Jonah Goldberg writes:
In the next few days, there will be a wave of liberals--Frank Rich comes particularly to mind--who will use WFB's memory to beat up on today's conservatives. Ramesh and I wrote a piece about this tendency last year. Liberals today bemoan how wonderful the conservatives of yesteryear were solely to lament how terrible they are today. The recent bout of Goldwater nostalgia on the left was a perfect example. The strange new respect liberals have for Ronald Reagan would be another. And you can be sure they will use Buckley to that effect too.
Well, insofar as there were some pretty significant disagreements between Buckley and today's conservatives, that wouldn't be much of a surprise. More broadly, though, conservatives do this too: It's pretty common to see folks on the right use Truman's conduct of the Korean War and Daniel Patrick Moynihan's views on family structure to "beat up" on today's liberals, while neglecting to consider their broader ideologies (Truman was a staunch New Dealer who favored containment over rollback; Moynihan voted against NAFTA, the Gulf War, and welfare reform). Obviously when liberals praise Goldwater's relatively moderate views on some social issues they aren't endorsing his stances on civil rights or the New Deal; when I noted that Reagan deserves some credit for deregulating the economy and cutting punitive marginal tax rates, I certainly didn't mean to imply that I admired the totality of his platform. There doesn't seem to me to be anything wrong with emphasizing points of agreement rather than disagreement--as we mourn Buckley's passing, I'd much rather dwell on the (very important) things he got right rather than the (more numerous) things he got wrong.