In A Man and His Presidents: The Political Odyssey of William F. Buckley Jr., Alvin S. Felzenberg delves into the history of William J. Buckley, perhaps the most influential American conservative writer, activist, and organizer in the post-war era. Felzenberg explores little-known aspects of Buckley’s life, from his close friendship with the Reagans and role as a back-channel adviser to policymakers to his break with George W. Bush on the Iraq War.
It is important to remember that, when National Review was founded, Buckley was the leader of a fringe movement. He made conservatism respectable again after the Great Depression and Second World War had delegitimized it. His prominence was due not only to his energy, diligence, and charisma, but also to his novelty, his impudence. For many years people wanted to hear what he had to say because no one else was saying it. In the world of I Like Ike, the New Frontier, and the Great Society, no similarly situated member of the New York elite held his then-outlandish views on the role of government, academic freedom, the place of religion in public life, and confrontation with the Soviet Empire. His courage shifted the intellectual and political landscape.