The Corner

National Review Kept Fred Thompson Awake at Night

As National Review celebrates its 60th anniversary, it is gratifying to find evidence of its influence. In the course of doing research for my appreciation of former senator Fred Thompson, who died on Sunday at age 73, I came across this wonderful gem in an article by John Podhoretz of Commentary magazine. In 1994, Podhoretz had been dispatched by Esquire magazine to Nashville to do a profile of Thompson, who was running for the Senate that year to fill the seat vacated by Al Gore when he became vice president. In the course of interviewing Thompson he came across this:

I asked him what it was that had made him a Republican. He said that when he was working at nights behind a motel desk, he needed to stay awake, and he began to read National Review. Eventually that led him to William F. Buckley Jr.’s oeuvre, and to Hayek, and to Whittaker Chambers’s Witness, and to Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences, and to other works that helped him develop a philosophy about the centrality of the individual and the dangers of an overreaching state.

Publishing a magazine feels sometimes like casting a bottle into an ocean. You hope someone will fish it out and read it, and soak up the message. But even if it is, you usually don’t know about it. It’s nice to know that the amiable actor and statesman who was Fred Thompson cut his philosophical teeth on National Review — and that it was interesting enough to keep him awake in those early morning hours.

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