The Corner

William A. Rusher, RIP

I missed his political glory days: the three years, 1961 to 1964, when he, F. Clifton White, and John Ashbrook did the groundwork for giving the Republican nomination to Barry Goldwater. James Reston of the New York Times said that Nelson Rockefeller had as much chance of losing that nomination as he had of going broke. It was liberal Republicanism that went broke instead — and though Barry was buried, the course of the GOP, and of American politics, was changed. By the mid-Seventies Bill had concluded the Republican party had not changed enough. His hope was that Ronald Reagan might lead a populist third party. Reagan stayed with the Republicans to conquer, the third party shriveled and blew away. (Nota bene: Tea Party.)

He had the loyalty, and the determination, of a pit bull. Taiwan was one of his lifelong causes (forgive me, Bill: the Republic of China). He visited Taipei so many times he could probably have run for office there. On our only trip there, my wife Jeanne and I went through the National Palace Museum, the world-class collection of Chinese art, at his side.

He was a connoisseur of fine food and fine wines. Also of poetry: He had several sonnets of Santayana by heart, as well as a few poems by Swinburne and Housman.

Fundamentally he was a Stoic. He was received by the Rev. George Rutler into a traditionalist Anglican church (Fr. Rutler swam the Tiber, but Bill, as you might expect, stuck with his original bet). But his unchanging view of the world was classical, even austere: appreciative of its goods, but resigned to their limitations, and their transience.

Ave frater, atque vale. 

Historian Richard Brookhiser is a senior editor of National Review and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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