Some of the ‘Best of Bill Buckley’

Michael W. Chapman
By Michael W. Chapman | March 2, 2018 | 4:43 PM EST

William F. Buckley Jr.
(YouTube, Firing Line) 

William F. Buckley Jr., one of the leading conservative lights in modern U.S. history, passed away 10 years ago on Feb. 27. Buckley launched National Review magazine in 1955, which helped to shape the conservative movement and he hosted the program Firing Line from 1966 to 1999.

He wrote 34 non-fiction books, most dealing with conservative ideas and public policy. His syndicated column, launched in 1962, was published in more than 300 newspapers in the United States.  Conservative historian George H. Nash said that Buckley was “arguably the most important public intellectual in the United States in the past half century. For an entire generation, he was the preeminent voice of American conservatism and its first great ecumenical figure.”

In honor of William F. Buckley Jr’s immeasurable contribution to conservatism, and to highlight his biting wit, is proud to present some of his more memorable pronouncements on the American scene.  (All quotes are taken from the booklet, The Best of Bill Buckley, compiled by Rick Brookhiser and David Franke, copyright 1984, National Review.)  

“… the academic community has in it the biggest concentration of alarmists, cranks and extremists this side of the giggle house.” – 1/17/67

“On the advertisement … it says, under ‘Aeroflot Soviet Airlines’: -- ‘World’s Biggest and Busiest Airline. 55-Million Passengers in 1967.’  I thought maybe I had missed a major development and maybe they are flying all their political prisoners to and from Siberia.” – 7/18/68

“The Beatles are not merely awful, I would consider it sacrilegious to say anything less than that they are godawful. They are so unbelievably horrible, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art, that they qualify as crowned heads of anti-music, even as the imposter popes went down in history as ‘anti-popes.’” – 9/8/64

The Beatles. (YouTube, NPR)

“Prudence is, as the catechism teaches, a virtue. It doesn’t happen to be the virtue I am myself best at.” – 11/2/65

“One must bear in mind that the expansion of federal activity is a form of eating for politicians.” – 9/8/64

“’The trouble with socialism,’ a European observer once remarked, ‘is socialism. The trouble with capitalism is capitalists.’” – 7/26/66

“It is, I think, generally conceded at this point that Fidel Castro is not very bright, as so often is the case with fanatics. Most recently, he moved to perfect the Cuban Revolution by putting an end to local ownership of hotdog stands, as defiant of true socialism.” – 10/17/68

“… the United States should filibuster in the United Nations against any discussions of colonialism, until the subject of Soviet colonialism is put on the agenda.” – 2/1/64

President Richard Nixon. 

“I will not cede more power to the state. I will not willingly cede more power to anyone, not to the state, not to General Motors, not to the CIO. … I mean to live my life an obedient man, but obedient to God, subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth. This is a program of sorts, is it not? It is certainly program enough to keep conservatives busy, and liberals at bay. And the nation free.” – Up from Liberalism, p. 229

“College graduates favor Nixon over Humphrey 46-39, which is the best thing anybody has recently remarked about the values of a college education. On the other hand, alumni of graduate schools favor Humphrey over Nixon 41-29, which confirms the worst suspicions we harbor about over-education.” – 7/16/68

“England has become a sort of pleasure spa, undistracted by the major problems of life, contented to ease into a new historical role as a little Sweden.” – 5/17/66

“Professor [John Kenneth] Galbraith is horrified by the number of Americans who have bought cars with tail fins on them, and I am horrified by the number of Americans who take seriously the proposals of Mr. Galbraith.” – Up from Liberalism, p. 207

“In those days American conservatives, dreaming of the glorious possibility of a Goldwater victory, envisioned the scene on the Capitol steps during the Inauguration ceremony. ‘Do you,’ says Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, addressing President-elect Barry Goldwater, ‘solemnly swear to defend the Constitution of the United States?’ Answers President Goldwater: ‘I do. You’re under arrest, Warren.’” – 2/4/69

“[Lillian Hellman] is described in the introduction to her own book as the greatest woman playwright in American history. Now this is probably true. But isn’t that on the order of celebrating the tallest building in Wichita, Kansas?” – 1/21/77

“Socialize the individual’s surplus and you socialize his spirit and creativeness; you cannot paint the Mona Lisa by assigning one dab each to a thousand painters.” – Up from Liberalism, p. 228

Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.).   (YouTube,

“I am obliged to confess that I should sooner live in a society governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the 2,000 faculty members of Harvard University.” – Rumbles, p. 134

“It is widely known that whenever Senator [Lyndon Baines] Johnson feels the urge to act the statesman at the cost of a little political capital, he lies down until he gets over it.” – 6/21/58

Two weeks after LBJ was elected president:   “The editors of National Review regretfully announce that their patience with President Lyndon B. Johnson is exhausted.” – 12/17/63

“But then some go to [Murray] Kempton for thought, which is like heading south when in search of the North Pole.” – 12/17/66

“What Labor has to fear is a courageous Republican voice of great influence, which is to say that it has very little to fear.” – 11/17/66

“Though liberals do a great deal of talking about hearing other points of view, it sometimes shocks them to learn that there are other points of view.” – 1/11/65

On Norman Mailer: “If only he would raise his eyes from the world’s genital glands.” – Rumbles, p. 75

William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal. (YouTube) 

“I resist the word ‘moderate’ because it is a base-stealing word for the benefit of GOP liberals.” – 3/21/67

“And there is a subscriber [to National Review] who canceled his subscription because a recent letter from the Circulation Department was franked with an FDR postage stamp. (And quite right.)” – 10/22/68

“It is a most interesting thing to contemplate the number of people who are coming forward these days to advise Mr. Nixon on how to proceed. They have in common their opposition to Nixon’s policies and their loathing of Nixon personally.” – 12/5/68

“… our fundamental belief [is] that nuclear weapons are, at this point in history, a blessing, not a curse. Without them, as Winston Churchill has pointed out, there would not today be a free man on the continent of Europe.” – 6/18/63

Ronald Reagan is a “man of amiability and discipline, who is simpleminded enough to cherish no other ideals than those of the founding fathers.” – 6/3/80

“Bobby Kennedy and Nelson Rockefeller are having a row, ostensibly over the plight of New York’s mentally retarded, a loose definition of which would include everyone in New York who voted for Bobby Kennedy or Nelson Rockefeller.” – 1/4/66

First lady Eleanor Roosevelt. (CSPAN First Ladies)

“And there followed a crack I confess I have repeated here and there mostly because I thought it funny, still do. ‘Always the seeker after truth, [Gore] Vidal lived for a time in the ruins of a 16th century monastery in Guatemala, where he gathered material for an anti-United Fruit Company novel – positively, as a local wag observed, the only anti-fruit novel Vidal ever wrote.” – Esquire, August 1969

“[F]ollowing Mrs. Roosevelt in search of irrationality was like following a burning fuse of an explosive; one never had to wait very long.” – Up from Liberalism, p. 42

Young Americans for Freedom is a “most enterprising organization, by the way. At the University of Arizona, they countered a public fast waged by the local peaceniks, with an eat-in. I like that.” – 3/30/68

William F. Buckley Jr. and President Ronald Reagan.  (YouTube,


Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman

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