William F. Buckley Jr. On New York Pols – By George J. Marlin

I was very grateful for the positive reactions to my March 2, 2008 essay “William F. Buckley Jr. – My Political Godfather.”

I was surprised, however, that so many people had forgotten or were unaware that Bill Buckley had a significant presence on New York’s political stage.

To understand why New York conservatives revered him, please read the following Buckley comments on local pols:

On Governor George Pataki:

It was recorded in the New York Times, [in 1994], that on one occasion, as an undergraduate at Yale, George Pataki voted against the resolution I had presented to the Political Union as a visiting speaker… Some people say that George Pataki has gone back to the errors he displayed as a 19 year old in the Yale Political Union.  The state debt is hugely increased, some wonder if the State Government has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dennis Rivera’s municipal union.  National Review wonders, in a forthcoming editorial, whether the only abortion law Governor Pataki would oppose would be one that threatened the rights of gays and lesbians.

On Governor Mario Cuomo:

Mario Cuomo, Governor of New York, seems to be saying that there is so much anti-Italian prejudice in America he has no choice but to contend with it by running for president and getting elected.  Oh, yes, and if he runs for president and isn’t elected, why, that means he was right the whole time, there’s a huge anti-Italian prejudice out there.

If Mr. Cuomo runs for president, I shall pray that he will be defeated, but in doing so I shall conceal from Providence the knowledge that he is an Italian-American.  God’s anti-Italianism, as we know, has reached such limits that he had to go all the way to Poland to find a pope.

On Governor Nelson Rockefeller:

Governor Rockefeller … has long since developed the knack or transforming expedience into an act of transcendent principle….

Bobby Kennedy and Nelson Rockefeller are having a row, ostensibly over the plight of New York’s mentally retarded, a loose definition of which would include everyone in New York who voted for Bobby Kennedy or Nelson Rockefeller.

On Governor Averell Harriman:

…Averell Harriman, who can accomplish less in more time than anybody in America.

On Governor Thomas E. Dewey:

…the most analytical campaign statement he made [in the 1948 presidential race], as far as we can remember, was, “Ladies and gentlemen, the future lies before us.”

On Arthur Goldberg (1970 Democratic candidate for Governor):

What on earth Messrs. Goldberg and [Jacob] Javits would find to argue about in a political defies the imagination:  one might as well have a debate between the two Smith Brothers on the matter of cough drops.

On Senator Robert F. Kennedy:

The movement of Bobby towards the left is now so plain that it is likely to be noted in the next issue of the World Almanac, under “Left, move towards. 1. Robert F. Kennedy.”

On Senator Robert F. Kennedy: Why He Wouldn’t Appear on Buckley’s “Firing Line”:

Why does baloney reject the grinder!

On Senator Jacob Javits:

…Senator Javits is a splendid symbol of the diminution in the prestige of the ultra-liberal Republicans.  And his anguish is especially acute in the light of his having so recently lost his heart to himself as Vice President in 1968.  Indeed, Sen. Javits had told an interviewer earlier in the week that frankly, he believes himself “entitled to national consideration.”  Why?  Because he has been – brace yourself – the Republican Party’s chief “ideologist” over the past twenty years (if indeed he were, he would be entitled to be tarred and feathered on national TV).

On Senator James Buckley:

Jim wrote me a couple of years ago, when it had been suggested to him that he should run for the Senate, to say with his instinctive modesty, “I can’t imagine why I’d be useful to the public, still less why the public should want me.”  I liked that then, and I like it still more now, in the light of the overwhelming evidence, given by New Yorkers, that they do want him to speak for them, on so many of the problems, so very vexing, that are coming up.  We used to tease Jim that he was never available for any family function on Saturday because Saturdays are when people tend to get married, and Jim was always away at weddings, usually as best man, sometimes as usher.  His friends felt, instinctively, that they wanted him around at critical periods in their lives.  I think that the voters of New York feel the same way about Jim, wanting him in the Senate at this critical period in our lives.

On Mayor John V. Lindsay:

The trouble with John Lindsay, fundamentally, is that he cannot think rigorously.  The next trouble is that when he does think, he thinks in harrowingly penetrable liberal clichés.  The third trouble is his genius for saying the inappropriate thing.

The differences between Mr. [Abraham] Beame and Mr. Lindsay are biological, not political.

I had working for me, I repeat, an invaluable advantage, namely that I did not expect to win the election, and so could afford to violate the taboos.  Lindsay and Beame had taboos’ mother to observe:  Beame could not afford to criticize Boss Powell or Boss Steingut; Lindsay could not afford to criticize Boss Rose or Boss Dubinsky.  Neither would breathe a word of criticism against John Kennedy, or Mrs. Roosevelt, or Herbert Lehman, or Lyndon Johnson, the welfare state, the press, the voting population, labor unions, universal suffrage, or the Statue of Liberty.  That left them precious little to criticize except inexperience (Lindsay’s), fatigue (Beame’s) – and of course (all together, boys), me, Goldwater, and the nineteenth century.

On Mayor Edward Koch:

Koch has always been careful with me, though absolutely ready to argue:  he is uncomfortable with demagogy perhaps because he knows that just as he can spot it in others, so can I in him.  Our personal relationship goes back many years to when, as a congressman, he wrote and asked me to testify on behalf of a bill he was backing to set up a federal commission to investigate the marijuana problem.  The bill had practically no sponsors when first Koch introduced it. “Then,” Koch had told me happily, as we walked toward the committee room, “half of my colleagues realized that any federal measure imposing prison for first-time marijuana users would put all of their own children in jail!”

On Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr.:

The relationship between corruption and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. would appear to be something like the relationship between typhoid and Typhoid Mary.

On Mayor Rudy Giuliani:

…Rudy Giuliani is to the Republican Party what John Lindsay was to the Republican Party 28 years ago, a liberal in drag. 

George Marlin would crush either Dinkins or Giuliani in public debate, which is exactly why Giuliani refuses to debate with him.  The excuse is that Marlin has only 1 or 2 percent in the polls.  Your servant ran for mayor of New York in 1965 as a Conservative and got 13 percent of the vote because my views were given some ventilation.  The failure to report the views of George Marlin is an act of democratic defeatism:  his are the analyses that could revive a sick city.

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