In a moving description on The American Conservative website of the influence exercised on his young life by WFB, Michael Warren Davis points out the strengths and weaknesses of someone whom he once idolized. Although Davis in retrospect does not consider Buckley to have been more than a “middling journalist,” as a young man he was carried away by his wit and style. Davis watched and enjoyed Firing Line and eagerly read National Review, the venue in which the words of Buckley and Russell Kirk were featured. His commentary is a poignant lament for a Right that was shaped by Buckley and his circle; and I resonated to this stroll down memory lane. But unlike Davis, I continue to think that Buckley wrote with grace as well as remarkable facility, and even now I stand in awe of the elegantly constructed prose produced by him and his friend Russell Kirk. (The cluttered prose of Frank Meyer and other contributors to the old NR is of course another matter.
Having said that, I would note that Davis leaves us with two short paragraphs that cry for commentaries:
“Originally, National Review’s contributors were united only by their opposition to communism, progressivism, and everything to the left of William F. Buckley. Which is all fine. Then in the 1960s, the John Birch Society accused President Dwight D. Eisenhower of being a communist himself. Buckley declared the Birchers anathema, and National Review was now united by its opposition to everyone on WFB’s right as well.
Revisions and Dissents…
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That’s all fine, too, as far as I’m [Warren Davis is] concerned. Buckley proved himself a capable gatekeeper for respectable right-of-center…