Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Comment: William F. Buckley, Jr. (1925-2008)

I want to extend my sympathy to family and friends of William F. Buckley, Jr., who passed away this morning. I also want to extend the same to the fine folks over at National Review, who were very generous to me in the past year by providing a platform for my research and insights on the pardon power.

I first started reading Mr. Buckley's editorials in middle school and was a full-fledged addict by the time high school came around. Granted, I did not understand a fair amount of what I was reading. What really caught my attention, and sparked the interest in politics which led me all the way to a Ph.D., was Buckley's debate show Firing Line. To this day, I insist that those programs were the very height of television broadcasting. When Buckley and Ira Glasser (ACLU) went at each other, you always knew you were going to see something special. I continue to buy recordings of Firing Line debates as I can afford them - order here. My sister and I had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Buckley speak in Pensacola, Florida, on "The Hyperbolic Imperative in American Politics." He wittily asked, "If these people are not making a 'living wage,' then why aren't they all dead?" After the speech, I approached him for an autograph. With 500-600 people in the room, he would have been well justified to say "no." But he gave it to me anyway. To this day I look forward to seeing National Review in my mailbox. Buckley was a priceless treasure to both the conservative movement and the Nation.

This past year, I communicated with David Frum and Jean Lopez at National Review Online concerning what I saw as a lack of proper focus in the national media on the President's options regarding Scooter Libby. As I saw it, there were numerous ways that Bush could utilize the pardon power to keep Libby out of prison short of granting a full, unconditional pardon. NR Online allowed me to write a piece on one of them (the respite), then placed individuals on various television programs (Hardball, the Situation Room and Meet the Press) who spread the news - albeit in the face of resistant hosts who were much more attracted to the fabricated drama of a pardon / no pardon scenario.

Of course, the President utilized the pardon power to keep Libby out of prison, but it was not the particular option which I had focused on. Incidentally, to this day, I insist that the President should have done things my way. But that is another story. As if the first appearance were not enough glory for one career, NR Online let me to write a second piece, which allowed me to place the Libby commutation in historical context. It was such a pleasure to show off years and years of research in such a fun, respected, widely-read forum. I will be forever grateful.

So, rest in peace William F. Buckley, Jr. and thank you for all that you shared with us. Thank you National Review for carrying on his work. It is a sad day for us all, but also a day to be thankful that we saw him, listened to him, read his words and enjoyed his intelligence and wit. We are all so very fortunate to have had these opportunities.

P.S. Ruckman, Jr.

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