The Legacy of William F. Buckley Jr. ft. Al Felzenberg | The Michael Knowles Show Ep. 114
06:15 "... rather the 1930 Jews were not welcome ..."

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Subscribe to our YT channel and leave a comment below!we're joined today for the full half-hour by Professor Alvin Felsen berg professor felsham burg is the author of a man and his presidents the political Odyssey of William F Buckley Jr we will discuss the founder of the modern conservative movement ten years after his death what WFB might have thought of president cough FA one year in and what the Conservatives after they can learn from our forebears and if professor Phil Sandburg won't talk about all that I will smash him in his damn face and he'll stay plastered then the mailbag I'm Michael che Noel's senior and this is the Michael no show [Music] you know later on we're gonna get Ben in here to play Michael Kinsley and I am gonna see as is true to form for this show I'm gonna see how narrow I can make my references until not a single person is with me anymore well it's just to amuse myself which is really what this show is for anyway we have a wonderful guest today to talk about Bill Buckley ten years after his death but before we talk about that we have to talk about a new sponsor to help keep the lights on in this place and a really cool app at that this is house-call Pro house-call Pro is a really great service if you have a service business so do you have a service business for instance my uncle does hardwood floors for a you know we go they'll buff hardwood floors and work on that and it's a service business and it gets very confusing when you've got to deal with clients and you're you know you're really doing it on your own you've got a mobile office you've got to work on your phone are you still using pen and paper to run your service business are you constantly chasing down payments from your customers or you're probably the ones being chased down for the payments if I know my audience well but have you have you maybe missed out on a job because you were away from your phone in a mobile centric world wouldn't it be amazing to handle all of your 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invoices gives estimates through the app payment processing it's beginning to end you can run your business through house-call Pro if you're ready to get your service business organized and streamlined with your customers go to house-call Pro dot-com slash coffe FA CoV f EF e tell them that the Michael Knowles show sent you and they will waive your $99 activation fee don't say I never did anything for you save a hundred bucks by telling them that the Michael Nolt show since you go to a house-call Pro dot-com slash coffe FA CoV Fe Fe let's get right into it we have a lot to talk about with Professor Felsen berg I'm joined by al Felsen Berg who has worn many hats in his long career in politics al has served as the principal spokesman for the 9/11 Commission director of the communications for the Joint Economic Committee of the US Congress specialist system and advisor to the National Broadcasting Board of Governors consultant to the Secretary of the Navy director of community outreach and public liaison for the office of the secretary in defense department during the George Bush to administration assistant secretary of state of New Jersey under governor Tom keen fellow at the Institute of Politics at John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University as well as teaching positions of UPenn GW and Yale where Al helped to found the William F Buckley program and also was my professor he is the author of several books most recently his biography of William F Buckley Jr which we will be discussing today professor Belson Berg thank you for being here okay Michael it's a pleasure to be with you so to begin let's begin at the very beginning Buckley's siblings burned a cross outside of a Jewish resort in Sharon Connecticut in 1937 little bill then eleven years old quote his own words wept tears of frustration because he was too young to join them Buckley then famously purged the conservative movement that he helped to create of the cooks and the bigots and the racists and the anti-semites around the time he graduated college how did Buckley make that journey in just a little over a decade well this was a very different area and the era rather the 1930 Jews were not welcome and very various communities blacks were not welcome in many communities other groups were not welcome bill said that he didn't think that anti-semitism was a congenital disease but his father did suffer from it and he said as he got older he began to think for himself he got changed many of his views part of it was the army we're on the sheltered wealthy young man from Sharon Connecticut who had private tutors and many servants all the rest had met people different walks of life for the first time bit of a culture shock Jews from Brooklyn and and poles from and Ukrainians from Chicago and African Americans filled hands and all sorts of people that he hadn't been any time with and then of course the experience the Holocaust Eisenhower when troops were released from service at the end of the war insisted on showing footage of the American forces liberating the camps they saw the wreckage that Nazis brought they saw the condition of the some of the survivors who are in who were spared and of course all the deaths didn't cost you started thinking about it and yeah he had a roommate named Ginsburg and you may know the fencing defense club I think it's fine yeah I do yeah in a rather prominent society and Bill was clearly the one they most want he was a ban on campus too as the editor of the chairman of the Yale Daily News the champion of the winning yell debate club and the sense the society really wanted him and then he won Ginsburg's at that time that intake juice y'all had a restrictive quota or the number of Jews would accept a generation earlier had a similar quarter on Catholics and but bill said okay happy to join the club I come with Ginsburg or not at all and of course they both attended we're both through a minute a year later when skullenbones was having its final the competition what have you both men received an invitation skullenbones learned from the fence or the fence group and Ginsburg to my knowledge became the first Jewish member of us gone bone so with the long journey not that many years but it was a great deal of stuff they're cheap of course and now fast forwarding oh I would like to hop back and forth a little bit cuz one thing I love about your book so much is you include a lot of a lot of lines that come out of Buckley's papers Buckley's letters a lot of correspondence that we haven't seen it is no overstatement to say this is by far the most thorough biography of Buckley out there and you should certainly everyone should read it let's tackle the 300 the 239 pounds Carrillo in the room rather when Donald Trump nearly ran for president in 2000 as basically a left-wing candidate pushing late term abortion and gun control among other issues on the reform party line Buckley called him a narcissist and cautioned readers to avoid him 18 years later Heritage Foundation says that Trump is affecting their conservative agenda at a faster rate than even Ronald Reagan a Buckley called for tablet keepers conservative elites to guide American politics to the right and he also said that average Americans are far wiser than their leaders or their intellectuals here's the thing I would rather be governed by the first 2000 people in the Boston telephone directory and by the 2000 people on the faculty of Harvard University professor Pelton Berg was Buckley schizophrenic how do we reconcile these apparent contradictions well quite easily he started out his career I'm very concerned that a liberal elite was taking America down a wrong path and that was a path toward moral equivalency between the United States and Soviet Union he thought the Soviets playing for keeps and he saw all the situational ethics that were creeping into university curricula were weakening our fiber and it is things that we were stressing American greatness and American symbols quite well but he had also written as a young man that it seems not the the evil effects of what we call populism but the effects of the mob the effects of a mob manipulated by a demagogue who didn't seem to have any ideology except crowd-pleasing and rebel rousing he said he had seen this as a boy watching news reel in the Saturday matinees and he had seen the Nervii rallies that he had seen muscley several others and he said there was something about the mob that bothered him the the guttural style of much lenient Hitler and others and the finding of the scapegoat in the finding of the enemies and all of that he shuddered that in his own time he actually called George Wallace governor of Alabama that pointed about segregationist who was saying the student radical sat in front of his card be the NASA last time they'd walk again let's kind of think and attack pointy-headed bureaucrats and all of that he called Wallace a phoney conservative a false populist he said Wallace claimed to be a conservative claimed that to what want Washington interference but he took money from the federal government for roads for hospitals for schools for welfare for everything 60% of the Alabama budget came from Washington Wallace just didn't want blacks to receive any of the benefits and bucks we said he didn't want the program that was full of benefits and entitlements but if when I haven't didn't want any racial test he ended up by saying all right we have to go to the broader mass of the public they are smarter than most of the politicians I think that's still true I think I can prove that pieces I mean I still think that statement can be proved empirically but to guard against the mob and the fears that he had he wanted a conservative elite and you know if you're going to excommunicate people from a church or a movement you need a Curia to do it and he went after many people he went after an ran certainly not because of her libertarianism but he thought she confused libertarianism with libertinism and there are values he also didn't like her atheism and he said she was basically a mirror of Marxism that were they were atheists too and his most famous sight was this john birch society that has peddled conspiracy theories the most famous of course was robert welsh was a leader of the bird society most famous of which was a welsh assertion that the american government was in the hands of moscow and no lesser life and dwight eisenhower president understates was the conscious ation from the international communist conspiracy there was so much for Buckley he said that all movements are defined by their ponents by their weakest link in the chain because that was a pretty weak link he found quite a backlash he lost readers he loved subscribers you lost donors he loved speaking invitations but he toughed it out and he once said that was the proudest achievement of his life his greatest legacy so you need a conservative elite which he called the tablet beeper to decide what was in the realm of responsible conservative opinion that's where he ended up I wonder in that evolution because we know many friends and associates of Buckley you more than I I suspect I've asked some of them their thoughts on Trump on this moment and what they thought Buckley's thoughts would be on Trump run vary population and they seem to split I then asked a friend of ours at the Manhattan Institute and he said he thought that the 27 year old Buckley the polemicist the defender of Joe McCarthy he might have liked Trump and the 60 year olds Buckley the more mellow Buckley the no longer defending Joe McCarthy would almost certainly not have liked Trump how did Buckley's views and attitude not just the racism and the anti-semitism of his family and is used how did his views even on conservatism on the conservative movement in politics change over the course of his five decades in national politics well he changed his views on anti-semitism which we talked about he changed his views and isolationism his parents supported the old America first movement which is what a name of which gives some people every 60 moments to pause these talk about America first that was a movement Charles Lindbergh headed to stop America from helping Britain in its hour of need some of your listeners may have seen the movie darkest hour there's a scene with Franklin Roosevelt says that he couldn't help them because Lindbergh was most popular person in the country and some people thought he'd run for president in cases Muhammad changed his view on segregation he was on both sides a son of very proud southerners several of his grandparents were on the Confederate side and other other barbarous but he came to change that when he saw that the genteel southerners he knew were being replaced by the virulent type the rebel Bader's people like Wallace well I would put it this way McCarthy was a COAS mccarthy one of Buckley's contemporaries said that um McCarthy was doing the right thing in the wrong way hmm Buckley agreed was that his book on McCarthy came out before McCarthy went haywire attack US Army a lot of other thing that's happened but well what you're asking me I'll just confront this right on I mean the man was always a part of me of civility man was always trying to get to the higher plane the man who man who introduced Brideshead Revisited to American audiences on public television would have a lot to say about Donald Trump and you yourself says there is a 300 pound gorilla in the room I won't call him that 239 239 whatever he says anyway Buckley did not stir up the crowd but we did not have too many scapegoats that I remember where she said about the liberals as he stated they were misguided and he wanted to persuade them there's no persuasion going on right now there's a politics on the part of Trump an honest enemy of mobilizing your base base hasn't grown very much we talking about who's going on Rath Rushmore next time who's gonna be the next one candidate Reagan but once again what a dragon say in his inaugural address I'm looking at a giant what a trump say I'm looking at a carnage well Reagan said in his last address to the American people 1992 Republican convention that oh this is painful for some supporters of Trump to acknowledge Reagan said when I'm gone let it be said about me that I feel to your highest hopes like you worst fears that I took us to a higher level took us to a higher place when he died he couldn't find a single Democrat to say anything against him that's the test to greatness well welcome back we do well all of his life he was a free trader that's one opinion he never changed and he'd not be happy about the trade worth being lost right now he never saw a tax cut he opposed so he's not gonna start opposing it because he might have some problems with Donald Trump style he was support that he would he would support conservative judges but above all I mean he would talk about the role of the presidency as a inspiring office of potential to inspire the American people to greatness he talked about that he talked about president juicings like Reese Lavery I'm abolish slavery whether they do sink like unify the nation in the world wars they brought in their bases they appeal to the country's greatest traditions and highest hopes I don't think he would say we have that right now and even more than the policy more than the tax tax more than the judges he said there's nothing more important in our system of government the separation of powers the checks and balances and the fear of an imperial presidency that Congress is supposed to be the preeminent branch James Madison told us and they should come up with a program sent it up there and then negotiate with him the idea that the Speaker of the House and the majority leader of the Senate act half the time like presidential aides would have appalled him they were presidents he adored Ronald Reagan they were presidents he liked George Bush the first he always told them don't ramp things through negotiate with them but act like Congress Congress should be coming up with programs his hero of here Robert Taft and Robert Taft did that coming up with a program sent it to the hill and you send it to the White House rather and let's say the show got started so and I have to say finally looking at the CPAC speech you know Buckley had four bear escaped from County Cork in the 1840s around the time of the Irish Famine that's not the reason they came they settled in Ontario that made the way to Texas his grandfather was a the sheriff of Duval County greatness to this country you think about me as rich well he was quite rich father was a self-made Wildcat oil man and he managed to come up with in the middle of the depression they trust fund for each of the 10 children Buckley would not think that his forebears were snakes and you know it's funny it's nice it's laughs laughs laughs yuk yuk yuk I think a lot of damage was done by the president through the president the other week drawing out the red meat you know the other people are watching the French have a saying not in front of the servants or don't scare the horses I think a lot of horses got scared I do wonder right oh sorry please go ahead I'm talking I'm talking too much go ahead no no III wondered particularly about the CC pact speech because I thought given Trump given that Trump is the president and Trump is who he is something I liked about it is that he doesn't there's a sort of guileless to Donald Trump speaking whereas other politicians who are not terribly educated who are not terribly intellectual who are not terribly civil or well mannered or well brought up they affect something to that to that effect and it doesn't comport with the reality of them whereas with Donald Trump in a sense you what you see is what you get and I wonder you know Buckley was a refined man from a wealthy family he said that he never attended a professional baseball game and that was just fine he wouldn't pretend that he had you know the occasional threat to punch queer gore Vidal in the face notwithstanding he almost always I himself with grace and with impatience and area addition and but Buckley lived before Twitter and political discourse today from the top to the bottom is generally coarser baser more vulgar and that said the culture today is coarser and baser and more vulgar CNN anchors call constitutional conservatives gay slurs on national television they've been not along as teenagers compare a u.s. senator to a mass murderer is there any path back as you see it can you give away and you give me the unified politics and culture or the age of chivalry gone that of Safa stirs economists and calculators succeeded and the glory of Europe extinguished forever the answer is yes and the answer is starts with the president doesn't end with the president president told us that he was one of the best educated presidents when he ran he doesn't act like it I don't know too many Wharton grad to speak that way and he was proud to send his children Japan into Georgetown he's done an aprotic State he said into very fine schools before they went they come across much more sophisticated and fine than he does now maybe this is how he thinks that working people behave this is a nation where working people wanted to join the elite wanted their children to be better than they and wanted to rise not to live in the gutter and if you want to raise the caliber of the debate you start with the President William Shakespeare would have had no problem with Twitter the psalmist's would still be going around the world doing great great things Abraham Lincoln would have loved Twitter the Gettysburg Address is ten sentences and could fit on Twitter yeah what fit on Twitter well that's what I'm saying the best part of the speech were when he talked about policies and he's right conservatives talked for years about about the court they talked for years about ending the regulatory state they took four years of history and government he did it he probably did it way that none of the other Republicans running for president would have done although they would have agreed with it but his real message was the message about snakes and most of us are descended from immigrants and the concept of passports and visas that all of that started with the First World War I have no idea whether it's Buckley's forebears were legitimate or not legitimate I know mine they had some kind of papers you got at Ellis Island I didn't know what we had a visa then they were certainly you know allowed in and I don't think there were snakes they produced somebody who taught you and I think that the president of United States to go that route it's not an example that we want children to follow Anat what gets you want about Rushmore that's the goal there yes maybe I'm wrong maybe I'm crazy this I think does bring us to the Buckley rule this question of who we should vote for what is a bridge too far what sort of things should qualify Buckley and for those who don't know Buckley famously had this rule for voting he said to support the the right most viable candidate here and he didn't always abide that rule though he opposed the Eisenhower administration as we talked about is he a man for being insufficiently tougher on communism he supported Nixon even as Nixon grew the government and declared himself a Keynesian and founded the EPA EHA in title 9 and the forerunner of affirmative action and all that but he still supported that president and turned on next only when Nixon went to China and when Nixon went to bridge to power and then he opposed him about the ran for mayor against then nominal Republican John Lindsay who later became a Democrat when should conservatives vote for the most right viable candidate and when should conservatives refuse to support the most right viable candidate and when should conservatives turn on candidates that they've previously supported well first of all thank you Buckley supported Nixon because he thought that Nixon had a better chances if you give the democrats than the alternative you know it's our with bragging we broke with Nixon very early on the things you're talking about and his endorsement of next to the 72 was an argument the behalf of the lesser evil hmm and you know you vote the lesser evils you know what you get at the edges evil right but I would say to you well you were asking about the president when Buckley died for all I know in 2008 Donald Trump still Democrat he was giving money there was full of Z and mr. Schumer until he was president he didn't have much of a conservative record but he's now coming around talking about gun control and he stood and said he would never cut Social Security or reform entitlements sounds very much like Democrats to me and and I would say to you that he did do some great things on as I said them I'm not talking about what I sing expen about what Buckley might say he did carry the torch and judges who carried the torch that race and they carried the torch to deregulation he's not excuse me he's not carrying the torch in trade and I think he's he's not debase in the culture you're brilliant pointing out culture has been lowering itself by its own bootstraps for decades now but Reagan restored hope and promise we thought that after eight years of Obama telling us what we can't do and to accept the new norm of a one and a half two percent growth in the economy or Georgia's bushes over aggressive foreign policy now we would have a president to take this to a new level I don't think that's come and I again would say to you that Buckley even said in the article you you're quoting to me from with the Cigar Aficionado piece that demeanor and constitutionalism should come ahead of policy and with the left you say it comes ahead of healthcare with the right you say comes before tax cut you saved the Republic and then we can talk Peggy Noonan had a column and said the same thing she talks a lot because servitors she goes well but for this is good for taxes but for this he's good for regulation but for this it's good on judges well you could say that about Caligula for cancer I mean is there any point without 239 guerrilla needs to be given a course in manners and etiquette and how presidents behave I think that's what he would say now of course this you know a lot of people who were with the National Review we can't predict what Buckley would do he's been gone for a decade but we know what he did do so a lot of people in National Review or more inclined to go with the person who is adapting the policies they like and forget lots of other things I see the religious rights given the Donald Trump you know a mulligan something they wouldn't give any other person with a lifestyle that he used to boast about but Christianity is based on forgiveness change Redemption I get that very well but you really wonder sometimes said what weirdest character matter I think it counts I think character is destiny the Greeks are right this is not saying he has a deficient character I'm saying he wants to believe that he is the figure he created himself as a ghazzal chump he's got to be smarter than that he did get in Japan he did graduate at a pretty good record and he's got to be better than that he just feels that he has to you know be this creation be the role of the Donald Trump for the Donald and I think that again Buckley what did he bright costaud personality what he feared the boat it didn't an article this and we'll have to see what happens now the Donald Trump is singing trade wars and he had said that we have to start confiscating guns and worry about due process later yesterday and today it seems as though he has reversed that mercifully but what one has to see one wonders if the right can keep keep pushing Donald Trump more in line and maybe try to rein in some of his coarser instincts but this brings us to the final question which is about a legacy of buckley as you write in the final chapter of the book president george w bush summarized Buckley's place in history by saying he quote brought conservative thought into the political mainstream and helped lay the intellectual foundation for America's victory in the Cold War he places Buckley's thought in a particular time and Buckley is fusionist conservatism marrying the traditionalists and the libertarians through their shared anti-communism does become less relevant after the defeat of communism we saw huge cracks in the conservative movement after the fall of the Berlin Wall Buckley opposed george w bush's occupation of iraq there were disagreements over domestic policy ken Buckley's conservative vision survived the end of the Cold War and if it can survive it what does that mean in 2018 well I think your your summary is quite apt brilliant even a coalition came together for a short time against a common enemy and when your enemy is Stalin libertarians are traditionalists fine they have more in common with each other and they do with the enemy the enemy in wiping us out there's no question about it and with without Soviet Union and a bipolar world it's perfectly logical that would pray exactly with George well one of the anti-trump us who said long before trumpets a candidate if you look at the old conservative agenda as he put of the dogs are rejecting the dog food well I say that's an interesting concept and others were working on this before he came along but I Buckley would say in the end what matters are adherence to what he called eternal truth that all opinions are not of equal value but all cultures are not a vehicle value judeo-christian traditions are superior thank you America is superior and exceptional thank you and he would Harbor no compromise with those people who questioned that he was a steadfast opponent political correctness if the president really wants to pick up the Buffy mantel there was an article by ed Meese yesterday on some of the Obama executive orders that Trump can continue to reverse on political correctness I mean goddamn man at Yale was nothing but an attack on a political correctness at this time it's gotten quite worse now and I think that I have students that are arguing with me and with others about it they have a right to pick their pronoun I don't have a right to correct their grammar so I think write me notes that well I really know that they are or they is it's not a good way to put it but of course I want pronouns that are gendered neuter a president could do a great deal to stop this number and he doesn't have to do it by law or by decrees and I think that that would be a great tribute William F Buckley Jr but eternal truth our culture is superior to others it doesn't mean that we Ram it down people's throats we've sent armies but if you want to be an American you're expected to accept its Creed which is that which is part of the judeo-christian tradition you could be a Buddhist and be part of that tradition or any other relation or no religions be part of it and that yes American exceptionalism Reagan's notion that God puts this nation here between those two oceans to gather to its bosom people from all corners of the world and they created more civilization and more growth and more wealth than any great nation before us for us and our job is to pass it on in better condition than we found it and it's only a generation away from extinction unfortunately and which is why it's important to look back on past generations and read books like a man and his president the political Odyssey of William F Buckley J

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