Time for Oklahomans to pay attention: William F. Buckley, Jr. on Donald Trump

OKLAHOMA CITY – Last month, National Review magazine, in its print and online editions, gathered a broad range of right-of-center opinion leaders to present, as the magazine cover explained, the case “Against Trump.” 

In response to the work of National Review editors, Donald Trump delivered these nuggets via social media:

He declared that “National Review is a failing publication that has lost it’s way. It’s circulation is way down w its influence being at an all time low. Sad!”

Then this: “Very few people read the National Review because it only knows how to criticize, but not how to lead.”

And this: “The late, great, William F. Buckley would be ashamed of what had happened to his prize, the dying National Review!”

Mr. Trump says he is the man who can make America great again.
Well, now.

Bill Buckley said it first, and probably best, if not in these words: Trump, narcissist and exhibitionist, is unsuited for the chief executive’s office of the United States.

Others have reached this conclusion previously.

With these words, I add my voice, hoping to persuade other Oklahoman’s in advance of the March 1 Republican presidential primary.

Here are the words of Buckley, writing in the year 2000 for the magazine “Cigar Afficionado” … 

What about the aspirant who has a private vision to offer to the public and has the means, personal or contrived, to finance a campaign? In some cases, the vision isn’t merely a program to be adopted. It is a program that includes the visionary’s serving as President. Look for the narcissist. The most obvious target in today’s lineup is, of course, Donald Trump. When he looks at a glass, he is mesmerized by its reflection. If Donald Trump were shaped a little differently, he would compete for Miss America. But whatever the depths of self-enchantment, the demagogue has to say something. So what does Trump say? That he is a successful businessman and that that is what America needs in the Oval Office. There is some plausibility in this, though not much. The greatest deeds of American Presidents — midwifing the new republic; freeing the slaves; harnessing the energies and vision needed to win the Cold War — had little to do with a bottom line.

So what else can Trump offer us? Well to begin with, a self-financed campaign. Does it follow that all who finance their own campaigns are narcissists? At this writing [in 2000] Steve Forbes has spent $63 million in pursuit of the Republican nomination. Forbes is an evangelist, not an exhibitionist. In his long and sober private career, Steve Forbes never bought a casino, and if he had done so, he would not have called it Forbes’s Funhouse.

When you think of Buckley and conservatism, don’t confuse him with the Tea Party, the Religious Right or the New Right. No sneering in this space at any of those manifestations of conservatism. 

This is merely an attempt to share, in brief, one man’s understanding of Buckley the man and model, the thinker and activist, the journalist and novelist.
As the author of “God and Man at Yale”. 

Buckley is readily deemed a co-founder of modern conservatism. He was neither a dilettante nor an opportunist. Like any human being he had his faults, including occasional moments of deep anger. Still, foolishness and waste of money were not among those faults – unless you consider spending a fortune in support of worthy causes, including National Review, a foolish waste of money. 

Buckley was incapable of sustaining for any length of time the kind of pettiness, meanness of spirit and explicit hatred of others that Trump manifests consistently in his public manners and behavior.

Buckley used personal resources to sustain his journalism, one of many things that makes me admire him and, in these latter years, appreciate him.

Buckley more than once reflected, memorably, “I am a conservative in all things, save my choice of friends.” That might be another reason he remains a touchstone for conservative journalists.

With a tip of the hat to Stu Spencer and Ken Khacigian, who knew them better than me, I knew Bill Buckley and Ronald Reagan. 

Bill Buckley was a friend of mine.

Donald Trump is no Bill Buckley – and certainly no Ronald Reagan

I am blessed that Buckley was a mentor. During my first visit to Manhattan Island, at the dawn of my years in the nation’s capital, we spent one long session discussing people, policy and journalism. Later, we “networked” (not a word Buckley would use) during some of his visits to D.C. And, we spoke and exchanged communications during my years at The Oklahoman, 1990 to 2002. Buckley’s nationally syndicated column ran in the state’s largest newspaper for decades.

His autographed books adorn each of my work spaces.

Were he with us today, perhaps over a worthy wine or other adult beverage, the grand old man of the modern conservatism would be quite proud of the contemporary National Review.  

Buckley and the journal he founded were not and are not about popularity or fads or fancies, nor about focused fury. Rather, he spent his days defending moral traditions, making the case for order, freedom civility and decency.

He did this from reason, not rage.

Buckley’s life work made the case for limited government within the essential frameworks of morality  and liberty in law.

Buckley would be enraged to have a man like Trump evoke his good name to denigrate those carrying on his good works. Were he alive today, I am not certain which Republican hopeful would gain Buckley’s support – but it would not be Donald Trump.

For more information, visit these three links:

NOTE: Editor of The City Sentinel newspaper and founder of CapitolBeatOK, an online news service, McGuigan is the author of three books and editor of seven.