An excellent portrait of National Review’s founding publisher.
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Meanwhile, William F. Buckley Jr. had launched National Review in 1955. He had heard of Rusher. They met over drinks one day in 1956. By early 1957, Rusher had been offered the job of publisher at the fledgling magazine, which had no visible means of support other than the Buckley family. What it did have was plenty of intellectual stimulation. Titans of the conservative intellectual fraternity, James Burnham, Frank Meyer, and others, found this a congenial place to do their work.
Rusher thought the offer irresistible. Buckley, with his ever-present sense of humor, self-confidence, quick mind, and competitive spirit, ran a very informal office where ideas and opinions ran freely. Although Rusher always deferred to him (“It was Bill’s magazine”), he was always free to speak his mind, and did.
All at the magazine argued about the best ways to advance the principles of conservatism, but Rusher brought an additional dimension: practical knowledge of the world of politics. Buckley’s sister Priscilla, who was also an officer at the magazine, said of him, “Bill (Rusher) knew a great deal more about the inside of politics than most of the rest of us did, and it was much more important to him.”
Rusher became the yang to Buckley’s yin. Buckley, using every forum and medium he could, concentrated on the exposition of ideas—big and challenging ideas. Rusher shared his philosophy but concentrated on the political world of here and now. He worked with elected politicians, candidates, and conservative organizations to promote their principles and apply them to electoral politics. His influence on the activists of the conservative movement cannot be understated, and they aren’t in this book.
Not all of Rusher’s ideas to expand the movement bore fruit. After the disasters of 1974—Watergate and the Republican drubbing in the fall congressional elections—he put a great deal of energy into proposing a new third party, an explicitly conservative party. He tried to persuade Ronald Reagan to lead such a party. Reagan, however, mindful of the fate of previous third-party movements, opted to work within the Republican Party (he soon gave a speech in which he called for the party to put forth ideas in “bold colors, not pale pastels”).
Rusher took this disappointment with good grace and proceeded to support Reagan’s presidential campaigns in 1976 and 1980. Rusher saw Reagan as a man who would carry out his program if elected. Thus, Reagan’s victory in 1980 was also Rusher’s. Many of the conservative ideas for which he had been working for years could now become realities in the form of public policy.
From 1957 until he retired as publisher in 1988, Bill Rusher served as ambassador for National Review, as a skilled debater on television, and as a syndicated newspaper columnist (he wrote his last column at age 85). He was an intellectual who was also a political tactician and strategist.
Retiring to San Francisco, Rusher remained active with think tanks and advocacy groups, and as a mentor to aspiring conservative politicians. Author Frisk has given us a well-rounded portrait of this singular man and his era.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?