Buckley Protege Brookhiser: GOP Must Learn From Past
By: Matthew Belvedere and Ashley MartellaThe Republican candidates for president should learn from history, says National Review senior editor Richard Brookhiser. Specifically, Brookhiser cites 1980, because he says President Barack Obama seems to be following the tracks of Jimmy Carter.
Like in the Carter years, "the economy is just murder out there. And unless it really turns around, [Obama] has a good chance of losing to whoever the Republicans put up," Brookhiser tells Newsmax.TV in an exclusive interview. Republicans certainly hope that the 2012 race for the White House turns out like the contest in 1980, when Democratic incumbent Carter lost to the charismatic Republican challenger, Ronald Reagan.
Brookhiser, who has been writing about politicians for most of his life and whose new book is "Right Time, Right Place: Coming of Age with William F. Buckley Jr. and the Conservative Movement," has been at National Review for three decades. It was his first job out of college, but his connection to the magazine began when he was just 15. National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. published the young writer's article about antiwar protests in his high school as a cover story in 1970.
"They published me when I'm a freshman in high school. How cool is that?" Brookhiser says proudly.
Thus began what would become a decades-long professional relationship and friendship between Brookhiser and mentor Buckley, who started National Review in 1955 and launched a conservative movement in American politics.
Editor's Note: This exclusive Newsmax.TV video interview includes firsthand historical events, including an insider's assessment of the character of William F. Buckley Jr. and behind-the-scenes details about the inner workings of the iconic conservative publication.
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Shortly after Buckley died at the age of 82, Brookhiser started writing "Right Time." The book is "about the last 40 years of American politics. It's also a portrait of Bill Buckley . . . but it's also a memoir about the relationship we had," Brookhiser says.
The relationship had some bumps, Brookhiser notes, such as the time Buckley took the then-22-year-old out to lunch after only a year at the magazine and said: "'Rick, I've decided that you will be my successor as editor and owner of the magazine.'"
Brookhiser recalls being flabbergasted at the time, as he was later, when Buckley rescinded the offer: "After seven years, he leaves a letter one day on my desk saying, 'Well, on second thought, I've decided you won't be my successor.'"
Brookhiser was greatly disappointed, shocked, and angered at the reversal, but he surmised that Buckley realized that his very public job of writing, being on television, and speaking was not a perfect fit for Brookhiser, who says he's "not a triple threat" and doesn't want to be. He likes writing and believes that's what he does best.
Despite the blips, Brookhiser says Buckley was extremely generous. "Generosity informed the way he edited. It informed his professional life."
Brookhiser describes the editorial meetings Buckley led at the magazine as theater: "Everyone performed for him." And when Buckley laid out an editorial section, he turned over and shuffled story pages in and out like "laying mosaic at the speed of a hit and run. It was the coolest thing. It took about 15 minutes."
Perhaps surprising to some, the producer of Buckley's popular television series "Firing Line" was not a conservative. In fact, Warren Steibel was a liberal who often didn't share Buckley's views. But the two found their rhythm and worked together on one of the longest-running television programs in the history of PBS.
Buckley first met Ronald Reagan in 1960 at a speaking engagement. Brookhiser recalls the story as Buckley told it. The public address system wasn't working, and the equipment was locked in a second-floor room. With no one to call, Reagan "'opened the window of an adjoining room. He got on the ledge and he sidled over to the control room window. Broke a pane of glass with his elbow, reached in and opened the window'" and then unlocked the door.
Buckley loved to tell this story of the man who was to become the nation's 40th president, Brookhiser says.
Buckley's courage as a journalist also impressed Brookhiser. Buckley, who was a supporter of Richard Nixon, accompanied the president on his historic trip to China in 1972. Buckley "wrote the only hostile coverage of it," Brookhiser says.
Buckley could understand the political reasons behind the trip, but "what he couldn't stand was Richard Nixon toasting . . . the Chinese regime and the Chinese government. And he just wrote some furious, noble denunciations of that. It was one of his finest moments," Brookhiser recounts.
Looking at the Republican roster of presidential candidates so far for 2012, Brookhiser says, "It all seems up in the air . . . we're still waiting for people to get into the field. I mean, is Rick Perry [governor of Texas] going to announce? Who knows?"
But Brookhiser observes that Obama's supporters didn't do the president any favors by putting him up on such a pedestal. "It was inevitable that he would fall from these heights. Not only has he fallen from the heights to the level of a normal politician, he's now falling to the level of a less-than-normal politician."
Editor's note: To get Richard Brookhiser's book, "Right Time, Right Place: Coming of Age with William F. Buckley Jr. and the Conservative Movement," at a good price — Click Here Now.