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4.4 out of 5 stars
William F. Buckley Jr.: The Maker of a Movement
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on May 15, 2010
William F. Buckley was perhaps the most influential American journalist of the latter half of the twentieth century, and his impact on our politics was immense. Lee Edwards chronicles Buckley's life in this volume.

The author begins by describing Buckley's early years, including his upbringing and years at Yale, and then moves on to the 1950s, when Buckley built the conservative movement. He discusses the founding of National Review, and discusses how Buckley united the different factions of conservatism under one tent. Conservatism necessarily maintains a healthy tension between authority and tradition on one hand and justice and freedom on the other, and Edwards discusses the "fusionism" that Buckley used to unite traditionalists with more libertarian conservatives, while at the same time reading the Birchers and Randites out of the movement.

Edwards traces Buckley's life and magazine as they became more influential in American life from the 1960s through the 1980s, discussing the Goldwater nomination, Buckley's candidacy for mayor of New York City, Ronald Reagan's election, and the ultimate victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War. The book recalls the famous Blackford Oakes spy novels and closes by discussing Buckley's commentary on the War on Terror of the past decade.

All conservatives would enjoy this book, but younger conservatives who want to learn more about the history of their movement would especially profit by reading this short biography of one of the giants of recent American life.
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on August 25, 2014
This short book is neither scholarly nor a definitive biography of Bill Buckley, the father of modern conservatism in America. Nonetheless, it is the first of what I hope are several books about this wonderful man who died at his desk at the age of 82 in 2008.

Buckley left a voluminous oeuvre: 50 books of both fiction and non-fiction, 5,600 newspaper columns, and 1,500 episodes of 'Firing Line' (his hour-long weekly TV show that ran for 33 years, 1966-1999). He was an editor (and founder of National Review, a fortnightly magazine that survives him), author, columnist, sailor, raconteur, politician (he ran unsuccessfully for mayor in New York City in 1965), and, above all, a thinker who changed the course of history. Without Buckley, there would not have been Goldwater. And without Goldwater, there would not have been Reagan.

He brought together under one roof the three major strands of contemporary American conservatism: economic conservatives, social conservatives, and anti-communists. Early on (1962), Buckley read the John Birch Society out the conservative movement; had he not done so, this reviewer believes that conservatism would have never attained the intellectual respectability that it has.

Central to his persona was his unwavering devotion to Catholicism. The author of this biography argues persuasively that Buckley's faith had a leavening effect on his personality. He was a fierce and menacing combatant in the marketplace of ideas, but he didn't have a mean bone in his body. Liberals--except for the lunatic, Gore Vidal--mostly loved him. He had a towering intellect. His mastery of English rivaled H.L. Mencken's.

He was the master of the pithy phrase. The night before the 1965 election for mayor in New York, he was asked what he would do if he awakened the morning after and found out he had won; said Buckley: "Demand a recount." In the spring of 1966, I attended a talk he gave in Glendale, California. Afterward, I elbowed my way up to him and asked him to sign my program. As he did so, I asked, "Mr. Buckley, do you expect to seek elective office again?" He froze in mid-signature, looked up as if to the heavens, then gazed down at me, and said: "Not unless my Cre-a-TOR deems it necessary!"

Even those who are familiar with Buckley, as I was, will find this book accessible, informative, and entertaining. It is a well-written chronicle of Buckley's life. I recommend it to those who enjoy political biographies, to right-of-center conservatives, and to those who seek to understand how the Republican Party became the party of ideas. As Reagan proved, ideas change the world. America would be a different and not nearly so great a place had Buckley not graced us with his elegant presence.
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on March 31, 2017
Good book that skims over all areas of buckleys's life. I was left wanting more from the start to the end. However, I did learn a great deal and am tempted to find another biography that goes deeper.
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on January 19, 2016
William F Buckley was an amazing man. He was the conservative movement for many years. It is wonderful to read all I can about him.
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on January 3, 2014
This is a wonderful, but extremely short, written appreciation of the most significant voice of Conservatism. I am afraid that there is no heir apparent to take his place as the voice of the American people who feel that our government is leaning way too far to the liberal left.
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on January 31, 2017
My father loved this book!
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While we await the comprehensive authorized biography (whatever that can possibly mean) by Sam Tanenhaus (who did the marvelous biography of Whitakker Chambers – let’s hope he does the same for WFB), we have this wonderful short but complete tour of Buckley’s life by Lee Edwards. If you are a Buckley hater, this will seem hagiography, but those of us who look to WFB as a hero will find it fair minded and informative. Obviously, if you already know a lot about Buckley, a book of this brevity will be more refresher than revealer of new things. I enjoyed it a great deal.

Here we get Buckley’s entire life and career with lots of fascinating stories, observations from those who knew him, and the wild and fun times Buckley and his circle had in tweaking the Liberal establishment from Yale through his entire life. We get a good sense of how important the Goldwater effort was and how badly Goldwater and his team in whom they listened to and how it doomed his campaign. Of course, the question remains if anything could have made America switch parties and go for a third president in just over a year. Likely not. But Buckley and his band carried on and eventually Reagan became the fulfillment of their ambitions.

Buckley’s career is too big for this small book. But it is a great introduction for young people who never knew him but want to. And it is fun to remember for those, like me, who held and hold him in high regard. Sometimes we get accused of being blind to his limitations and faults. I don’t think we are. But we know we are all human and full of failings. What we look for in our heroes isn’t how they are flawed as we are, but where they were exceptional and exceeded what we have been able to do.

And WFB was full of excellence.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI
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on September 23, 2010
A man for all Seasons!!! Long missed.... a spectacular read...
A supreme prognosticator....... The Cause marches on...

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on April 5, 2013
Lee Edwards biography of WFB is a must read for anyone wanting to know more about the father of the Modern Conservative movement. This book was one of 5 sources I cited for a paper I wrote for my US History II class. The professor when grading my citations remarked that the book was a "good source" and in the body of the paper several times remarked "interesting, I did not know that" with respect to events and facts that were only from cited this book.
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on June 16, 2010
An informative brief review of the contributions of William F. Buckley, Jr. to the development of the conservative movement in the latter part of the 20th century. Written by the dean of historians of the conservative movement, the author was a personal friend and fellow warrior in the political and ideological battles described in this important book.
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