Over at the Weekly Standard, a few paragraphs by Andy Ferguson:
I was interested in Diane Sawyer’s brief obituary on her ABC evening news show. It centered on the notorious confrontation (on ABC TV) between Vidal and Buckley in 1968, in which Buckley countered Vidal’s accusation of Nazism with the vigorous insight that Vidal was “queer”—not high on the list of Buckley’s scathing witticisms either. In recalling the event, Sawyer identified Vidal as the “celebrity novelist,” while taking special care to tag Buckley as the “arch-conservative.”
Why arch? The two tags make for a curious imbalance. For 50 years Buckley’s views were safely on the rightward edge of the American popular consensus; Vidal’s were shared by a tiny minority—cranks and ignoramuses in Hollywood, Manhattan, Northwest Washington, D.C., various college towns, and Ruby Ridge, Idaho. Yet it is Buckley who earns the ideological intensifier “arch.”
How could such an inversion take place...? Buckley was right, but in the wrong way; and Vidal was wrong, but in the right way. From the 1950s, before Ike had even left the White House, Vidal was announcing that the right-wingers had seized the Republican party from the sensible members of a generation before; a generation later, the right-wingers had seized the party from the sensible members of a generation before; and so on, for half a century. In his world “the generals” were always two ticks away from declaring war and imposing martial law; the theocracy would be arranged before the decade was out; he saw the dying embers of capitalism; and the dark curtain of fascism was falling even as you were reading his words.
Try keeping that up for 50 years! No wonder he was a hero to the Personages [of the mainstream media]. For them too every day is Groundhog Day, bringing fresh news from the day before about what won’t happen tomorrow. His career must stand as a great reassurance. If you’re wrong in the right way, all will be forgiven, until everyone forgets that there was ever anything to forgive.