Why William F. Buckley died (thanks to Bill Hobbs)

Balloon Juice, among other sites, has been having fun with this, so credit to them — this is more of a redaction. But think of it as one-stop shopping.

A few days ago, I started a post this way:

There’s a famous definition of conservatism courtesy of one William Buckley, who I am still convinced looks at everything that’s come afterwards and asked himself where he screwed up (and well he should).

His passing, therefore, makes a clear sense in terms of his desiring to depart this life to avoid seeing what further strangenesses were afoot, and it should be honored appropriately.

Now, it’s worth noting, as has been the case since his death, that the reason why Buckley intrigued any number of left-leaning commentators was all the erudition and involved vocabulary and air of genteel patrician regard. If, as Alfred suggested over ILX, Buckley was one of those people at any point on the political divide fascinated by (and making excuses for) power as willfully exercised, then in turn others were fascinated by (and making excuses for) Buckley and his own power, such as it was. Even when he was saying ugly things, he dressed them up very well, and at least admitted that some conclusions of his were the wrong ones to draw — giving a little to hold on to a lot, though, even while his preferred audience said he was a coward. One imagines, however, that he well used the advantages of his birth and standing in society well to enjoy it to the full, and did, even if he had to sail to international waters to smoke some marijuana — a certain, if conditional, zest for life.

Bill Hobbs, sadly, lacks that joie de vivre.

Mr. Hobbs had some things to say, and he doesn’t only say them on his blog — he’s got a whole political party to work with, or at least the Tennessee GOP, as can be seen in this press release from a few days ago which he happened to author. Starting out such a release with the bold words ‘ANTI-SEMITES FOR OBAMA’ might be seen as inflammatory, but such is the nature of political work (one could equally draw up a post reading ‘ANTI-SPELLERS AGAINST OBAMA,’ say, but there might not be as much traction).

Now, Mr. Hobbs has since let it be known that he was rather annoyed by the fact that people, perhaps including one John McCain, seemed to think that his use of Obama’s middle name was out of line, instead urging them to please think of the issues. Noble, but woundedly aggrieved — appropriate enough for a disciple of Buckley, as we can see from Hobbs’s post immediately prior to the one on the middle name. Fight the good fight and all that.

Yet, strangely, something else happened soon thereafter. See, Josh Marshall over at TalkingPointsMemo, perhaps inspired by the nobility of the likes of Hobbs — but there’s a lot of it to go about — posted a little something which he had to then follow up with an edit: “A distressingly large number of readers weren’t clear that this post was satire.” Well, who can blame his audience for being confused — these are strange times after all, and biting humor, sadly, seems often to hide out while quirk predominates (but this is a post for another time).

One of his readers, though, was Mr. Hobbs, who posted a link to Marshall’s story in his own brief post. His error was the object of sport at Balloon Juice and doubtless elsewhere. Hobbs, feeling further annoyed by being the object of complaints — it must be said, some of his words are rather intemperate — could perhaps have been forgiven if his own sense of humor, sadly, had been dulled by the great work he’s engaging on for the good of us all, though it’s unclear what that is besides complaining about people who are not home-schooled, gun-carrying Republicans. No matter, we each have our preferences.

A curious thing was noted, however — a variety of people, including this author, decided to point out, each in our fashion, doubtless, that the post regarding Marshall’s satiric post was perhaps inaccurate. My own words were a brief ‘Never change. Really.’ This advice, however, has been imperfectly followed, though I thank him for following it. You see, the link I provided above, you’ll note, still works — at least for now. But if you go to the main feed on Hobbs’s page, you’ll see that the story isn’t there at all.


Politburo Diktat discusses this in more detail
, as well as thoughtfully providing a screencap of the post, in case, through some mistake or error, it disappears entirely. It does lead one to sadly reflect on the ineluctable regression on this part of the conservative commentariat, though, to engage in what is, after all, a somewhat curious, perhaps even childish step. It would have been perfectly acceptable — understandable — had the post remained as it was in the general feed, along with a brief, updated note regarding how he had since learned he was in error regarding Marshall’s intent, and fallen victim to a jape. He might have expressed his own dissatisfaction with said jape, to be sure, but by acknowledging it, he could have demonstrated an admirable realization that one is not always accurate in initial conclusions, as well as indicating that, yes, there is a value in comprehending making oneself the object of laughter, as possession of a sense of humor that is self-directed enables the writer and thinker to learn not to elevate one’s airs too much, even in the most passionate of moments and times.

Instead, regrettably, Mr. Hobbs chooses to pretend his lapse of judgment never happened — though somewhat imperfectly, as noted. A piteous state of affairs.

It is noteworthy, then, that William F. Buckley died shortly before this incident was called to general attention. I imagine the scenario was this — Mr. Buckley was working at his desk, considering issues ranging from the best sailing conditions in the Pacific Ocean to whether or not Whittaker really had used the best possible disdain for Ayn Rand all those years ago. Then, a vision! St. Peter came to him with a gentle smile and acknowledged that, yes, his time was nigh. Overwhelmed but not entirely surprised, Mr. Buckley thanked the good archangel kindly, but asked if he could not stay a little while longer, to see how this year’s political season worked itself out — he had seen so many before, surely one more could be acceptable.

St. Peter sighed and shook his head kindly. “No, I am sorry, sir. For you see, you have realized long ago that many of the people who have followed in your footsteps are coarse, having taken your own flaws and that of your beliefs and worsened them with their own paranoia and pre-ordained conclusions. You understand this?”

Buckley nodded briefly. “It is something I’ve long since realized is an unacceptable state of affairs, but even the magazine I founded seems only to wallow in stupidities now. And yet, surely the grand tasks are still to be pursued?”

“Ah,” said St. Peter, “there is something even worse about many of your followers. See here, in what is to happen tomorrow regarding one Bill Hobbs in Tennessee.” And he kindly showed Buckley a brief glimpse of the future.

“Oh dear,” said Buckley. “He cannot even laugh at himself?”

“I am afraid,” responded the saint, checking his watch as he did so, “that he lacks that capacity. He appears to be a dullard — and would likely be even more of a dullard if he tried to defend himself, so let us hope he does not. The mangling of the language would be saddening. Now, we must go — and you see why you should as well.”

Buckley shrugged his shoulders gently and prepared to depart, letting his body rest as he hoped it would be found. But then a last thought overcame him: “Does this not mean that Gore Vidal has the last laugh?”

“Oh, for now, certainly,” chuckled the saint. “But fear not, you will yet see him again when the time comes.”

“What! Gore Vidal will be in heaven?”

“You’ll find many surprises. Come, we must not dally — Mr. Wilde is giving a speech tonight, followed by a series of duets between Mr. Mercury and Mr. Nomi.”

[UPDATE: Mr. Hobbs has had some further problems sent his way. But fear not, his elan remains intact:

Hobbs said Thursday that the party will no longer use Obama’s middle name in news releases.

“We’re not going to be using the middle name now, because apparently, it’s become a distraction,” he said. “But I would note, not too long ago, I saw a wire story out of the Middle East that talked about how a lot of people there are hungry for Obama to win and, in part, because his middle name gives him a connection, and that story used his middle name, so we’re not the first people to notice and use his middle name.”

He seems to have spoken not a word on his blog so far about this, allowing therefore the mass media to speak for him, which perhaps distresses a noble writer like himself. Doubtless his pearls of wisdom there will be forthcoming.]

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Baked acorn squash with mustard and honey

Nice…very nice.

3 acorn squash, about 1 1/2 pounds each, stems cut off
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Set the squash on its side and, with a large knife, cut in half vertically.

Trim a piece off the bottom of each squash half so they will lie flat in the pan. Scrape out the seeds and stringy membranes with a large spoon. Place cavity side up in a large roasting pan.

Mix the butter, mustard, and honey in a small bowl until blended. Fill each squash cavity with 2 tablespoons of the butter mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until the squash is very tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

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