Political pundit and prize-winning playwright George Packer declared in a May, 2008, essay in The New Yorker titled “The Fall of Conservatism” that the philosophical roots of the party that nominated Republican John McCain are “older and deeper” than Ronald Reagan and the end of the Cold War. “They extended back to William F. Buckley, Jr.’s mission statement, in the inaugural issue of the National Review, in 1955, that the new magazine ’stands athwart history, yelling Stop’; and to Barry Goldwater’s seminal book, The Conscience of a Conservative (1960), in which he wrote, ’I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones.’” Among the perhaps unintentional services of Buckley’s spare volume, Flying High, is to remind readers that Goldwater did not write a word of The Conscience of a Conservative and probably did not read the manuscript prior to publication. This reader was put in mind of Yogi Berra’s response to former pitcher-turned-Houston columnist Larry Dierker’s inquiry to Berra about how his first book was doing: “I don’t know. I haven’t read it yet.” Buckley’s brother-in-law, National Review editor Brent Bozell, ghostwrote the book.
Buckley refers to his being snubbed by Goldwater’s advisers as a speaker at the 1964 convention as an instance of sequestration, a word with which in its political context this reviewer was unfamiliar. The year after Goldwater lost to Lyndon B. Johnson, Buckley enacted a riposte sequestration when he mounted a futile third-party bid for the mayoralty of New York City but declined to announce Goldwater’s endorsement.
That the prevailing winds of party politics could not alter the affection each felt for the other is reflected in an aside revealed by Buckley five pages from the end of Flying High. Shortly after thanking Goldwater for the endorsement and explaining why he was not using it, Buckley received a phone call. The senator, en route to New York, invited him “and anyone else you’d like” to join him for lunch. The collective response of Buckley’s associates is “What is he up to?” The reply is “He was being a nice guy.” Goldwater is remembered today mainly as Reagan’s unsuccessful forerunner, but Buckley shows...
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