I saw Buckley speak once, when I was in college. I remember very little about the context– not even what year it was– but he came to campus at the invitation of the college Republicans (one of whom was a good friend of mine), and gave a short talk to a packed house, then spent a long time doing Q&A. The talk was mostly just him throwin ideas out, and the only specific thing I recall was his suggestion that we ought to legalize the sale of all druge– alcohol, pot, heroin, whatever– to people over 18, and institute the death penalty for anyone providing drugs to anyone under eighteen.
I’m not entirely sure whether that was a sincere belief, or just something he said because it would reduce all the students in the audience– liberals and conservatives alike– to spluttering incoherence (which, admittedly, is a little like shooting fish in the proverbial barrel). It’s hard not to feel some grudging admiration for the sheer gall required to stand up in front of a crowd and say something that far out there (though he had been doing that sort of thing for forty years by that time, so it’s not like anyone was going to seriously fluster him). It’s just a pity that he put that talent in service of such loathsome ends– as Patrick said, “Racism and power-worship–and, from first to last, uncompromising defense of the idea that society should be structured into orders and classes.”
What’s really sad, though, is that Buckley looks fantastic compared to the rabid weasels who have taken over the American conservative movement. Hs goals were appalling, but he at least pursued them with a modicum of dignity and a peculiar sort of honor.