tv A Torch Kept Lit CSPAN November 13, 2016 6:00pm-7:02pm EST
[inaudible conversations] good morning. we've proven once again if you want a nice crowd, serve some food. but we do have a great crowd. thank you everyone for coming. on behalf of the national review institute, its president and my fellow trustees including here and now, rich lowry. i would like to welcome you to this special conversation about an important book, an important new book "a torch kept lit great
lives of the 20th century." my name is jack fowler, and i'm the publisher of national review -- [applause] we will applaud at the national review. the institute i institute is our organization. a nonprofit educational founded 25 years ago by william f. buckley junior. [applause] its mission is to advance the conservative principles bill championed, complements the mission of the magazine, support the national review's best talent and preserve and promote the legacy. indeed the institute has launched its project and there was literature here explaining his plans envision. in this last year the institute
for this project has celebrated the anniversaries of two important and lasting aspects of the legacy. the 1915 may or run but captured this now republished campaign when memoir and the 1966 launch of the marvelous program firing line. at the legacy is why we are here today to discuss the writer and specifically the observer of men and women, public and private, giants and small fries. before i introduce the participants, a related anecdote, over 20 years ago, my predecessor who is here today and to whom the national review does soma shoul -- does so much.
[applause] that will be ten bucks, 20. [laughter] had a terrific idea. let's publish a collection of the ovitz. we collected them all, consulted priscilla, his beloved sister, who agreed terrific idea. already, we approached bill. he couldn't say no fast enough. for a long time after, ed and i remained perplexed. the idea was a surefire success. why? because we believed then as we believe now and as we see now through this marvelous book james rosen has edited, that among his many talents, this one, where he'd remembered the recent prosperity with deep insight and elegant prose would
be embraced not only by the national review readers but the public at large. bill was no dope. he knew what he knew. so eventually he was hoarding his eyepiece for his own collections and indeed he did sprinkle some in selling books including near her my god, miles gone by and buckley the right word. but there are so many of these that the thought of a necessary collection remained valid over the years. along comes 2014, and along comes rosen. then i would like to do a collection of bills eulogies, remembrances, obituaries and are eyepiece. what do you think him it was
like asking me if i wanted a bag of peanut m&ms. of course i said. he oversees all things literary. the good people also agreed, and here now we have a wonderful book. it still looms very large. the song asks where have you gone and likewise, the conservative america asks the same amount. there is a longing. coming up next is a conversation
about bill buckley a man of prose and who wrote history person by person for his particular talent. it is not a conversation about politics or the game up if he werof if hewere alive today whae say about blank. he is my friend and colleague. he's the executive editor of the national review and policy fellow of the national review institute. he is the co-author of brand-new party how conservatives can win the working class and save the
american dream and he has a book coming out in early 2017 on immigration. i look forward to the conversation about that but another year. another good and we are pleased to have with us as christopher buckley. his ensuing and encouragemen ena torch kept lit is so genuine and deeply appreciated. the only son of bill and pat buckley christopher was educated at portsmouth abbey and graduated from yale. he's the formehe is the former r of "esquire" magazine and was the founding editor of forbes fyi. he knows a thing or two about books have been written 16 or so. many of them exceptional satire. i must really encourage you to read his most recent it is a
marvelous novel that centers on a scam and a shroud. if you laugh, you may need to go to confession. [laughter] and a personal aside, i went to bed alone last night because my wife was up until the wee hours reading and laughing at a 22-year-old christopher buckley novel little green men. thanks. [laughter] it was cheap speechwriters of the vice president of the united states george h. w. bush and has received the washington irving prize for literary excellence and the prize for american humor. last but not least a man who inspired this book and who is as an egg contributor to it as was bill buckley and that is james rosen. the correspondent for fox news,
james has covered the white house and state department and reported from capitol hill, the pentagon got the supreme court nearly all 57 states, i'm sorry, 50 [laughter] and 40 foreign countries across five continents. the articles and essays have appeared in "the new york times," wall street journal, the "washington post," harpers and the nationaharper's andthe nati. this is not his first book. he's the author of the strong man, mitchell and the secrets of watergate and also cheney, one-on-one. friends of bill and not only the 12 stethat .-full-stop kind shod note that this man is a walking, talking buckley legacy project. his knowledge about bill and his belief in the lasting importance and relevance and how we need to
realize that immense power for good resides in the buckley legacy second to none. it's been a delight to work with him and i congratulate james not only for the excellent book that he assembled but also for his own smart prose providing the context in which all of the collected remembrances are set and on that note, ladies and gentlemen, reihan salam. [applause] >> thanks very much for the very kind introduction and thanks also to the national review institute colleagues for helping us put together this event. i'm enormously honored to be here with the distinguished honors and writers and thinkers in america today. you look like uk but it's true. james, i wanted to ask you what
on earth lead a perfectly healthy sane person to become so obsessed with bill buckley, first, and second to this project in particular. >> thanks to everyone for coming this morning and to all of my friends at national review and the national review institute for hosting this event i have to tell you i feel like zoellick being appear at all and to have my name on the same jacket as bill buckley is kind of surreal to me. it's not just false humility, it's humility within * perhaps. [laughter] said, i learned about bill buckley the first time on the tonight show seeing him with johnny carson. here was this guy if it had a strange accent that was good-looking and kind of seemed to be treating johnny as an equal as opposed to most people on the tonight show. i remember on that occasion i tried to find a date of the tape
i think it was around 85 johnny said to him why is it when you come to this tha the sad i feelm on the principle vault and i thought i want to be like that guy. my wife who is here today. she has seen that i have many obsessions and ibm intends about them. in the case of bill buckley, i know so many people from fred barnes and other people who've d the same thing i want to be like that guy and in any case this began a few years ago i was writing for the national review about richard nixon trying to find a particular piece that he'd done called is next in one onixon one ofus.
i remembered the headline however in the misapprehension that it had appeared in a review i finally consulted a book called william f. buckley junior a bibliography that was published in 2002 when bill was alive and it's just an annotated collection of the listing of all of his work. we learned that they had been in the magazine and the editor said someday someone should do a volume of the eulogies because there's elegance and often overshadowing works. and i thought why not me and i'm just grateful to be associated with it. >> i'm going to jump in. i was asked to give a blurb for this book. that's a risk at the height of vanity to quote one's own blurb. [laughter] it is so good i can't resist. [laughter] william f. buckley junior was a master of many things.
this collection of obituaries and eulogies that he wrote over the course of his extraordinary career admirably curated and eloquently introduced by james rosen may well establish the modern master of the literary forum. i've read every one of my fathers 60 odd books. i do not exaggerate because the disthis may prove to be william. buckley's finest book ever. and i mean that. [applause] i had read a lot of these i suppose as they came out.
i was never failed to be moved. what an eloquent sentence that was. but it wasn't until i saw them all that it came to me i think this is the most beautiful writing. you called from about 250 eulogies and obituaries published in the national review and in a syndicated column, but also elsewhere including forbes fyi. >> and some delivered as actual eulogies. >> and i think you ended up with 52. on the subway down here this morning, unlike my father, i rode the subway. [laughter] i mentioned before the subway to him and he said what would that be. [laughter]
on the way down in the subway, i get a count of 52 in the table of contents and put a check next to each person that he knew personally and it came out of 33 out of 52. 52. and these were pretty big people. including pat buckley. [laughter] she knew pat buckley in the biblical sense as well. i guess i improve. [laughter] we have with us the wife of one of the people, his best friend. [applause]
it's an extraordinary collecti collection, and it's often a very good start not only because it is such a good book and by the way, your introductions to each one of the 52 pieces are many masterpieces. >> that's very kind of you. you may know him mostly as a fox news tv guy. but let me tell you this son of a gun can write. speak to [laughter] so in part because of james being a very household name out there in tv land, the book is off to a brilliant start. bill o'reilly gave it a nice
plug a couple days ago and i did something i don' don't have a li went to amazon to check the sales rank. [laughter] i thought it was legitimate to check someone else. and it was number two. [laughter] [applause] it became a tad aloof and he said i really don't spend a lot of time looking at my amazon sales rating. tonight with meghan kelly he said to me i checked, it's number one. good for you. [applause] i wonder, chris mentioned a moment ago you called these up from a very rich source material. there's many more things you might have published. tell us about how you discipline yourself and make your selection.
>> we found about 200 eulogies and ran her we rescued a few of those people and cast it into a diaspora there is eulogies for his mother and father and wife and brother in law. there is a section i would like to say the torch kept list is the only place in the world you will find built-in treatment rubbing elbows with jerry garc
garcia. [laughter] that is in the arts and letters section and this speaks to the intellectual interest and curiosity. he wrote an entire novel about elvis pressley's greatest career and there's a section for friends. one of the things in this book is recurring friendship. i think he would have been in rare moment. [laughter] >> there is only one expert on the stage, bill buckley but
everyone i've spoken to has attested bill buckley has a genius for friendship. in some cases over 60 years time the last eulogies that he wrote was for galbraith and they died within a short time of each other. he did say that giving would deepen one's friendship and there is a section i have to confess this is my favorite section because these are eulogies and obituaries for people who have done a battle over the course of his career, people like alger hiss and john lindsay and you can see there is a spectrum of awfulness.
the fun in this chapter is watching bills struggled to find something kind to say about these people. one last word about this earpiece is often written in situations where the writer himself because he knew 33 of the 52 people was himself often wracked with guilt. he was himself mourning these people in some cases and he put together such a brilliant lyrical prose about these people who he personally knew when he was himself suffering at their loss. he was a man of faith as we all know and that was the eulogies that i believe is technically not a part of the catholic mass.
he venerated something caught the patrimony and they believed an objective truths and one of them is through god endorsed and i think that infused the writings as well. >> i had a question for you as a writer and this is for both of you to hear your perspective. bill buckley was america's most celebrated public intellectual and was also a writer of independent mind and architect of a political movement. one might be political i in how they are describing other figures and how it navigates the larger landscape. do you feel as though he pulled his punches in deference to the leader of the movement, again just curious to hear your
thoughts. >> i was sort of sorry i would like to have read that. >> i don't think so. here is one of the remarkable things you won't know about the history with barb at all and some have seen the documentaries which precipitated lawsuits and all sorts of things. he'd let go of gorbachev. the only time he was mentioned at the table was in the context of his delight that gore got all
had rendered. remember he was giving to the american academy of arts and letters and his reply to them was thanks, i already have diana's car. [laughter] this is about the wittiest thing that he'd ever heard. now i have not personally seen the documentary but apparently, he was obsessed and it came up all the time. when he had friends over for dinner afterwards they would scream the famous debate in 1968. they used a clip from the movie sunset blvd. where they were sitting there watching her old
movies. one mentioned against another. but to the point about the genius friendship as you pointed out in your brilliant introduction, you can see them struggling to find something nice to say. this came from his deep sense of christianity. >> if i can jump onto the plaintiff whether he threw punches, these remembrances are not strictly celebratory. even in the case of the lionized figures and people who are iconic and the conservative further meant. so for example, the eulogy for winston churchill who buckley had gone to see speak personally
in 1949 is not for winston churchill. he celebrates the accomplishments up to and including the victory in world war ii but then faults churchill for continuing to stay in office when he didn't have the stamina to prosecute the cold war properly with the result of one third of the world's people behind the times. similarly for martin luther king who in today's landscape, we conceive of when bill buckley wrote his remembrance in 1968 in the assassination buckley wrote a column that was tough on martin luther king and celebratory of the accomplishments and civi civil s abut at the same time, condemned the statements he made about america at the height of the vietnam war and that he thought
were utterly inappropriate. so he didn't always pull the punches even when he was discussing people that were lionized on the right and that speaks to the intellectual integrity. >> was there just th a sense tht some figures have become to big and was it purely the sense that i must get this record right. >> the theme in the book is under the general rubric of the gift for friendship was the relationship with arguably the leading intellectual of our time, john kenneth galbraith. this was a friendship that dated to 1966 and john kenneth galbraith met him and elevator
at the plaza hotel to the famous black-and-white ball. the party of the century as was pointed out in the brilliant introduction. >> if you read this for one reason, read it for the introduction. >> you've gone too far. [laughter] i don't think they would have agreed on the time of day but this became one of the deepest friendships he was in his 90s and had been bedridden for yea years. at a certain point he was no
that ran after the resignation this is what columnists did when they went on vacation and on the subject of peanut butter. he said after one of the most important events in american political history that you chose tbut you choseto write your colt peanut butter. [laughter] he would say you don't understand. when i relax, i write columns about peanut butter. when you relax you write economic textbooks. [laughter] your brilliant introduction, you
quoted john kerry on the context of the friendship with john kenneth galbraith. apropos their friendship he said that's what is missing in politics today. >> you mentioned in passing his interests including his interest in pop culture. bill buckley wrote a column in 1964 after the beatles arrived and played the ed sullivan show pronouncing them not just awful but god-awful and saying they were so horribly anti-musical that they would go down in history with respect to that way
they were reported in catholicism. [laughter] that's called one is routinely included. he later committed one of the most spectacular reversals of the career for which probably 99% of the credit is due to christopher in the column in 1968 called how i came to rock and acknowledged that there is an exuberance that is unmatched
and i would love to know how you change the subject of the beatles but in the first column where you pronounce than god-awful he said i liked elvis pressley and later in his career pronounced that he had the most beautiful singing voice of any person on earth. there is an intent to engage in the counterculture and he wanted to know what it was all about in the eulogy for jerry garcia there was a man who begins to call him and here's where i will slip in the impersonation but i doubt not to. if i ever heard a song played by the grateful dead i'm not aware of it. [laughter]
>> sees all the deterioration in this young man not only in his upkeep, but the reliability and so forth and keep on heard of the influence on leading the young people and cruising speed which was an account of one week in his life that is hugely entertaining in 1971. he recounts going with another couple to go see the documentary about the rolling stones and the horrific concert in altamont. one wonders how many would go see a documentary like gimme shelter. he engaged with it over a long period of time and when john lennon was killed in 1980, he began his column about it at whom he'd been critical when lennon was spouting off on this and that and he said imagine if he'd just been shot out what you
have felt. he wrote john glenn and didn't speak to me in a sense. they were weeping in central park holding candles and we must acknowledge the grief is real so there was an interest even if it didn't always speak to him directly. >> ttwo footnotes. in 1964, we were on a commercial flight from copenhagen to gene geneva. we were in the front row and guess who boarded the plane just before takeoff. >> i was 12-years-old, to quote my 28-year-old daughter now, zero my god.
and they were sitting right behind us and they were heavily perfumed. [inaudible] [laughter] you're missing the point. number two, yoko remember at one point the united states was going to expel john lennon, they were going to revoke his green card. he they were going to ask if he would find a letter on john
when lennon was assassinated, i went through an actual depression it was a staggering event and he noticed sitting there at the dinner table he had to write a column that night and came over to my garage apartment and said why don't you write my column. i said i couldn't do that. i'm sorry. in the reasonably priced for it
concludes with a now realized is that he had gravitas and it was greatly esteemed so here you have the education of william f. buckley from 1960 to 1980. in 1970, john lennon gave a massively long interview to rolling stone magazine probably to the point he was at his most bitter and it's a landmark.
he said autobiography is how i wrecked my life and how i can help you with yours. he talks about john lennon and i think that if he had lived much longer he would have looked back on a lot of regret in that interview but in writing about the interview in this column, he used a numbered device, number one and number two" in the various things he said at a certain point, the way that he put it he said something to the effect of john wrote all the good songs but not so for paul then he went on to a number of planes and what strucpoints andt
it is even bill buckley fell prey to the beatlemania in a sense because he was referring to them by their first names away the rest of the world does. but i don't think there's any record of having voted the word gringo. [laughter] now here is the scholarly project. i want to get questions from the audience. before i do, however, might you have any questions for christopher? >> can you tell us again how brilliant i am? [laughter] >> we've only met once before today about ten or 12 years ago and i should point out at no point after providing his us and dissent that the project may go forward did he seek any input or
control over them until the very end and there was one eulogy that we looked at and again for the reasons not included and we did so. but there was no attempted control. there is a lady that has written half a dozen well-regarded biographies and then she wrote her own memoir and it was kind of a lesson to the aspiring biographers. with yoko zero no they seek to control the narrative. the first meeting is a great thrill for me and there were a couple of questions that i have
not shared in advance. first of all, his handwriting was terrible. it was so bad that at yale in the 1940s, he actually sought and was given permission to type his exams. remember the mentioning of which they said yes so they would go to an adjoining classroom while everyone else was growing and laying out his advance. here is another. toward the end, he became very
>> i exchanged e-mails a few timetimes in the beach really w. they looked like something you are supposed to unscramble and they said i just type this way. [laughter] did he ever give you advice about the craft of writing? >> sure. the first bit of advice i was 14 and he said don't ever become a professional writer. it was a saturday, and dinner was over and he was headed back to the study to bang out a 10,000 word article that was due monday.
i did not take that advice. it occurs to me aside from his genius for friendship was his genius for mentoring. i think that it's accurate to say the tw that two great magaze editor mentors of our time were charlie peters of the washington monthly whose list of alumni jon meacham, michael kinsley and william f. buckley if you look at the list of people who started at the national review, david brooks, by the way did you know that david brooks story, he told it in a column after i think it was called remembering
the mentor. in 1983 there was a book called overdrive which was a sequel to one of the best books cruising speed that he published in 1973 which was a week in his very busy life. it was a marvelous way of doing it. he did two memoirs of two weeks of his life. overdrive 1983 wasn't particularly well received. there was a little bit too much about the splendors of his limousine and all the famous people he knew. the brilliant parody was written for the university of chicago
newspaper and it happened that the next week he was speaking at the university of chicago and so he's up there on stage and reads this parody of his book and then looks out and says if david brooks is in the audience, i would like to offer him a job. >> well regarded columnist i have a friend in washington who collects all kinds of memorabilia and then gives them to me. he gave me a beautiful copy of the hardcover edition of one of the books called on the firing line and it's autographed by bill buckley to david brooks. i don't know what the hell that
happened but he's got some explaining to do. one last point i would make on a magazine editor i'm glad to have with us, ed. [inaudible] two quick questions from the audience one of which is a practical question. it is often the case that it is the convention of the writing of obituaries that many would be prewritten that seems rather morbid but it would have to be effective of the business. is that something that bill buckley would do over time? >> yes. the obituary of dwight eisenhower was written as he was dying. dying. there's a few places i should mention. the national review opened up their digital archive so i could research all these pieces. pieces. the hoover institution maintains
the firing line archives in california and i required it could rely on their synopses but also hillsdale college has on its website to complete work of william f. buckley junior. each column and in the form so that you can actually see the manuscript went off to newspapers and there are instructions for the one for eisenhower that says if eisenhower had died in -right-brace and if he has been paragraph three or something where he's speaking in a different sense, and then the great towering literary figure and friend of buckley for 30 years he wrote the eulogy is and one of them.
is there one obituary that they forced to leave out of the book? >> hate is a strong word but there are so many people we had to excise and whom i prepared the introductions like daniel patrick moynihan. clare booth luce and hubert humphrey. you increase the chances of there being a sequel of all of the obituaries and eulogies that wouldn't have room to include.
all up for grabs. come january, you could have a president donald trump, and i think that he carries the senate and if he carries the senate, he also carries the supreme court which is now poised between the republican appointees and democratic appointees and if he wins the presidency and the senate, he fills the vacancy filled by the demise and wins the judiciary and actually it's almost impossible from the political science perspective if he wins the presidency and the senate and doesn't carry the house of representatives with him. another is that hillary clinton becomes president and she is not certain to carry the senate, but likely to would have similar reasons she therefore did the supreme court. i'm not sure where she carries the house of representatives. she would have to win by five or six points for that to happen. and we could talk about why that is so if you're interested, but
it is possible for all four could be democrat controlled and come january or public can control. so that doesn't usually happen. indeed, you have to go back to abraham lincoln in 1864 where all four of branches were up for grabs in play in that way. i will say one or two sentences about why that's so independent legal play a game together. basically the system goes back to 1860 even if lincoln wins, he's never going to control the supreme court because it is dominated by the previous appointees. but 1854 the house is in play, the senate is in play. it matters if you vote for lincoln or mcclellan who ran
against him as a narcissist businessman type and has certain -- piece from new jersey and that matters because everything is in play. but after lincoln wins, i walked over and passed that amazing statute of william tecumseh sherman because he wins at atlanta polls and when he wins, the party keeps winning and eventually they dominate the court and those that win in the ensuing era they have no chance of dominating the court. grover cleveland who doesn't even when consecutive terms, woodrow wilson, no democrat wins the majority until fdr. ..
this is particularly interesting because everything is up for grabs. >> this is book tv on c-span two, television for serious readers. here is our primetime lineup. shortly, three top astrophysicists discussed their book welcome to the universe. on "after words" at 9:00 p.m. eastern, they discuss the impact of immigration on the economy. he is interviewed by edward alden and the council on foreign relations.
then at ten, they provide a history of the gun manufacturer winchester and her family's connection to that company. we wrap up our sunday primetime lineup at 11 with niclas report on the to decline and employment of men. it all happens next on c-span to book tv. first up, here's a look at welcome to the universe. [applause] >> thank you welcome to the t american museum of natural nastory. i am your host for the evening and co-author of this book talk. i serve as the frede t