James Buckley, who recently passed away at age 100 was the finest gentleman I ever met. He improbably was elected Senator from New York on a Conservative Party ticket due to a three-way race after an earlier unsuccessfully attempt I also worked on. This was at a time when the party was thriving due to his brother Bill’s earlier NYC Mayoral race, (another three-way contest, which had the unfortunate result of electing John Lindsay Mayor). At the time the Republican Party was still dominated by “liberal” or Rockefeller Republicans, so the Conservative Party was established to provide an alternative, and quickly became the third largest party in the state.
Bill was acerbic at times, but the older brother rarely uttered an unkind word about anyone, and was a thoroughly decent human being. It still makes me angry to recall the remarks of the sore-loser Democrat candidate, one Richard Ottinger, who griped that at least two out of three people voted for “decency.” There is great irony in the degree to which he was so off-target in the case of this good and gracious man, and to just whom the word “decency” really applied, But that was how the left continuously tried to demonize and delegitimize conservatives in those days, to no avail.
Unfortunately these days you rarely encounter anyone with Jim Buckley’s class and demeanor, especially in the upper reaches of power-holders. He was not driven by personal ambition, nor did he crave power, which enabled him to be refreshingly detached, thoughtful and principled. That is the kind of person we desperately need in office in today’s shallow, coarse, and dumbed-down political environment. He lived a long, honorable, and fulfilling life, and what can better be said of a man?