David Brooks column on the Conservative Intellectual Crisis brings to mind two encounters with William F. Buckley, Jr. that suggest he engaged in dialogue with most anyone.
Somewhere in the American Baptist communications archives are two letters from Buckley, one-line comments typed on plain bond paper.
The first was in response to my first boss, the Rev. Dr. Frank A. Sharp, director of American Baptist News Service, who wrote a weekly column on religion and culture for the local paper. Frank, a liberal in theology and politics, wrote to Buckley in 1974 to announce he was going to send copies of the column. Buckley replied, “Thank you, Doctor, but you really needn’t bother.”
Years later, I sent Buckley a copy of my editorial in The American Baptist magazine which took issue with Buckley on some topic I have long forgotten. He replied, “Thank you, Mr. Jenks, it seems the differences between us are quite comprehensive.”
The exchanges were succinct but polite and showed Bill Buckley’s willingness to expose himself to any idea that crossed his desk, however briefly.
David Brooks is right. That kind of interaction is sorely missed today. I hope the rational conservative spirit of a bygone era will soundly reject the Trump take-over of the GOP and restore sanity and civility to our political dialogue.