Skip to comments.Remembering The Difficult Relationship Between William F. Buckley Jr. and Joseph Sobran.
Posted on 10/02/2010 3:44:31 PM PDT by pinochet
The love-hate relationship between the late William F. Buckley, and his friend and former employee, the recently deceased Joseph Sobran, is such a fascinating story that it can make up the subject of a book or movie. It is comparable to the legendary friendship between the 18th Century British literary figure, Samuel Johnson, and his biographer, James Boswell.
The Buckley/Sobran relationship was a story I followed closely since the mid 1980s, when Sobran caused controversy by publishing anti-Israel polemics, which caused Buckley deep embarrassment. The relation between the two men is well documented in William F. Buckely's biography written by John Judis in 1988, and in Buckley's own book, "In Search of Anti-Semitism", written in 1992.
Bill Buckley loved Joe Sobran more than any other writer who had ever worked for him. In Sobran, Buckley had an employee who was a better writer than he was, and who was just as witty as Buckley was. In the early years, Sobran functioned as Buckley's evil twin, and both men had fun skewering the left, and challenging fashionable fads of the time. In those early days, Sobran was a pro-Israel writer.
But when Sobran turned against Israel, he caused Buckley much pain and anguish. This was because Buckley's father, William Buckley Sr. (1881-1958), was a well known far-right Catholic anti-semite of the New Deal era, just like Joe Kennedy Sr., head of the Kennedy clan. Buckley admitted his father's anti-semitism in his 1992 book. Also, one of Bill Buckley's early friends, who was also a founding editor of the National Review magazine, was a college professor by the name of Revilo Oliver. Oliver became a virulent anti-semite in his later years, and his shockingly bigoted writings are all over the internet.
Buckley had many friends, family members, an associates in his early years, who were described as anti-semitic. Buckley himself was totally free of anti-semitism, and it caused him to live in constant fear that someone would label him an anti-semite, because of his associates in his early years. Buckley's old enemy, Gore Vidal, did just that in an Esquire magazine article in 1969, which caused Buckley to sue.
In the mid 1980s and early 1990s, Sobran caused Buckley considerable pain and anguish with his anti-Israel articles, because they gave liberals an opportunity to destroy the National Review if they chose to. Buckley had to put up with insults and rudeness from his employee, Sobran, who who seemed to forget who was the boss in the office. Buckley put up with Sobran's insurbodination for 8 long years, before he fired him.
When Sobran was out of a job, he fell on hard economic times, and writing jobs were difficult to come by. But The American Conservative magazine reveals that Buckley secretly sent money to Sobran, without Sobran's knowledge. Buckley never overcame his affection for Sobran, despite the separation, and both men reconciled before Buckley's death in 2008. The magazine also reveals that Sobran corresponded with Ann Coulter, and that he influenced her witty writing style. See: http://www.amconmag.com/blog/2010/10/01/i-will-miss-joe-sobran/
Sobran was an unstable genius, who did not get the chance to fulfill his full potential, because of his iconoclastic temperament. May he rest in peace.
The Times noted:
"Mr. Sobran, one of the conservative whiz kids whom William F. Buckley draft-picked for National Review straight out of college, made his mark with witty, thoughtful essays on moral and social questions. He was an unapologetic paleoconservative, opposed to military intervention abroad, big government at home and moral permissiveness everywhere".
What a waste.
And now the increasingly virulent anti-Semites are on the left - on campuses, among minorities, and in mosques and in churches such as Rev. Wright’s.
>>>And now the increasingly virulent anti-Semites are on the left
The left is allowed to get away with anything. But conservatives can never be allowed to get away with anything.
Leftists are always praising the PLO, Hamas, Hezbullah, and other organizations that murder Israelis.
But if conservatives offer mild isolationist views on foreign policy, they are denounced as bigots. Go figure.
What is the source of this material/ Who wrote it?
Great article, and it helps me understand Mr. Buckley that much more.
Being against Israel doesn’t make one an “anti-semite”. Many very orthodox Jews are anti-Zionist and against Israel. I support Israel, but simply disagreeing with me or those who share my view of ME policy does not, BY ITSELF, make someone an “anti-semite”.
I wish I could remember Buckley's case against Sobran, it was awhile ago. But I do remember it was compelling.
As I mentioned in the article, the biography of Bill Buckley by John Judis, written in 1988, mentioned the relationship. So did Bill Buckley’s 1992 book, “In Search of Anti-Semitism”. What other sources did you require? You can go to a library, and pick out both books.
Joe Sobran also wrote a lengthy article in 1993, titled, “How I was fired By Bill Buckley”, where he talked at length about their relationship.
Here is an amazon link to Judis’ biography on Buckley: http://www.amazon.com/William-F-Buckley-Jr-Conservatives/dp/0743217977
Here is an amazon link to Buckley’s book on anti-semitism, where he mentioned his father’s anti-semitism, and discussed the Sobran and Buchanan cases: http://www.amazon.com/Search-Anti-Semitism-William-F-Buckley/dp/0826405835/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1286064213&sr=1-1
Buckley knew very well who buttered his bread.
Sad. I did not know that he had passed.
If youd like to be on or off, please FR mail me.
In his own words
“Being against Israel doesnt make one an anti-semite. Many very orthodox Jews are anti-Zionist and against Israel. I support Israel, but simply disagreeing with me or those who share my view of ME policy does not, BY ITSELF, make someone an anti-semite.”
Intellectually, you are correct.
And yes, there are a handful of haredi that opine Israel should not be formed in any way until the Messiah comes.
In practice, however, I’ve never come across an anti-zionist that wasn’t just attempting to give cover to anti-semtism.
I very seldom have run into anyone - outside of a certain minority - who is a genuine anti-semite. Perhaps we just travel in different circles, or perhaps the differences are partly regional. In any event, arguably the greatest danger to Jews lives in the Whitehouse.
Buchanan is as anti-semitic (or anti-Israeli if you prefer... I guess Jews are okay, as long as they’re not living in their own homeland) as they come... he practically supports pushing them into the sea. There has never been one foreign policy issue with Israel/”Palestine”, Israel/Iran, Israel/Lebanon, Israel/Syria... etc. ad nauseam ad infinitum where Pat has sided with Israel.
And Pat was a big defender of Sobran against Buckley. Buckley also stated that it is “hard to defend Pat Buchanan from the charge of anti-semitism.”
I don’t hate Buchanan. I like him on some issues. I like Mel Gibson’s movies. But they’re both raving anti-semites.
Just a question: are all of these guys Pre-Vatican II Catholics? Not saying that all Pre-Vatican II Catholics are anti-semitics but they seem to be the only Catholics that are anti-semitic when Catholics happen to be anti-semitic. I just don’t know why.
FWIW, I’m a Reformed guy... and we have some in our camp as well... starting with Luther himself.
He was a very talented writer, and he did have a real thing about the Jews, but it wasn't his only flaw.
The whole "philosophical anarchist" thing was another reason for getting fed up with him.
What a waste.
No argument there.