Galbraith and Buckley

GALBRAITH AND BUCKLEY….Jamie Galbraith has a brief and gracious remembrance of William F. Buckley posted over at the New Republic that’s worth a look. I don’t myself have anything to say about WFB because, aside from reading God and Man at Yale several years ago, I’m just not very familiar with Buckley’s work other than by reputation. Better then to stay quiet and be thought ill-informed than to open my mouth and remove all doubt.

But Galbraith’s piece raises a question: are there any current examples among high-profile liberals and conservatives of the kind of close friendship and mutual respect that Buckley and John Kenneth Galbraith shared? Ezra Klein suggested yesterday that the era of big, popular, serious political thinkers has been permanently eclipsed with the deaths of people like WFB, Galbraith, Milton Friedman, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and Norman Mailer. “Now, the space they inhabited in the discourse is held by the Coulters and O’Reilly’s of the world.” Maybe so, and it’s hard to picture, say, Ann Coulter and Michael Moore enjoying each other’s company socially and taking each other’s ideas seriously.

In the blogosphere, we tend to think that’s for the best. Politics is serious stuff, and if you’re serious about it you shouldn’t be on the cocktail circuit every night consorting with the enemy. That’s the tribal path that Congress went down many years ago, and it’s one that the rest of us have since followed as well. Most of us, anyway.

Still and all, it’s kind of stultifying, isn’t it? In the post-Gingrich/Limbaugh/Rove/Norquist era that we live in there might not be much we can do about it, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it. And, most of the time, I don’t.