WF Buckley's son, Chris, notes a fickle individualism and orneriness in his father that simply would not be allowed in today's 'conservative' 'movement':
I invoke William F. for straightforwardly mischievous reasons. He was the founder of the modern conservative movement that is in such terrible shape at the moment. He was also unpredictable.
While his brother James L. Buckley was running (not so well) for re-election to the U.S. Senate in 1976, WFB endorsed Allard K. Lowenstein for Congress. Allard K. Lowenstein was so far to the left of WFB that WFB wouldn't have been able to find him with the Hubble telescope. And yet WFB recognized in his friend Al a fineness of mind and principle. A patriot. But oh, what a hullaballoo it caused.
But then WFB had always been a reliable supplier of hullaballoos. In 1965, while running for mayor, he endorsed construction of bicycle paths in New York City. He was green before Green. In the late 1960's, he came out for decriminalization of drugs...
Flash forward to two years after our invasion of Iraq: He pronounced the enterprise to be failed. The reaction to this sounded an echo of LBJ, post-Tet, when he gloomily said, "If we've lost Walter (Cronkite), we've lost the war." In 1988, WFB endorsed Joe Lieberman, then a Democrat, for the U.S. Senate. Well, the list goes on and on.
Once upon a time, the intellectual conservatives in this country cherished their dissidents, encouraged argument, embraced the quirky, valued the eccentric and mocked the lock-step ideological left. Now they are what they once mocked. And they have the ideological discipline of the old left.