|Thank you for this wonderful description of your association with William Buckley.
I found especially interesting your observation that American conservatives are primarily interested in the ideas of the Founding Fathers, as opposed to simply preserving the values of the past of whatever character. Although I often feel disgust with powerful strands of statist thinking that seem to dominate conservatives today, I am nevertheless frequently reminded of the truth of your observation. For example, listening to conservative talk show hosts who are less doctrinaire, more populist, and more statist--Michael Savage and Jerry Doyle, to name two--one can still easily discern persistent and strong sympathy for the ideas that inspired the American Revolution: smaller government, self responsibility, the value of economic freedom. Of course, these commentators understand these ideas only vaguely and apply them inconsistently, but their connection to the ideal of individual liberty is unmistakeable.
William Buckley was a huge hero to me when I was young. After I discovered Ayn Rand, I was surprised (but not dumbfounded) by Buckley's hostility to her. For example, Whitaker Chamber wrote a review of Atlas Shrugged in "National Review", in which Chambers stated that Rand had a totalitarian bent to her ethical value system, one that shrieked "To a gas chamber, go!" In the early ninties, I wrote a couple of pretty good letters to the editor of Buckley's magazine, protesting their enthusiastic support for the Gulf War of GHW Bush, and commenting on their snide review of a new release of Rand's book Objectivist Epistemology. Of course, my letters fell into file 13.
Despite such grating philosophical differences, I always enjoyed seeing Buckley speak, and reading--or scanning--his writing. As you point out, Buckley elevated the conservative movement in the USA to a higher intellectual plane, since most conservative writers had been flung into oblivian by the 20 year rule of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. The conservatives who hung grimly on through those years, despite the blackout imposed by the press, public schools, and university system, were not intellectuals. But they were stubborn, brave and honest. Buckley imparted glittering intellectualism to conservativism. But he also did much to reshape the vulnerable and soft remnants of the conservative movement, from one that sought to defend individual liberty, to a movement willing to sacrifice that liberty for wars of National Greatness.