The Corner

Pence on WFB

Rep. Mike Pence (R, IN) on the House floor yesterday discussing the Buckley resolution:

I thank the gentleman for yielding and for the privilege of having the opportunity to speak in favor of this important resolution expressing the condolences of the House of Representatives on the death of William F. Buckley, Jr. I also want to thank the Democratic leadership of the Congress for scheduling this bill and giving this Congress and this country an opportunity to express appreciation for an extraordinary American life.

This resolution was introduced by Congressman Tom Feeney. I am proud to be an original cosponsor of the bill. I want to thank Congressman Tom Feeney for his leadership and his compassionate attentiveness in bringing this legislation before the Congress. Congressman Feeney cannot be with us today. He is on a congressional delegation trip to China. But I know that were he here, he would regale this floor and those watching in with his deep affection and appreciation for the life and work of William F. Buckley, Jr.

As this resolution attests, William F. Buckley, Jr., was an American hero and an intellectual leader of the conservative movement for more than five decades. As the previous speaker just alluded, he led in a manner that earned both the respect and the friendship of his political adversaries.

William F. Buckley, from his many years on television, the program, Firing Line, which was the longest running political television program in the history of American television, he demonstrated that wit and sharpness and civility can all go together, and it is a lesson that I suspect many of us on an ongoing basis can continue to learn and apply in the institutions of our government.

By virtue of his distinct personality, his talents, his humor and his goodwill, William F. Buckley has been recognized as the premier conservative intellectual in post-World War II America. He once commented that he would “rather live in a society governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone directory than in one governed by the 2,000 members of the Harvard faculty.’’ It was that kind of rapier wit, beginning with the publication of his book “God and Man at Yale,’’ that ended up resulting in the publication of thousands of books, thousands of columns, and thousands of debates that turned him into a force of nature in the American public debate.

We also recognize him as a man who played a critical role in helping this Nation understand the great calling of his generation, which inasmuch as the calling of the greatest generation, was to confront Nazism and fascism.

William F. Buckley and his intellect and his capacity for elocution managed to help focus the Nation on the threat of Soviet communism and the realities of the Soviet Union, and I believe that history will record that it was William F. Buckley, Jr., perhaps more than any other American, who outside of government influenced the leadership in the 1980s that led to the collapse of Soviet communism and the Soviet Union.

Upon the election of Ronald Reagan, it was reported to me once that William F. Buckley was asked what position he would like to have in the new Reagan Administration, to which he apparently put his hand in his jacket pocket and replied with a twinkle in his eye, “ventriloquist.’’ And in many respects William F. Buckley was a ventriloquist for so many of us in public life, reading his columns, reading his books, having from time to time the privilege of watching him long distance or in person as he made the case for limited government. He made the case for traditional values. He made the case for the American ideal of freedom, here at home and on a global basis. We, all of us, were happy to have that extraordinary intellect and heart filled with goodwill pull the strings on our careers and guide us and direct us.

So, I join my colleagues, and especially Congressman Tom Feeney, in taking this moment to give honor and thanks to William F. Buckley, Jr., for all he did to advance the vision for America and a capitalist democratic vision for the world and to express the profound sorrow this Nation feels upon his death.

The Bible says if you owe debts, pay debts; if honor, then honor; if respect, then respect. Today, thanks to the leadership in the minority and the generosity of the majority, Congress and the American people will have the opportunity once more to pay a debt of gratitude to this great American, who was William F. Buckley, Jr.


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