NR Digital

Genius for Friendship

by John Avlon

Someone should tell the story of this odd couple, because many today would find it hard to believe. Politics often feels like an ideological blood-sport, with pundits mercilessly bludgeoning one another to entertain the agitated masses. But while the godfather of the modern conservative movement, William F. Buckley Jr., was a happy warrior in the world of intellectual combat, he was also blessed with a genius for friendship — and he counted a handful of committed liberals as close friends: John Kenneth Galbraith, Allard Lowenstein, and, perhaps most notably, Murray Kempton.

Kempton was, in Buckley’s words, a “socialist — a sworn enemy of all anti-Communist legislation, sworn friend of militant unionism.” He was also, according to Buckley, “the finest writer in the newspaper profession,” with characteristic “wit and irony and a compassion which is sometimes unruly.” More to the point, he was “a great artist and a great friend.”