I have two sound bites that I want to play for you to show you the so-called civility Mr. Buckley encountered and inspired all the way back to 1968 at the Democrat National Convention. He and Gore Vidal were debating Democrat convention coverage and the Vietnam War. By the way, we’re not going to bleep this bite because if we bleep it you miss the whole point. If you don’t like the Lord’s name taken in vain, if you don’t like slurs used to identify homosexuals, then you will not want to hear this. I want you to turn your radio off. I’ll give you ample warning. The second bite is a seven-minute excerpt of an interview that I did with Mr. Buckley on this program about that very subject: civility/incivility — is it really worse today than it’s been in the past? That interview took place here on July 13th of 2004. But before getting to those two bites, and you have ample time now not to listen to the first one, I have warned you, I have given you ample warning, and if you do not heed my warning, if you think you’re going to be offended by this then don’t listen to it because if you do listen and call somebody and complain, nobody is going to listen to you because you were warned. We’re not going to shock you here. Let me just give you one little excerpt from at Katie Couric’s blog.
It happened yesterday afternoon, some guy named Ward Sloane. Have you ever heard of Ward Sloane? I haven’t, either. ‘In a way, it’s sad that people like Rush Limbaugh… are today’s mouthpieces for conservatism. What a far leap they are from the quick-witted and smart Buckley. I think it’s fair to say that even Buckley’s ideological enemies admired him and respected him. That’s because Buckley was not a hate monger; he was a serious-minded person who made reasoned and rational arguments for his cause. No apologies to Limbaugh… or [his] listeners and adherents — they are no substitute for Buckley’s class and intellectualism.’ Okay, I have a question for you, Mr. Sloane. If Mr. Buckley made reasoned and rational arguments for his cause, and he was very smart, why, Mr. Sloane, are you still a liberal? Why, Mr. Sloane, do you not list some of Mr. Buckley’s better conservative arguments? If he was so brilliant, and if he was so admired and so respected and so quick-witted and so smart, then how come you are still a liberal, and how come you can’t cite the brilliant arguments that Buckley made?
The truth is, all of these people like this clown, Ward Sloane or Richard Corliss, and I’m sure you’ve read similar entries such as this. The truth is that all of these liberals would love it if all conservatives would just shut up. We would be easier to ignore. That’s what they mean when they talk about civilized and mild-mannered. The point is, these people can’t win these debates. They can’t win these arguments, and so they want us to shut up. This is nothing new. They want us to shut up or they will shut us up on their own. We are in a battle in this country. Too many conservatives on our side of the aisle don’t see the battle for what it is. Instead, they seek detente and they seek acceptance from people like Ward Sloane. They want to be reasonable, and they want to be civil, and they want to be mild-mannered because they think that’s what will gain the respect of liberals. But what it gains is liberals claiming victory because they shut ’em up or they have made these conservatives start sounding more and more like liberals. As I say, we have a sound bite excerpt, Mr. Buckley and I discussing this very concept, and it’s about seven minutes long so I’m going to have to get to it after the break that’s coming up.
Another little passage from Mr. Sloane and his Katie Couric blog post: ‘The conservative movement in this country is badly in need of somebody who can make a point without demeaning and demonizing liberals and moderates.’ I think what liberals need is somebody who can just make a point. Instead, they give us feel-good platitudes; they avoid talking specifics; they try to deny that they’re liberals; they mask and camouflage who they are. If they’d quit trying to turn the country into another Cuba, we would stop criticizing them! We are talking here about the traditions and institutions that have made the country great that are under assault by the American left. Why should we sit around and let that happen so that we can be called civil and mild-mannered? By the way, since when did liberals start making points without demeaning and demonizing people? Robert Bork anyone? Do you want me to start listing the names liberal Democrats have sought to destroy, not just defeat? Because we can do it. If you want to start discussing who started all this, I’ll be glad to get into that discussion with you, too.
One more little excerpt: ‘Surely there are better ‘uniters’ than Ann Coulter or Bill O’Reilly. Are there any conservatives who think that the Limbaugh-ization of conservatism may have something to do with its fractiousness? After all, one man’s hate is not necessarily another’s. This is not William F. Buckley’s conservatism.’ William F. Buckley, Mr. Ward Sloane, was accused of being a hatemonger, many times. He was accused of being a Nazi by I’m sure one of your idols, Mr. Sloane, Gore Vidal. I was watching Buckley on Phil Donahue’s show one afternoon, and he was there being who he was, answering questions from Phil about a book that he had written and whatever the current issues of the day were. I think abortion was being discussed. As usual, Donahue ran into the audience with his wireless microphone, a black woman stood up and started pointing her finger at Buckley, ‘You’re a racist pig.’ And he had the most perplexed look on his face. Didn’t know what to do with it, had never been called that. He wasn’t a racist, and here he was dealing with this. He knew exactly what it was to be stereotyped, is my point. To think it didn’t happen to Bill Buckley. To think that liberals have always been sweetness and light ’til we came along? The fact that liberals have not been sweetness and light is why we’re here.
What real conservatives hate, Mr. Sloane, are the dangerous positions that people like you take. Unless liberalism is exposed for what it is by somebody who’s willing to take it on, it will continue to erode this country’s institutions, its economy, its sovereignty, and its morals. It’s that simple. True conservatism cannot tolerate dangerously stupid ideas, whereas liberalism seems to be able to tolerate everything, from terrorism to pushing environmental wacko propaganda on our kids. The only thing you can’t tolerate is conservatives. Conservatives, will be happy to put our arms around a liberal. We will be happy to embrace liberals when they stop trying to implement policies which history has demonstrated do not work.
RUSH: All right, I’m going to give you an example of the ‘civility’ that existed in Bill Buckley’s days, back to 1968. ABC TV. If you are offended by this language, just turn it off. I’ll give you five seconds. If you don’t turn it off, you’re on your own. Five…four…three…two…one. It’s Bill Buckley and Gore Vidal.
VIDAL: You must realize what some of the political issues are here, that many —
BUCKLEY: You’re so naive.
VIDAL: — people in the United States, uh, happen to believe that United States policy is wrong in Vietnam and the Viet Cong are correct in wanting to organize their country in their own way politically. This happens to be pretty much the opinion of Western Europe, and the other parts of the world. If it is a novelty in Chicago, that is too bad, but I assume that the point of American democracy —
BUCKLEY: And some people were pro-Nazi, too.
VIDAL: — is you can express any point of view you want.
BUCKLEY: Some people were pro-Nazi.
VIDAL: Shut up a minute.
BUCKLEY: No, I won’t. Some people were pro-Nazi, and the answer is that they were well treated by people who ostracized them, and I’m for ostracizing people who egg on other people to shoot American Marines and American soldiers. I know you don’t care because you don’t –.
VIDAL: As far as I’m concerned, the only crypto-Nazi I can think of is yourself. Failing that —
MODERATOR: Let’s not call names.
BUCKLEY: Now, listen you queer. Stop calling me a crypto-Nazi —
MODERATOR: Let’s stop calling names.
BUCKLEY: — or I’ll sock you in your goddamn face and you’ll stay plastered.
MODERATOR: Gentlemen, let’s —
BUCKLEY: He can go back to his pornography and stop making any allusions of Nazism to someone who was infantry in the last war.
RUSH: All right, so there you have Gore Vidal calling Mr. Buckley a crypto-Nazi and Buckley responding by calling him the Q-word and then using the G-D word, and ‘plaster your face.’ So there’s an example of the civility the liberals miss. Now here’s Mr. Buckley and I discussing this and other things from July 13th, 2004.
[begin clip Rush archive clip from July 13, 2004]
RUSH: Well, you know, Bill, you are a true renaissance man. You’re in the clouds above so many other people, and it’s a real treat to bring you to people who… You know, the audience in this program spans the demographic spectrum, many young people — for example, who have not read God & Man at Yale which was one of the things that established you and put you on the map, and so let me ask you about that. What…? For people who have not read the book but maybe have heard about it, why did you write it? What was the point? What’s its staying power?
MR. BUCKLEY: Well, what happened there was that as a student at Yale in my junior and senior year, certain paradoxes sort of crystallized. One of them had to do with Christianity. Although Yale was at least ostensibly a Christian-oriented college having been founded as such 200 years earlier, there was a kind of nagging inattention and sometimes hostility to religion in the classrooms, and then it was — I’m talking about 1945, ’46, ’47, ’48. There was a great infatuation with postwar socialism, so that the socialist government in Great Britain was spoken about here and there as sort of a high point of political sophistication. So when I pulled out, I thought that these paradoxes should be examined in the framework of a book that said, ‘What is a college supposed to do by way of furthering missions?’ and who is entitled to vote on what should be in that mission, my point being that the alumni who sustain a college should have a significant voice in it. What really was extraordinary, Rush, was the reception to that book. It was just simply feverish. I quote some excerpts from it, very respectable people, in the book, people who spoke (scoffing chuckle) as though I was going to appear the next day as the head of the Ku Klux Klan. It is, in retrospect, amusing, but 50 years ago it was kind of off-putting to think that anybody would interpret a reasonable book making this point as an invitation to totalitarian intervention in the college.
RUSH: Yeah, it doesn’t sound like things have changed too much (laughing) in terms of reaction to conservative thought, and if that was the reaction back in 1945, what is, how — you’ve gone through the whole period since, that book and then National Review. You have gone through these years as arguably the leader and the go-to guy for the definitions, the explanations of modern conservatism. How have you been reacted to over the years, and did any of it surprise you?
MR. BUCKLEY: Well, what happened when we started National Review was that we acknowledged that it was necessary to excrete the kooks ’cause here were anti-Semites in the conservative movement, and there were — well, there were people whose sense of balance was in disorder.
RUSH: I think you cited the John Birch Society.
MR. BUCKLEY: Yeah, for five years there was the John Birch Society. So we had to — gently but very firmly — say to these people, ‘Look, we consider the movement as very wide and as capable of many, many voices, many, many interpretations, but in the course of progressing, one has to engage in exclusion. If you believe a set of things today, that set of things is arrived at by rejecting certain other things,’ and that included, in our century, a rejection of the kind of racial animosity that culminated in Germany and what you and I both know and weep over. So that figured — and you asked about the reaction to my own row. It was sometimes pretty feverish, pretty unfriendly. It would have been unthinkable back then to have somebody of your stature say, you know, pleasant things about my work. That has changed. By no means totally, but it has changed… (chuckle) It has changed in a direction you would approve. What are you going to do when somebody like Ronald Reagan, who was an early enthusiast for National Review, is elected president of the United States? You can’t rule him out as a right-wing fanatic — not that some people didn’t try. (chuckle)
RUSH: Oh, they still do. Well, but, Bill, you know, as I study things today, you are now treated and received — and properly so — with great affection and great respect, and there are some who say that, ‘Oh, we wish for the old days of Buckley conservatism when it was urbane and erudite and polite.’ They say that the modern era of conservatism has descended into harshness and other things.
MR. BUCKLEY: Well, that’s a weapon. People use that when they want to be anti-Limbaugh. They will say, ‘Well, Limbaugh belongs in that school of polemical thought which really should be excluded.’ They do that to Bill O’Reilly and, of course, they’ve done it to me in the past. I’m not saying that that criticism cannot be leveled. Sometimes it can be leveled, but to level it with the license that they use against you and O’Reilly, speaks to me of a different motivation. They want to argue with you by simply outlawing your voice on the grounds that it is eccentric and extreme. It is, as I say, simply a polemical device.
RUSH: Rather than debating the issues, disqualify and discredit the voice, then, is the technique?
MR. BUCKLEY: I think that’s true.
RUSH: That’s Bill Buckley from July 13th of 2004 discussing the very thing that today’s left is writing about. ‘Oh, so civil, Mr. Buckley was.’ He was as attacked in his day as we are today. If there’s any hatemongering going on in our country today, it is spawned on the left.