Questions for Christopher Buckley
The Right Stuff
Interview by DEBORAH SOLOMON
How are you holding up?
I am heavily medicated.
What are you taking?
I’m teasing. It’s just a line from one of my favorite movies, “Spinal Tap.” I feel I should be heavily medicated.
In the past few weeks you’ve been pilloried by the right for a column you contributed to a Web site, “Sorry, Dad, I’m Voting for Obama.”
What I mounted in The Daily Beast was an argument. It was not an attitudinal riff — it was not “John McCain is an old snarly-pants.” I presented a thoughtful argument, and it was viewed as apostasy.
As a result, you offered to resign from National Review, the celebrated conservative magazine founded by your father, William F. Buckley Jr. Did you expect your editors to accept your resignation?
Well, I — no. No, I didn’t.
How much were you paid for your column, which had been appearing on the back page of National Review only since June?
I forewent a payment. I was doing it for free.
What would your father, who died at his desk, in Stamford, Conn., in February, have made of all this?
It’s very tricky to try to channel one’s dad’s ghost. Look what happened to Hamlet. But I think he would have been appalled by the Palin nomination, frankly. I don’t think he would have viewed her as presidential material.
The Republican Party seems to be actively trying to dissociate itself from the tradition of intellectualism your father represented. How do you explain that?
I am not a political thinker. I’m not even much of a thinker. I’m a hack novelist.
Have you always voted Republican?
I cast my first vote on my father’s lap in 1960, for Richard Nixon, in the voting booth. I was 8.
Is that legal?
I suppose it was voter fraud, technically. It was very exciting.
Did you vote to re-elect President Bush in 2004?
No. I voted for his father. I cast a write-in ballot for George Herbert Walker Bush, for whom I have an abiding affection. I believe I almost put him over the top.
You worked as his speechwriter when he was vice president, but have expressed less admiration for his son. How would you summarize the last eight years?
It’s a very sorry record. If we had a Democratic president for the last eight years, and all this same stuff had happened, I think conservatives would be howling for this president’s head.
What do you make of the bailout?
As a small-government conservative, I think it is all quite saddening. Here we are, a de facto nationalization of the banking industry. I don’t know where that fits into any conservative notion of government.
Do you own any stocks?
I sure do. I can’t bear to open the envelopes anymore. I get them and put them in the file. My 401(k) is probably 1(k) at this point.
As the author of eight satirical novels, including “Thank You for Smoking,” do you see any comic potential in the story of A.I.G?
That would be a challenge. I’ve actually written my next book, “Losing Mum and Pup.” It’s a memoir of my year of losing my parents.
As an only child, did you find one of your parents easier to talk to than the other?
My mother. She got it. He often didn’t get it.
What didn’t he get?
He was a practicing Catholic. What are you?
I am post-Catholic.
As opposed to a lapsed Catholic?
I am probably more of a collapsed Catholic.
Do you believe in the afterlife?
Alas, no. But I find myself wondering at the oddest times: So, Pup, are you in heaven? Is it true after all? If he is there, I hope he is debating with St. Peter about letting me in when my time comes, and I hope he is winning.