Profile: William F. Buckley
William F. Buckley was a participant or observer in the following events:
President Nixon and senior aide Charles Colson discuss the Watergate trial just underway (see January 8-11, 1973). Nixon has apparently just learned that someone in his re-election campaign planted electronic surveillance on Gary Hart, Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern’s campaign manager. Nixon tells Colson: “I understand [chief of staff H. R.] Haldeman is after some kid that bugged Gary Hart.… But how could that be? Watergate came before McGovern got off the ground, and I don’t know why the hell we bugged McGovern.” Colson replies: “Remember. That was after the California primary” (where McGovern clinched the nomination). Nixon grouses: “That’s the thing about all of this. We didn’t get a g_ddamn thing from any of it that I can see.” Colson disagrees: “Well, frankly, we did, but then, what they mainly used, we know.” Later in the conversation, Nixon brings up the problem of Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt, who has what Nixon calls a “sensitive position” in the Watergate investigation—Hunt knows enough to blow the lid off the entire conspiracy, and has threatened to reveal it if he is not paid (see Mid-November, 1972). Colson says: “The others [the other six defendants] will just tell the truth and prove their case. But there is one advantage to it. There’ll be a hell of a lot of stuff that’ll come out.… Some counts will be dropped against Hunt. There will be appeals pending in the other cases.” Nixon adds, “As long as this trial is going on, the Congress will keep its g_ddamn, cotton-pickin’ hands off that trial.” Colson is sure the Senate Watergate Committee (see February 7, 1973) will begin immunizing witnesses to testify.
Using the CIA Connection - As the conversation moves on, Colson agrees with Nixon that he thought the Democrats might drop their interest in the burglary after the election, especially since “I think they figured that these were all guys who were CIA.… And they were all taking orders from people… acting on behalf of John Mitchell [the former head of Nixon’s re-election campaign].” Nixon says that it should be a simple thing to grant Hunt executive clemency, considering Hunt’s wife is dead and he has a child with permanent brain damage suffered in an automobile accident. “We’ll build that son of a b_tch up like nobody’s business. We’ll have Buckley write a column and say that he should have clemency, if you’ve given 18 years of service.” Colson adds that Buckley “served under Hunt in the CIA.” (Conservative columnist William F. Buckley became a CIA agent in 1951, and worked under Hunt in Mexico City.)
Abandoning Five of the Burglars - The five Cuban burglars, Colson says, are irrelevant. They “didn’t have any direct information.… I don’t give a damn if they spend five years in jail…. They can’t hurt us.… Hunt and [G. Gordon] Liddy: direct meetings and discussions are very incriminating to us.” Colson is not worried so much about Liddy, saying: “Apparently he’s one of those masochists. He enjoys punishing himself. That’s okay, as long as he remains stable. I mean, he’s tough…. [Hunt and Liddy are] both good, healthy, right-wing exuberants.” Nixon says wearily, “This… is the last damn fifty miles.” [Reston, 2007, pp. 191-195]
Entity Tags: Gary Hart, E. Howard Hunt, Charles Colson, Central Intelligence Agency, G. Gordon Liddy, George S. McGovern, H.R. Haldeman, Richard M. Nixon, John Mitchell, William F. Buckley
Timeline Tags: Nixon and Watergate, Elections Before 2000
Oil billionaire David Koch runs for vice president on the Libertarian Party ticket. David and his brother Charles are the primary backers of hard-right libertarian politics in the US (see August 30, 2010); Charles, the dominant brother, is determined to tear government “out at the root,” as he will later be characterized by libertarian Brian Doherty. The brothers have thrown their support behind Libertarian presidential candidate Ed Clark, who is running against Republican Ronald Reagan from the right of the political spectrum. The brothers are frustrated by the legal limits on campaign financing, and they persuade the party to place David on the ticket as vice president, thereby enabling him to spend as much of his personal fortune as he likes. The Libertarian’s presidential campaign slogan is, “The Libertarian Party has only one source of funds: You.” In reality, the Koch brothers’ expenditures of over $2 million is the campaign’s primary source of funding. Clark tells a reporter that the Libertarians are preparing to stage “a very big tea party” because people are “sick to death” of taxes. The Libertarian Party platform calls for the abolition of the FBI and the CIA, as well as of federal regulatory agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Energy. The platform proposes the abolition of Social Security, minimum-wage laws, gun control, and all personal and corporate income taxes; in return, it proposes the legalization of prostitution, recreational drugs, and suicide. Government should be reduced to only one function, the party proclaims: the protection of individual rights. Conservative eminence William F. Buckley Jr. calls the movement “Anarcho-Totalitarianism.” The Clark-Koch ticket receives only one percent of the vote in the November 1980 elections, forcing the Koch brothers to realize that their brand of politics isn’t popular. In response, Charles Koch becomes openly scornful of conventional politics. “It tends to be a nasty, corrupting business,” he says. “I’m interested in advancing libertarian ideas.” Doherty will later write that both Kochs come to view elected politicians as merely “actors playing out a script.” Doherty will quote a longtime confidant of the Kochs as saying that after the 1980 elections, the brothers decide they will “supply the themes and words for the scripts.” In order to alter the direction of America, they had to “influence the areas where policy ideas percolate from: academia and think tanks.” [New Yorker, 8/30/2010]
Gorbachev and Reagan sign the INF treaty. [Source: Ronald Reagan Library]US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev sign a fundamental disarmament agreement. The two sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which has been stalled for years (see September 1981 through November 1983). The INF Treaty eliminates an entire class of intermediate-range nuclear ballistic missiles. It also provides for on-site verifications for each side (which agrees with Reagan’s signature quote, “Trust but verify”). And it marks the first real multi-lateral reduction of nuclear weapons, even if it is only a 5 percent reduction.
Strong Approval from American Public - Reagan’s approval ratings, weakened by public outrage over the Iran-Contra affair, rebound, and Gorbachev becomes a celebrity to many Americans (he causes a near-riot in Washington when, the day before signing the treaty, he spontaneously leaps out of his limousine and wades into the gathered crowd of well-wishers). Altogether, some 80 percent of Americans support the treaty.
Unable to Continue Longer-Range Negotiations - Reagan wants to build on the INF agreement to reopen the similarly moribund START negotiations (see May 1982 and After), but recognizes that there is not enough time left in his administration to accomplish such a long-term goal. Instead, he celebrates his status as the first American president to begin reducing nuclear arms by scheduling a visit to the Soviet Union.
Conservative Opposition - Hardline conservatives protest Gorbachev’s visit to Washington, and the signing of the treaty, in the strongest possible terms. When Reagan suggests that Gorbachev address a joint session of Congress, Congressional Republicans, led by House member Dick Cheney (R-WY—see 1983), rebel. Cheney says: “Addressing a joint meeting of Congress is a high honor, one of the highest honors we can accord anyone. Given the fact of continuing Soviet aggression in Afghanistan, Soviet repression in Eastern Europe, and Soviet actions in Africa and Central America, it is totally inappropriate to confer this honor upon Gorbachev. He is an adversary, not an ally.” Conservative Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Committee is more blunt in his assessment of the treaty agreement: “Reagan is a weakened president, weakened in spirit as well as in clout, and not in a position to make judgments about Gorbachev at this time.” Conservative pundit William F. Buckley calls the treaty a “suicide pact.” Fellow conservative pundit George Will calls Reagan “wildly wrong” in his dealings with the Soviets. Conservatives gather to bemoan what they call “summit fever,” accusing Reagan of “appeasement” both of communists and of Congressional liberals, and protesting Reagan’s “cutting deals with the evil empire” (see March 8, 1983). They mount a letter-writing campaign, generating some 300,000 letters, and launch a newspaper ad campaign that compares Reagan to former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. Senators Jesse Helms (R-NC) and Steven Symms (R-ID) try to undercut the treaty by attempting to add amendments that would make the treaty untenable; Helms will lead a filibuster against the treaty as well.
Senate Ratification and a Presidential Rebuke - All the protests from hardline opponents of the treaty come to naught. When the Senate votes to ratify the treaty, Reagan says of his conservative opposition, “I think that some of the people who are objecting the most and just refusing even to accede to the idea of ever getting an understanding, whether they realize it or not, those people, basically, down in their deepest thoughts, have accepted that war is inevitable and that there must come to be a war between the superpowers.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 142-145]
Almost 2,500 protesters gather on the Dartmouth College green to protest the conservative, off-campus Dartmouth Review, a student newspaper given to extremes of racial and political rhetoric (see 1980). The protest is sparked by the Review’s recent publication of a selection of Nazi propaganda on Yom Kippur, one of the highest of Jewish holy days. The selection, printed on the paper’s masthead, was from Adolf Hitler’s book Mein Kampf, and read: “I therefore believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator: By warding off the Jews, I am fighting for the Lord’s work.” The protest is led by Dartmouth president James Freedman, and made up of a wide swath of students, faculty, and alumni. “This has been a week of infamy for the Dartmouth community,” Freedman says. “The Dartmouth Review has consistently attacked blacks because they are black, women because they are women, homosexuals because they are homosexuals, and Jews because they are Jews,” he says; two years before, the Review had compared Freedman, who is Jewish, to Hitler, and compared his policies to the Holocaust (see November 9-10, 1988). College trustees call the Hitler publication “a criminal act of sabotage.”
Trustee Accuses University President of Using Incident to 'Incite Hatred' - The Boston Globe describes Review trustee and former editor Dinesh D’Souza, a former policy adviser in the Reagan administration, as both “contrite and combative” over the incident. D’Souza apologizes for the publishing of the Hitler selection, then moments later accuses Freedman of using the incident to incite hatred against the Review. “This case is Dartmouth’s Tawana Brawley,” he says, referring to the 1987 case of a young African-American woman who some believe falsely accused several white men of raping her. “You have a sabotage, a hoax, a dirty trick that is being ruthlessly and cynically exploited by the college leadership in order to ruin the lives of many innocent students. President Freedman has emerged as the Al Sharpton of academia.” (Sharpton, a New York pastor and civil rights leader, was one of Brawley’s most public advocates.) Protesters line up one after another to urge the college to repudiate the newspaper. Dartmouth officials say that the newspaper has damaged the college’s reputation and diminished the school’s ability to recruit top students and faculty, particularly minorities. Religion professor Arthur Hertzberg calls the Hitler quote another “act of ongoing hooliganism” in a string of politically and racially explosive actions by the Review, and tells the crowd: “This is not a hating college. This is not an anti-Semitic college. This is not an institution of infamy. It is a community of warmth and love.”
Professor: Responsibility Lies with Conservative Funders - Hertzberg says his quarrel is not with “the 20 or 30 misguided young people who edit the Review.” Rather, he says, it is with the prominent conservatives who support the paper. The Review is financed mostly by off-campus, conservative organizations and foundations; it has an annual budget of some $150,000, and faces high legal bills. Hertzberg says the paper’s key backers include former Treasury Secretary William Simon; former Chase Manhattan Bank chairman George Champion; National Review editor William F. Buckley Jr.; and conservative commentator and former Nixon speechwriter Patrick Buchanan. “My quarrel is with those out there who put up hundreds of thousands of dollars a year with which to contaminate this campus,” Hertzberg says. “They should be ashamed of themselves.”
Board Member Accuses Liberals of Planting Hitler Quote - Review advisory board member George Gilder, a conservative economist, says the Hitler quote was planted by someone who wishes the newspaper ill: “Do you think any conservative in the world would deliberately put that into the magazine? It’s obviously an attack by somebody who infiltrated the ranks.” Gilder says Freedman and liberals at Dartmouth are using the Hitler incident “to try to kill the Review, just as they try to kill conservatism whenever it rises up on campus.” Editor in chief Kevin Pritchett collects the issues of the newspaper, and, with three other senior staffers, publishes an open letter denying any involvement in publishing the quote and accusing a staff “insider” of somehow inserting it. Review supporters in New York and Washington, DC, demand that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) conduct an investigation to find the “saboteur,” and Review adviser Jeffrey Hart releases a written response that attacks Freedman for falsely accusing the Review of racism (see March 15, 1982, 1983, and August 2002) and intolerance (see 1981, 1984, 1985, and July 1990). [Boston Globe, 10/5/1990; Dartmouth Free Press, 9/20/2006] Days later, Simon publishes an editorial in the New York Times decrying the Review’s reference to Hitler, but calling the publication of the quote “sabotage” and saying: “[s]omeone secretly gained access to the production process.… Since the slur was deviously implanted in a section that remains unchanged from week to week, the subterfuge eluded the proofreaders.” He describes Pritchett as “horrified” by the incident, says that any accusations of anti-Semitism on the Review’s part are “preposterous,” and accuses Freedman of orchestrating a protest against the Review “that quickly metamorphosed into an instrument of hate—hate directed against student journalists who, as a result, suffered death warnings, threats of violence, as well as mean-spirited accusations.” The Review serves to “question, challenge, and even deride the dominant liberal orthodoxy on the campus, exposing its hypocrisies,” Simon writes, and calls any attempt to call the Review to account “political opportunism.” [New York Times, 10/20/1990]
Investigation Finds Quote Included by Staff, Editors - The ADL will indeed conduct an investigation, and will find that the Hitler quote was from a well-thumbed book in the Review’s office. It will conclude that a Review staffer had inserted the quote with the knowledge and apparent complicity of the senior editors. The ADL will call the publication of the quote “obviously an anti-Semitic act,” and write, “Prior acts of the Review and the past conduct of its members have contributed, the commission believes, to the creation of an environment which condoned and even encouraged a member of the Review to include the offensive Hitler quote.” The investigation notes that the Review has frequently published other offensive comments such as “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” and “genocide means never having to say you’re sorry.”
History of Anti-Semitism - The Review has a history of anti-Semitic publishings (see October 1982 and November 9-10, 1988). D’Souza says Review trustees have repudiated such actions, which he calls the work of unpolished and overzealous staffers who sometimes run the Review like “a half-baked, ramshackle student paper.”
Review President, Contributors Resign over Furor - C. Tyler White, president of the Review, will soon resign in protest. “I cannot allow the Review to ruin my life any further,” he will write. “The official Review response, which I co-signed and helped distribute, avoids the main thrust of the issue. It does not emphasize our sorrow in this dreadful act of malice, nor does it claim responsibility for letting it reach newsprint.… The editor in chief has failed in his job, and now we must wear the albatross of anti-Semitism because he won’t take responsibility for the issue’s contents.” Review contributors David Budd and Pang-Chun Chen resign along with White, writing, “We are conservatives, but we are not Nazis.” Budd writes that the Review’s apology implied “let’s put the blame on someone else.”
Congressional Involvement - US Representative Chester Atkins (D-MA) delivers a letter concerning the incident to Freedman, accusing the Review of “fomenting hatred and intolerance.” The letter is signed by 84 of Atkins’s fellow Congress members. Atkins is running for re-election against a Review board member, John MacGovern. Atkins says MacGovern should step down as a board member; MacGovern refuses, saying the Review’s senior editors are not responsible for the Hitler quote. [Boston Globe, 10/5/1990; Dartmouth Free Press, 9/20/2006]
Entity Tags: Dartmouth Review, Chester Atkins, Dartmouth College, C. Tyler White, Arthur Hertzberg, Anti-Defamation League, William F. Buckley, Patrick Buchanan, William Simon, Kevin Pritchett, George Gilder, James Freedman, Dinesh D’Souza, George Champion, Pang-Chun Chen, Jeffrey Hart, John MacGovern, David Budd
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
William F. Buckley. [Source: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters]In his weekly column “On the Right,” syndicated columnist William F. Buckley writes of the recent shootdown of an American Chinook helicopter near Fallujah (see November 2, 2003). Buckley writes that although the losses are undoubtedly devastating to the families of the slain soldiers, “one does endure such losses. Consider Jackie Kennedy [widow of the assassinated President Kennedy]. She survived it; so will the mothers, fathers and spouses of the victims of the Fallujah missile. What is one shade less than absolutely predictable is whether our foreign policy will survive that anti-helicopter missile.” Buckley compares the Fallujah attacks to the Tet offensive in Vietnam in 1968, a military offensive mounted by the North Vietnamese that was a military failure but a public relations success that pushed the US irrevocably towards what Buckley calls “the retreat of 1972 and the surrender of 1975.” The US cannot let such attacks drive them precipitously from Iraq, Buckley writes. “[T]he idea is that US aircraft should be safe wherever they fly, and we are in Iraq because of its infestation.” Iraq still reels from the effects of what Buckley calls “a Stalinist dictatorship,” and is still plagued by insurgents and rebels who want to reintroduce some form of post-Hussein dictatorship. Besides, Buckley writes, one must consider the losses in Iraq in perspective. “Our casualties since the beginning of the war have reached 400. Last year, 16,000 Americans were murdered within the boundaries of the United States. That same year, 43,000 Americans were killed in automobile accidents.” He concludes: “If all surveillance of the Iraqi theater were to end today, and begin again when Iraq is a settled state, governed by its own people making their way toward freedom, it is inconceivable that the losses sustained during the hiatus would appear to Americans as disproportionate to the ends achieved. What’s needed is to nurture that moral perspective that the idiot children of Fallujah were deprived of.” [Universal Press Syndicate, 11/4/2003]
This year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is co-sponsored by the far-right, openly racist John Birch Society (JBS—see March 10, 1961 and December 2011). CPAC spokesman Ian Walters says this is the first time the JBS has sponsored the conference. In the 1960s, influential conservative pundit William F. Buckley denounced the society and its founder Robert Welch as “idiotic” and “paranoid.” Buckley’s condemnation effectively exiled the group from mainstream conservatism for half a century. Welch had accused then-President Dwight Eisenhower of being a “conscious, dedicated agent of the communist conspiracy” and said the government was “under operational control of the Communist Party.” Buckley argued that such paranoid rantings had no place in the conservative movement or the Republican Party. Lisa Depasquale, CPAC’s director for the American Conservative Union, which runs the conference, explains why the JBS is now a sponsor, saying: “They’re a conservative organization. Beyond that I have no comment.” [ABC News, 4/19/2010]
Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database
Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.