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James K. Galbraith On Bill Buckley

Marking the death of William F. Buckley, Jr. yesterday, TNR asked James K. Galbraith to share his thoughts on the influential conservative journalist and intellectual. Galbraith--whose father, economist John Kenneth Galbraith, was a close personal friend of Buckley's--is a professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin.

What Bill Buckley once said of my father was equally true of him: He was “syntactically pure.” Love of language and of the writer’s craft bound them together, the left pea to the right. That, and their winter migrations to Switzerland, where the Gstaad Papeterie would signal the arrival of each by placing a book in the window, and where Bill parked his car in our garage. Of my father on skis, he wrote somewhere: “Like Charles DeGaulle, in an elevator.”

Dad’s blurbs for his novels would read, “Mr. Buckley has a great talent for fiction, as readers of his columns know.”

In Switzerland Bill wrote, skied, and also painted--mostly seascapes. Once, my mother was present at the Chateau Buckley in Rougemont when Marc Chagall was visiting; Bill offered him a studio tour. Chagall uttered just two words: “poor paint.”

Back in Connecticut, just before my first wedding, Bill and Pat invited us to dinner. Over desert, the subject of a present came up. “I can give you a toaster,” he said, “or a case of this wine.” A Margaux. We disappeared into the cellar, and I emerged not only with that on one shoulder, but with an almost equally nice Pauillac on the other. Pat’s voice was then heard, “You’re not giving him two, are you darling, after he called you depraved?”

In 1986, E.J. Dionne quoted me on Reagan’s Tax Reform Act (which I favored), pumping me up by noting that I was “associated with the left wing of the Democratic Party.” Buckley took the cue: “James K. Galbraith, who according to EJ Dionne Jr. of The New York Times, is ‘associated with the left wing of the Democratic Party'...” I wrote to say that his expos