Transcript: Interview: William F. Buckley Jr. | Mar 31, 1977

Mike McManus appears in a dark television studio with a lit-up sign that reads his name. He’s in his late forties, clean-shaven, with short side-parted gray hair. He’s wearing a gray plaid suit, white shirt, and navy blue tie.

He says HE HAS BEEN DESCRIBED
AS A SOLITARY SNIPER,
TAKING SKILLFUL SHOTS AT
OUR LIBERAL SOCIETY.
AND HE NEVER TIRES
OF THE BATTLE.
HE HAS AUTHORED 12 BOOKS,
THE LATEST OF WHICH
FINDS HIM IN A
SENTIMENTAL MOOD.
MY GUEST, THE EDITOR OF
THE NATIONAL REVIEW,
THE HOST OF TELEVISION'S
FIRING LINE,
THE AUTHOR OF “AIRBORNE.”
OUR SUBJECT, WILLIAM F.
BUCKLEY Jr.
IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD.

(music plays)

In animation, the phrase “The education of Mike McManus” flies by, as Mike walks across the studio and joins William Buckley Junior at a small round table.

The opening sequence rolls.
Soft flute music plays.

Portraits of Mike made of dots in different colours flash by as the title flies by: The Education of Mike McManus.

Then, Mike and William appear on screen again.
William is in his fifties, clean-shaven, with side-parted straight gray hair. He’s wearing a black suit, white shirt, and striped black tie.

Mike says WILLIAM BUCKLEY, “AIRBORNE,”
A JOURNAL OF YOUR SAILING
ACROSS THE ATLANTIC,
4,400 MILES OF OCEAN,
A 15-YEAR DREAM
COME TRUE.

William says THAT'S CORRECT.

Mike says WHY DID YOU ALWAYS
WANT TO DO IT?

William says WELL, I'M NOT SURE IT'S
ALL THAT UNCONVENTIONAL.
A LOT OF PEOPLE WANT TO
SAIL ACROSS THE ATLANTIC.
A LOT OF THEM DO, AND
MOST OF THEM SURVIVE.
IF YOU'VE SAILED
ALL YOUR LIFE,
IT'S SORT OF THE
BIG GAME.
I SUPPOSE IT'S LIKE
HAVING A HOLE IN ONE.
EVERYBODY WANTS TO
HAVE A HOLE IN ONE
IF THEY PLAY GOLF.
THERE'S BEEN MUCH
WRITTEN ABOUT SAILING,
BUT I THOUGHT, WELL, WHY
NOT ATTEMPT TO COMBINE
THE RAW EXPERIENCE OF A
SAIL ACROSS THE ATLANTIC,
WITH SOME KIND OF INTROSPECTION
OF WHAT SAILING IS LIKE,
AND WHAT PEOPLE LIKE
TO SAIL WITH.

Mike says I'D LIKE TO GET INTO
SOME OF THE RESULTS
OF THAT INTROSPECTION.
BEFORE WE DO, FOR OUR
SAILING ENTHUSIASTS,
HOW BIG WAS THE BOAT?

William says 60 FOOT.
IT WAS A 60-FOOT SCHOONER,
BUILT IN THE BAHAMAS.
VERY SEA KINDLY.
2700 FEET OF SAIL WHEN
EVERYTHING IS UP.
HAS AN ENGINE THAT WILL
CARRY IT ABOUT 8 KNOTS.
IT'LL GO 10.5 KNOTS
UNDER POWER, UNDER SAIL,
IN MAXIMUM CIRCUMSTANCES.

Mike says DID YOU HAVE TO
USE THE POWER?

William says OH, SURE.
SURE.
IN THE MONTH OF JUNE, GOING
FROM MIAMI TO BERMUDA,
TO THE AZORES, TO SPAIN,
YOU CAN COUNT ON RUNNING
ABOUT 35, 40 PERCENT OF THE TIME
WITHOUT ANY AIR AT ALL.
SO YOU'VE GOT TO
HAVE A LITTLE POWER.

Mike says HOW BIG WAS THE CREW?

William says THERE WERE NINE OF US.
MY SON, A FEW
FRIENDS, AND A COOK,
AND A STEWARD
AND A CAPTAIN.
I WAS THE CAPTAIN
OF THE BOAT,
BUT HE LOOKED AFTER
THE HARDWARE.

Mike says I KNOW THAT YOU PLANNED
THE TRIP FOR 15 MONTHS.
THAT WOULD BE HOW TO
NAVIGATE THE BOAT - I KNOW
NOTHING ABOUT SAILING -
WHAT FOOD TO TAKE,
VERY PRACTICAL
THINGS LIKE THAT.
WHAT DID YOU FORGET?
ANYTHING?

William says WELL, MOST OF THE STUFF
THAT WE TOOK ALONG,
BY WAY OF AID TO
NAVIGATION, DIDN'T WORK.
ALL KINDS OF GOODIES
I HAD PREPARED.
FOR INSTANCE, WE HAD A
TELEVISION SET WITH ALL OF
UPSTAIRS AND DOWNSTAIRS, SO
WE COULD SORT OF SEE IT.
IT DIDN'T WORK.
THE LORAN DIDN'T WORK,
THE RADAR DIDN'T WORK,
AND SO ON AND SO FORTH.
BUT WHAT ONE REALLY PARES
DOWN TO THE ESSENTIALS,
THE SAILS WORKED AND
THE ENGINE WORKED.
YOU MUDDLE THROUGH.

Mike says SO REALLY, IF YOU
HAD TO PLAN IT AGAIN,
NOTHING VERY DIFFERENT?
YOU DIDN'T MAKE ANY
REALLY GRAVE ERRORS?

William says AS LONG AS YOU SURVIVE,
NO ERROR IS REALLY
VERY GRAVE AT SEA.

Mike says THAT 30 DAYS,
HIGH POINTS?

William says WELL, THE HIGH POINTS ARE
IN A SENSE INTROSPECTIVE.
THEY HAVE TO DO WITH
SLIPPING INTO DIFFERENT GEARS.
YOU START OUT, YOU
WONDER, IS IT POSSIBLE
THAT THE TEDIUM
OF THIS PASSAGE
ISN'T GOING TO
OVERWHELM ME?
TO BE PLUCKED OUT OF A
CONCENTRATED COSMOPOLITAN
LIFE INTO THAT KIND
OF THING REQUIRES
SOME SORT OF AN OVERDRIVE.
IT HAPPENS.
YOU READ ABOUT IT HAPPENING,
AND YOU TEND TO DOUBT IT,
BUT IT DOES, IN
FACT, HAPPEN.
OTHER HIGH POINTS, WERE, OF
COURSE, THE RELATIONSHIP
THAT ONE DEVELOPS
EVEN WITH ONE'S SON.
SEEING DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF
HIM THAN ONE SAW BEFORE.
STILL OTHERS ARE THE
EXTRAORDINARY NATURAL BEAUTY.
THE SEA, AS YOU KNOW,
CHANGES EVERY FEW SECONDS.
AND YOU LOOK UP, AND YOU'RE
CHARGING THROUGH THE WATER
WITHOUT ANY MOTOR POWER AT 8,
9 KNOTS, AND YOU SEE THE SUN
AND THE STARS IN A
VERY DIFFERENT WAY.
IT'S NOT AN EXPERIENCE THAT
CAN BE LIVED THROUGH,
OR COMMUNICATED BY
FILM SUCCESSFULLY.
YOU NEED THE
TOTALITY OF IT.
THIS SOUNDS BANAL, BUT SO IS
ANY TALK ABOUT THE BEAUTY
OF NATURE IN THE SENSE
BANAL, THE FACT IS
THAT IT OVERWHELMS YOU.

Mike says AKIN TO SOME KIND
OF RELIGIOUS SENSE?

William says WELL, YEAH.
I THINK IT DOES.
IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THE
COSMIC ODDS ARE AGAINST
AN EXPERIENCE OF THAT
KIND BEING MAKEABLE
IN THE ABSENCE OF SOME SORT
OF DIVINE INTELLIGENCE
THAT MADE IT POSSIBLE.
AT LEAST I WOULD
GIVE ODDS.

Mike says AND HARDER TO SENSE
THIS IN NEW YORK CITY?

William says IT IS HARD TO SENSE
IN NEW YORK CITY.
OF COURSE, THE CONTRAST
IS SO EXTRAORDINARY.
WE'RE ALWAYS TALKING ABOUT
THE ECOLOGICAL WASTELAND
TO WHICH WE'RE HEADED.
AND SOMETIMES CRUISING
THROUGH LONG ISLAND SOUND,
YOU CAN SEE THAT'S TRUE.
BUT THE VASTNESS
OF THAT OCEAN
IS PRETTY MUCH
UNBLEMISHED.
SO THAT YOU CAN SEE IN
THOSE COBALT BLUE SEAS,
FIVE MILES ABOVE
THE BOTTOM FLOOR,
A REALLY PRISTINE
WATER, A PRISTINE SEA.
AND IT'S SOMETHING WHICH IF
YOU CAN POSSIBLY MANAGE IT,
IT SOUNDS PREPOSTEROUS TO
SAY THAT, BUT AFTER ALL,
AN AWFUL LOT OF PEOPLE
ACCOMPLISH ANYTHING THEY WANT
TO ACCOMPLISH, THIS
IS A GOOD OBJECTIVE.

Mike says YOU SAY IN THE BOOK
YOU ARE AN ADVENTURIST.

William says NO, I DON'T
THINK I SAID THAT.

Mike says YOU HATE THE MARATHON.

William says OH, NO, I SAY I PREFER THE
SPRINT TO THE MARATHON.
I DIDN'T SAY I WAS
AN ADVENTURIST.

Mike says DID YOU DISCOVER
THIS JUST THERE?

William says NO, I THINK I'VE
KNOWN ABOUT MYSELF -
THE MARATHON REQUIRES
A KIND OF STAMINA
WHICH I DON'T CULTIVATE.
I WOULD MUCH RATHER, FOR
INSTANCE, DO 60 PUSH-UPS
THAN JOG FOR THREE MILES
BECAUSE 60 PUSH-UPS
YOU CAN DO IN A
COUPLE OF MINUTES.
SO IN THAT SENSE, IN
THAT SENSE I HAVE ALWAYS
CULTIVATED DRASTIC, QUICK
RHYTHMS, RATHER THAN LONG -
I WOULD RATHER GO THROUGH
THE TORTURES OF THE DAMNED
AND WRITE A BOOK IN TWO
MONTHS THAN TO PROLONG
THE TORTURE AND WRITE IT
OVER A PERIOD OF 12 MONTHS.

Mike says WERE YOU EVER IN ANY
DANGER IN THE 30 DAYS?

A caption appears on screen. It reads "William F. Buckley Junior."

William says YOU'RE ALWAYS IN A
HYPOTHETICAL DANGER.
IF THERE IS A FIRE
ONBOARD, FOR INSTANCE,
THE DANGER IS
VERY ACUTE.
IF THERE IS A MAN OVERBOARD,
THE DANGER IS EXTREMELY ACUTE.
IF THE WEATHER IS BAD.
IF YOU RUN INTO A HURRICANE,
IT IS UNWISE TO DO SO.
WE DIDN'T HAVE ANY
OF THOSE THREE.
BUT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO SAY
THAT ONE DOES NOT KNOW,
STRETCHING OUT OVER A
PERIOD OF OVER 4400 MILES
THAT ONE IS CHALLENGING
THE ELEMENTS.
BUT THE STATISTICS
ARE VERY REASSURING.

Mike says THEY ARE?

William says YEAH.
MY WIFE, OF COURSE,
MY CANADIAN WIFE,
WAS OPPOSED TO
THE JOURNEY.
WAS QUITE SURE SHE
WOULD NOT SEE ME AGAIN,
AND NOT ABSOLUTELY
CERTAIN WHETHER
SHE WANTED TO
SEE ME AGAIN.
SHE SAID TO SOMEBODY, I
THINK I QUOTED IN THIS
BOOK, “IF BILL GETS OUT OF
THIS ALIVE, I'LL KILL HIM.”

Mike says WHY “AIRBORNE.”
AS A TITLE?

William says THERE IS A DELIBERATE PLAY ON
THE TWO SENSES OF THAT WORD.
AIRBORNE IN THE SENSE WE
WERE BEING BORNE BY AIR
FROM ONE PLACE TO ANOTHER,
THE PRESSURE OF THE WIND.
BUT AIRBORNE, ALSO, IS AN
INVITATION TO THE METAPHOR
THAT THE TRIP ACTUALLY
TOOK OFF IN THE SENSE
OF ITS BEING A
CONSUMMATION OF A HUMAN
AND NATURALISTIC
EXPERIENCE.

Mike says YOU MENTIONED EARLIER,
GOING FROM AN ALMOST
FRENETIC LIFE IN NEW YORK
TO THIS 30-DAY RETREAT,
THAT YOU HAD TO
CHANGE GEARS.
DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING
ELSE ABOUT YOURSELF
IN THIS KIND OF
ISOLATION?

William says OH, I THINK, YES,
I THINK ONE DOES.
ONE LEARNS A LOT ABOUT THE
ADAPTABILITY OF ONESELF
TO ALIEN RHYTHMS.
FOR INSTANCE, WE KNOW ENOUGH
ABOUT THE LITERATURE
OF PEOPLE WHO ARE IMPRISONED
TO KNOW THEY CAN ADAPT
TO CIRCUMSTANCES THAT
ARE TOTALLY ALIEN
TO THE EXPANSIVE SPIRIT
OF THE HUMAN BEING.
PERHAPS THE MOST SIGNIFICANT
SINGLE READING EXPERIENCE
I'VE EVER HAD WAS
READING SOLZHENITSYN'S,
“LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH.”
IT IS, I THINK, THE MOST
TRIUMPHANT ACCOLADE TO THE
HUMAN SPIRIT EVER WRITTEN,
IN AS MUCH AS IT SHOWS YOU
THAT THROUGH IT ALL,
THIS MAN LIVING UNDER
THE MOST WRETCHED
CIRCUMSTANCES WAS HAPPY.
IVAN DENISOVICH
WAS A HAPPY MAN.
AND THIS WAS A
MONUMENTAL PIECE OF ART.
IT SHOOK THE SOVIET SYSTEM
DURING THAT BRIEF THAW
THAT WAS PERMITTED
UNDER KHRUSHCHEV.
AND REVIVED, IT WAS AFTER
THAT BOOK THAT ERENBERG
SAID WHEN ALL THE WORLD
IS COVERED BY CONCRETE,
SOMEWHERE A BLADE
OF GRASS WILL GROW.
AND IN THAT SENSE, ONE
LEARNS ABOUT ONESELF WHEN
ONE IS ALONE, OR RELATIVELY
ALONE IN THE OCEAN
DOING UNORTHODOX THINGS.

Mike says IS THIS A GOOD TIME
TO GO TO SOLZHENITSYN?

William says SURE.

Mike says YOU KNOW, Mr. BUCKLEY,
WE DID A PROGRAM,
NOT ON THIS PARTICULAR
PROGRAM, SOME TIME AGO,
ON SOLZHENITSYN, FOLLOWING
UP FROM HIS INTERVIEW
WITH MICHAEL CANNON, I THINK,
FROM THE BBC IN ENGLAND.
AND YOU KNOW I WANTED
YOU TO BE WITH US.
SOME PEOPLE CRITICIZED
OUR DISCUSSION
OF THE INTERVIEW AFTER.

William says CHARLTON, BY THE WAY.

Mike says CHARLTON?

William says CHARLTON, YEAH.

Mike says IN AS MUCH AS WE SEEMED TO
HAVE, IN OUR DISCUSSION,
EXPLAINED Mr.
SOLZHENITSYN AWAY.
I WOULD LIKE YOU TO
SAY SOMETHING ABOUT
HIS INFLUENCE, OR WHAT
HIS INFLUENCE SHOULD BE.
WAS HE A NINE-DAY WONDER?
HAS HE ANYTHING TO
SAY TO THE WEST?

William says WELL, HE'S A NINE-DAY
WONDER LIKE TOLSTOY
WAS A NINE-DAY WONDER,
OR DOSTOEVSKY.
SOLZHENITSYN IS, I THINK,
UNQUESTIONABLY,
THE GREAT MAN OF
THIS CENTURY.
I KNOW OF NOBODY WHO
CAN BE COMPARED TO HIM.
HE IS A MAN WHO
SINGLE-HANDEDLY STOOD BACK
THE SLAVE MASTERS OF
300 MILLION PEOPLE,
AND SAID YOU CAN'T DO IT
TO ME, AND SURVIVED.
THE CRUEL, THE GRUESOME
IRONY IS THAT HE IS REALLY
LESS SAFE IN THE WEST
THAN HE WAS IN MOSCOW.
THAT'S THE OVERARCHING
PARADOX OF SOLZHENITSYN.
THERE, WHAT HE HAD
TO FACE WAS LUBYANKA
AND THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO,
AND A BULLET IN HIS WRIST.
HERE, HE FACES THOSE
LILLIPUTIAN DENIGRATIONS
THAT ALL TRULY GREAT MEN
INEVITABLY RUN INTO.
PEOPLE WHO SNICKER THEIR
LITTLE FANTASY DEROGATIONS
OF HIM, WHO REFUSE TO
APPRECIATE HIS GREATNESS.
WHO TOY WITH THE IDEA THAT
HE IS A RELIGIOUS FANATIC
OR A LUNATIC, FOR THE VERY
SIMPLE REASON HE GREW UP
RECOGNIZING THE ABSOLUTE
NECESSITY OF DISTINGUISHING
BETWEEN RIGHT AND WRONG.
AND ANYBODY WHO
DISTINGUISHES BETWEEN RIGHT
AND WRONG IS SIMPLY NOT
WELCOME IN OUR SOCIETY.

Mike says HIS PREDICTION OR PROPHESY
FOR US IN THE WEST
WAS THAT WE'RE FOLLOWING THE
SAME ROUTE TO TOTALITARIANISM.

William says OF COURSE.

Mike says BECAUSE WE HAVE
LOST OUR MORAL FIBRE.
THE GUESTS ON THE PROGRAM,
WITH ONE EXCEPTION,
FELT THAT HE REALLY DIDN'T
UNDERSTAND THE WEST.
THE SAME CHARGE, I THINK,
HAS BEEN MADE AGAINST YOU,
Mr. BUCKLEY, AS THEY MADE
AGAINST SOLZHENITSYN,
AND THAT'S THAT YOU DON'T
UNDERSTAND THE FLUID NATURE
OF OUR POLITICS.

William says I PERFECTLY
UNDERSTAND IT.
I UNDERSTAND THE FLUID
NATURE OF ALL POLITICS
AS I UNDERSTAND THE FLUID
NATURE OF THE POLITICS
OF ITALY AND GERMANY AFTER
THE FIRST WORLD WAR.
I AM SIMPLY INHOSPITABLE
TO IT; SOLZHENITSYN DOESN'T
UNDERSTAND OUR POLITICS IN
THIS VERY NARROW SENSE
OF UNDERSTANDING.
HE DOESN'T UNDERSTAND WHY
ANYBODY WOULD PARTICIPATE
WILLINGLY IN A PUBLIC
POLICY THAT IS LEADING
THAT PERSON TO THE KIND
OF DISFIGUREMENT
WHICH HAPPENS UNDER A
TOTALITARIAN SOCIETY.
NOW, YOU MIGHT SAY, WELL,
HE DOESN'T UNDERSTAND
THE FLUIDITY OF
OUR CULTURE.
WELL, WHAT IS IT THAT
HE DOESN'T UNDERSTAND?
HE CERTAINLY UNDERSTANDS
THAT HE WAS BROUGHT UP
IN A TOTALITARIAN COUNTRY,
WHICH IN HIS LIFETIME EXTENDED
ITS EMPIRE OVER 200 MILLION
PEOPLE; NOTWITHSTANDING,
THE WEST HAD FOUGHT A VERY
VALIANT WAR, OSTENSIBLY,
TO LIBERATE POLAND.
AT LEAST THAT WAS ITS
ORIGINAL OBJECTIVE.
WHAT IS IT HE
DOESN'T UNDERSTAND?
WHAT IS IT THAT HE HAS...
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
OUR FOREIGN POLICY
THAT ONE CAN POINT TO
AS GAIN SAYING THE
STRICTURES OF SOLZHENITSYN?
WHO HAVE WE
LIBERATED LATELY?

Mike says WELL, YOU BOTH
LIKE CLARITY.
YOU BOTH LIKE POLARIZED
POSITIONS, IN THE SENSE
THAT A THING YOU DETEST,
OR HAVE SAID YOU DETESTED
IN THE PAST WAS A LIBERAL
POSING AS A REPUBLICAN.

William says I DON'T USE
THE WORD DETEST.

Mike says ALL RIGHT, TOO STRONG.
BUT THAT CONFUSION.
AND THEY WOULD ARGUE THAT
THERE IS MORE MORAL FIBRE
IN THE WEST THAN
WE WOULD SEE.
IT'S JUST THAT OUR GAME IS
PUSH-PULL, FUMBLE THROUGH,
RATHER THAN STRONG,
HEROIC, POLARIZED STANDS
I WILL NOT COOPERATE.

William says NO, SOLZHENITSYN IS A
MAN OF INFINITE SUBTLETY.
ANYBODY WHO HAS DRUNK
AS DEEPLY AS HE
INTO THE INFINITE COMPLEXITY
OF THE RUSSIAN MIND
CAN HARDLY BE THOUGHT
OF AS A SIMPLIST.
IF, IN FACT, AS A RESULT OF
AN EXQUISITE MANEUVERING
WE HAD SUCCEEDED WITH
A FOREIGN POLICY
THAT WAS LIBERATIONIST
IN FORMULATION,
I DON'T THINK THAT SOLZHENITSYN
WOULD MIND AT ALL
ANY DANCING AROUND, OR
ANY TERGIVERSATIONS, EVEN.
BUT THIS ISN'T
WHAT'S HAPPENING.
WHAT IS HAPPENING IS
THAT LITTLE BY LITTLE,
WE'RE BREEDING A CLASS
OF PEOPLE WHO GO TO CHINA,
LOOK UP AT MAO TSE-TUNG, AND
COME BACK TO YOUR COUNTRY,
AND MINE, AND SAY THIS IS
THE MOST MARVELLOUS THING
THAT'S EVER HAPPENED IN
THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.
WE'RE LIVING IN AN AGE IN
WHICH A CATHOLIC BISHOP
OF CUERNAVACA PROPOSES THAT
JO HAN LI BE SANCTIFIED,
BE ACTUALLY MADE A SAINT
IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.
WE'RE LIVING IN AN AGE IN
WHICH DEAR HARRISON SALISBURY,
WITH ALL OF HIS VAST
EXPERIENCE WITH HIS
FINE MIND, GOES TO CHINA,
COMES BACK AND STARTS SOUNDING
LIKE THAT WHOLE GANG WHO
CAME BACK PRAISING
THE WORKS OF STALIN, OR AS
A MATTER OF FACT, ADOLF HITLER.
NOW, SOLZHENITSYN FINDS IT
VERY HARD TO UNDERSTAND
ANY PATIENCE EXHIBITED IN
THE WEST WITH THE HORRORS
THAT ARE PRACTICED
SYSTEMATICALLY
IN BOTH THOSE GREAT
COUNTRIES.
THOSE HUGE COUNTRIES.
IF WE WERE TO SAY SIMPLY
THERE IS NOTHING WE CAN DO
ABOUT THE SOVIET OR GERMANY,
BUT AT LEAST YOU WILL
NEVER FIND US EXCUSING IT.
YOU'LL NEVER FIND US BEING
SYMPATHETIC TO GULAG,
THIS HE WOULD HAVE THE CHRISTIAN
SPIRIT TO ACCOMMODATE TO.
BUT WE'RE TOO
MORALISTIC TO DO THAT.
WE SAY, THERE'S NOTHING
WE CAN DO ABOUT IT,
AND ANYWAY WHAT'S
SO BAD ABOUT IT?
THAT'S REALLY WHAT
WE'VE BEEN SAYING.
AND IN THE CASE OF CHINA,
WE'RE SAYING IT'S SPLENDID.
IT'S MUCH EASIER IN NEW YORK
CITY TO FIND SOMEBODY
WHO IS MAD ABOUT MAO TSE-TUNG,
THAN MAD ABOUT TAIWAN,
AND YET LOOK AT THE DIFFERENCES
IN THE QUALITY OF LIFE
IN THOSE TWO COUNTRIES.

Mike says HE'S QUITE
CRITICAL OF DETENTE.
AND IN THAT INTERVIEW
HE SAID WHILE DETENTE
HAS GIVEN YOU A KIND
OF RELAXED PERIOD,
IT HAS MEANT A TIGHTENING
UP OF THE PEOPLE
WITHIN THE SOVIET UNION.
HOW DO YOU YOURSELF
FEEL ABOUT DETENTE,
AS WE UNDERSTAND IT
BY HENRY KISSINGER,
AND AMERICAN
FOREIGN POLICY?

William says DETENTE IS A FETISHISTIC
WORD TO DESCRIBE A POLICY
BY THE UNITED STATES WHICH IS
SUBSTANTIALLY ACCOMMODATIONIST.
IT IS A POLICY THAT BAILS
OUT THE SOVIET UNION
WHEN IT IS IN ECONOMIC
DIFFICULTIES.
IT IS A POLICY THAT MAKES
ARRANGEMENTS WITH SOUTH VIETNAM
WHICH ARE DESIGNED TO PROTECT
IT, BUT DEFAULTS ON THOSE,
AND WE'RE CALLED TO
LIVE UP ON THEM.

Mike says SO IT'S PURELY PRAGMATIC.

William says NO, WHAT IT IS IS A VERBAL
PHILIP DESIGNED TO OBSCURE
THE FACT WE'RE ADJUSTING
TO THE GRADUAL ASCENDANCY
OF THE SOVIET UNION AS THE
PRINCIPAL POWER ON EARTH.

Mike says ARE YOU INSPIRED AT
ALL AT THE ASCENDANCY
OF JIMMY CARTER IN
THIS KIND OF CONTEXT
THAT YOU'RE
TALKING ABOUT?

William says I DON'T THINK JIMMY CARTER
IS VERY INTERESTED
IN FOREIGN POLICY.
HE STRUGGLED, AS DID HIS
JANISSARIES DURING THE CAMPAIGN
TO FIGURE OUT WHAT IT
WAS THEY DIDN'T LIKE
ABOUT OUR CURRENT
FOREIGN POLICY.
THEY HAD TO SAY THEY DIDN'T
LIKE SOMETHING BECAUSE
IT'S IN NATURE OF THE
AMERICAN POLITICAL PROCESS.
BUT WHEN TIME CAME TO
ACTUALLY VERBALIZE
WHAT HE DIDN'T LIKE, HE
SIMPLY BECAME INCOHERENT.
WITH A SINGLE EXCEPTION
OF HIS GUARANTEE
TO THE SOVIET UNION THAT
THEY COULD MARCH AGAINST
YUGOSLAVIA WITH IMPUNITY,
I CAN'T THINK OF ANY
IMPORTANT DIFFERENCE.
ALTHOUGH IT IS PROBABLY TRUE
THERE IS A LITTLE BIT MORE
BACKBONE AMONG REPUBLICANS
THAN AMONG DEMOCRATS,
NOWADAYS, IN THE MATTERS
OF FOREIGN POLICY.
BUT WHEN CARTER GETS
SOMEBODY LIKE BRZEZINSKI
TO WRITE A BOOK ON WHAT'S
WRONG WITH KISSINGER,
HE COMPOSES SENTENCES LIKE
THIS ONE, BRACE YOURSELF.
“AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY HAS
BEEN BASED ON THE PRIMACY
OF THE INDIVIDUAL, AND ON
THE CENTRALITY OF PLURALISM.”
NOW, WHAT THE HELL
DOES THAT MEAN?

Mike says CENTRALITY OF PLURALISM.

William says IT'S JARGON.
JUST JARGON.
SO THERE IS NO REASON TO
SUPPOSE THAT Mr. CARTER
HAS IN MIND ANYTHING
INTERESTING IN FOREIGN POLICY.

Mike says ARE YOU PESSIMISTIC OR
OPTIMISTIC ABOUT WHAT'S AHEAD
FOR US IN THE '70s
IN THE UNITED STATES?

William says WELL, I'M OBJECTIVELY
PESSIMISTIC AND
SUBJECTIVELY OPTIMISTIC.

Mike says WOULD YOU SAY THAT AGAIN?
YOU'RE SUBJECTIVELY-

William says I'M OBJECTIVELY
PESSIMISTIC AND
SUBJECTIVELY
OPTIMISTIC.

Mike says ALL RIGHT, OKAY.

William says THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS
DOWN THE LINE WE KNOW
THE GATES OF HELL WILL
NOT PREVAIL AGAINST US.
AND DOWN THE LINE WE KNOW
THAT BLADE OF GRASS WILL GROW.
AND DOWN THE LINE WE KNOW
THAT REALISM IS ON THE SIDE
OF PEOPLE WHO THINK HUMAN
BEINGS SHOULD BE TREATED
AS HUMAN BEINGS,
NOT SIMPLY AS PAWNS
IN A VAST
IDEOLOGICAL GAME.
THAT BEING THE CASE, I
THINK THERE ARE REASONS
TO SUPPOSE THAT THE SOVIET
UNION IS SUFFERING
AND GROANING UNDER THE
WEIGHT OF ITS OWN IDIOCIES.
DITTO CHINA.
AND FOR US, WE STILL
BELIEVE, IN YOUR COUNTRY,
AND IN MINE, THAT THE
INDIVIDUAL HAS RIGHTS.
AND TO THE EXTENT THAT WE
CONTINUE TO BELIEVE THAT,
WE'RE GOING TO BE
BEACONS OF SOME SORT.
SO ALTHOUGH WE HAVE BEEN
MISERABLE AS EXECUTIVES
OF A FOREIGN POLICY THAT
WOULD IMPROVE THE LOT
OF THE PEOPLE OF
THE WORLD, STILL,
AS JOHN QUINCY ADAMS SAID
IN HIS INAUGURAL ADDRESS,
THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE
FRIENDS OF LIBERTY EVERYWHERE,
THOUGH CUSTODIANS OF
ONLY OF THEIR OWN.

Mike says YOU DID, I SAID IT BEFORE,
AND I'M NOT SURE IF YOU AGREED
WITH ME, YOU DID HAVE A PENCHANT
FOR WANTING REPUBLICANS
AND DEMOCRATS TO STAND FOR
WHAT THEY ORIGINALLY STOOD,
AND THERE WOULD BE
SOME CLEAR CHOICE
AS TO THE POSITIONS OF
THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.

William says WELL, IF THEY STOOD FOR
WHAT THEY ORIGINALLY STOOD,
THEY'D BEGIN BY IMPEACHING
FORD AND CARTER.
WHAT THEY ORIGINALLY STOOD
FOR WAS A WORLD VERY DIFFERENT
THAN THE WORLD THEY
ARE STANDING FOR NOW.
I THINK WHAT YOU'RE
SAYING IS I HAVE DESIRED
A GREATER CLARITY IN
LIFE, WHICH IS TRUE.

Mike says HAVE YOU GIVEN UP ON IT?

William says NO, NO.
AS T.S. ELLIOT SAYS, THERE
ARE NO PERMANENT DEFEATS
BECAUSE THERE ARE NO PERMANENT
VICTORIES AND VICE VERSA.
YOU NEVER ACCOMPLISH EXACTLY
WHAT YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH,
EXCEPT CROSSING THE OCEAN
EVERY NOW AND THEN.
BUT NEITHER IS THERE ANY
REASON EVER ULTIMATELY
AND TOTALLY TO DESPAIR, AND
IVAN DENISOVICH DISCOVERED.
WHAT I DO FEEL, WHAT I DO
MAKE IS A TACTICAL POINT
ABOUT THE
REPUBLICAN PARTY.
THAT ALONG THE LINE,
REPUBLICAN PARTY BECAME
SO MUSHED UP UNDER EISENHOWER
THAT NOBODY REALLY KNEW
WHAT IT STOOD FOR,
OR GREATLY CARED.
IT WAS JUST SORT OF A
GRUDGING FELLOW TRAVELLER
OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY.
AND AS SUCH, IT
LOST ITS EXCITEMENT.
THIS IS THE REASON WHY
THERE ARE SO FEW REGISTERED
REPUBLICANS IN THE
UNITED STATES TODAY.
IT LOST THAT IN IT
WHICH WAS BRACING.
AT LEAST YOU'VE GOT TO
HAND IT TO THE DEMOCRATS.
THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IS
SUBSTANTIALLY IN THE HANDS
OF PEOPLE WHO ARE
ENTHUSIASTIC SOCIALISTS.

Mike says WITH THE ADVENT OF RONALD
REAGAN, DO YOU FEEL NEW HOPE
THAT WE MIGHT GET
THIS KIND OF CLARITY?

William says WELL, REAGAN IS A
FIRST-RATE POLEMICIST.
ANYBODY WHO LIKES THE
ART WILL LISTEN TO HIM
WITH APPRECIATION.
IF THE DEBATE HAD BEEN
BETWEEN REAGAN AND CARTER,
CARTER WOULD BE BACK
PLANTING PEANUTS,
IN MY JUDGMENT.

Mike says YOU REALLY THINK THAT?

William says OH, I DO.
I DO INDEED.
IN FACT, I DON'T THINK THERE
WOULD HAVE BEEN A DEBATE
IF REAGAN HAD WON.
AFTER ALL, REMEMBER, CARTER
HAD NOT YET COMMITTED HIMSELF
TO A DEBATE AT THE TIME
OF KANSAS CITY.
VERY IMPORTANT.
BECAUSE IT WAS ALTOGETHER
POSSIBLE THAT REAGAN WOULD WIN.
AND BOBBY KENNEDY ONCE MADE
THE MISTAKE OF DEBATING
WITH RONALD REAGAN UNDER
THE SPONSORSHIP OF BBC
AND FUNKED ANY FURTHER
ENGAGEMENTS WITH HIM.
SO REAGAN IS A
MASTER POLEMICIST.
AND HE TOUCHED A LOT OF
NERVES IN AMERICA THAT
NEEDED INVIGORATING,
AND DID SO VERY WELL.

Mike says WITH THAT WORD
INVIGORATING, Mr. BUCKLEY,
WOULD YOU EVER CROSS
THE OCEAN AGAIN?

William says SURE, WANNA COME?

Mike says YOU BET I WOULD.
“AIRBORNE.”

(music plays)

Theme music plays as the end credits roll.

Guest, William F. Buckley Junior.

Producer and Director, Susan Murgatroyd.

Executive Producer, Mike McManus.

A learning opportunity by TVOntario.

Watch: Interview: William F. Buckley Jr.