Today we have word that William F. Buckley, arch-conservative host of “Firing Line” and National Review founder, has died at age 82.

Like many of today’s Democrats and independent political thinkers, I grew up adoring Mr. Buckley. Besides trying to emulate his caustic debate style, I made it a personal goal to develop a vocabulary at least half as impressive as his. Even though I bought a book called “The Thousand Most Difficult Words” and did my best to learn as many as of those words that I could, I never did live up to Buckley’s lofty standards. And I never got that flickering tongue trick of his mastered either.

By the time the Vietnam War was sending home thousands of young soldiers in body bags, my political views changed considerably. However, I never lost my admiration for Buckley as a thinker and champion for conservative causes. He gave conservatism a good name, unlike the pop-media figures who came later like Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage. I think Buckley was embarrassed by them.

According to the New York Times story about Buckley, one of his recent  accomplishments was a political novel called “The Rake!” I have not read that yet, but will, of course:

He also found time to write at least 55 books, ranging from sailing odysseys to spy novels to celebrations of his own dashing daily life, and to edit five more. His political novel “The Rake” was published last August, and a book looking back at the National Review’s history in November; a personal memoir of Barry Goldwater is due to be publication in April, and Mr. Buckley was working on a similar book about Ronald Reagan for release in the fall.

The complete Times article can be found here.

William F. Buckley, thank you for teaching me how to think, how to engage in political debate, and how to do so with graciousness and respect for other points of view.

— Rake