Following the “What would Jesus do?” adage used as snowclone by Daniel McCarthy in his recent TAC piece on Burke’s high church conservatism, today’s Wall Street Journal features Richard Brookhiser elevating William F. Buckley to the post of transcendental adviser. How would Buckley advise conservatives in an age of Obama? According to Brookhiser, “the most important lesson of his career is that there are limits to accommodation.” Brookhiser cites Peter Viereck as an example of one who could not be accommodated in a conservatism that stood primarily “for capitalism and freedom,” but in the context of a short op-ed, it comes off as somewhat of a quick and insufficiently supported broadside.
The rest of the piece suggests Buckley worked within institutions (the GOP, the Roman Catholic Church), remaining an independent thinker simultaneously “deferential to the wisdom of his betters.” Brookhiser’s conclusion, that in the end Buckley would advise us to “have a blast and honor [our] creator,” almost presents a different Buckley than we saw at the opening of the retrospective; the hard charging Cold War anti-Communist who in the 1950s had little room for high church conservatives such as Viereck nevertheless in the final analysis believed that “there is always more to life than politics.”
Brookhiser’s forthcoming book, a retrospective on his work with Buckley that is due to be released next week, will hopefully allow for a more nuanced picture.