Tuesday, March 4, 2008

More Buckley: The not-so-great debater

Following up on my post last week about the death of William F. Buckley:

Skeptical Eye is not quite skeptical enough on the subject (“his wit and charm and intelligence were captivating”), but it does link to some revealing video clips. Among them is this two-part debate with Noam Chomsky from “Firing Line” in 1969, in which Buckley attempts to argue that American military operations in Vietnam grew out of a “disinterested concern” for the stability and welfare of that country and had nothing to do with imperialist self-interest. Chomsky tears him apart, as you might expect, pointing out that we very definitely acted in our self-interest, as we tend to do.

I wish I could admire Buckley even for being a talented prevaricator. But as these clips show, he had a limited bag of rhetorical tricks, and not very sophisticated ones at that. Whenever he realizes he is losing a point, for example, he winks at the camera and raises a coquettish eyebrow. How witty and charming and intelligent and captivating! He simply must be right about that contradictory and confused comment about the Truman Doctrine’s effect on Greece.

Ladies and gentlemen, the original conservative charlatan.

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