bill Buckley. And unlike Bill, I’ll try to keep my words to single syllables, or at the worst, only two. [Laughter] You know, I’ve often thought when I’ve been faced with memorandums from deep in the bowels of the bureaucracy what I wouldn’t give to have Bill as an interpreter. [Laughter]
You know, a fellow comes in, stands in front of your desk, hands you a memorandum, and he stays and waits there while you read it. And so you read: “Action-oriented orchestration, innovation, inputs generated by escalation of meaningful, indigenous decisionmaking dialog, focusing on multilinked problem complexes, can maximize the vital thrust toward nonalienated and viable urban infrastructure.” [Laughter] I take a chance and say, “Let’s try busing.” [Laughter] And if he walks away, I know I guessed right. [Laughter]
But I think you know that National Review is my favorite magazine. I’ve even paid the ultimate compliment of commandeering two of your longtime contributors, Aram Bakshian and Tony Dolan, on our White House staff. NR isn’t a favorite only because it’s fought the good fight so long and so well, although that would be reason enough. It’s my favorite because it’s splendidly written, brilliantly edited, and a pleasure to read. In fact, I honestly believe even if I were to suffer from mental illness or convert to liberalism for some other reason–[laughter]–NR would still be my favorite magazine because of its wit and its charm and intellectual quality of its contents.
There’s a problem, though, Bill, that I think you should know about. It’s all that talk about your being aloof and insensitive and an out-of-touch editor. People are saying that you spend too much time away from New York. They’re also saying you’re being pushed around by your staff. [Laughter] And I understand there’s a new button on the market: “Let Buckley be Buckley.” [Laughter] Some people even question whether you’re going to seek another term. [Laughter]
Now, of course, I don’t believe a word of this myself. But let me give you one piece of friendly advice. Bill, I think it would be a good idea for you to make a definite statement about your intentions sometime before Labor Day. [Laughter]
But, this is a party, not a political rally. And I think I addressed most of the substantive issues on everyone’s mind last Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference. By the way, has anyone seen any of the poll results from this year’s conference?
Let me just close by saying a heartfelt thank you to National Review for all you’ve done for the values we share and for sending reinforcements to Washington at just the right moment. I know that your heightened presence here will be an aid and inspiration to all of us in the movement in the years ahead. And just by being here you help to make the Nation’s Capital a little less of a puzzle palace and a little more like our town.
So, thank you. God bless you all.