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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

William Buckley's "new best friend,," George McGovern

Men are sometimes real men

Christopher Buckley will publish a book next month remembering his father, William F. Buckley, and mother, “Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir.” In his engagingly written account, he is tough and honest about his often-distracted and determined father and his difficult mother. The book is previewed in The New York Times Magazine. After his father's death when he was writing an obituary fo his dad, he received a telephone call from George McGovern. Here is the account:

One day, as I sat in Pup’s study planning the memorial service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the phone rang. A gentle, sandpapery voice came on the line.

“I’m looking for Christopher Buckley.”

“Yes, this is he.”

“Oh, Chris, it’s George McGovern calling.”

Pup and George McGovern were political opposites, but they became fast friends a decade earlier after engaging in a series of public debates. I remembered Pup grinning one day over lunch, announcing: “Say, have I told you about my new best friend? George McGovern! He turns out to be the single nicest human being I’ve ever met.”

I recall my jaw dropping. When McGovern ran for president in 1972, Pup had written and spoken some pretty tough things about him (though never ad hominem). As I winched my lower mandible back into place, I reflected that this relationship wasn’t at all improbable. Some of Pup’s great friendships were with card-carrying members of the vast left-wing conspiracy: John Kenneth Galbraith, Murray Kempton, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the A.C.L.U. head Ira Glasser and Allard K. Lowenstein, among many others. But there were piquant twists to the friendship with McGovern.


And now George McGovern, whose campaign was the target of Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy and the other “plumbers,” was on the phone from South Dakota, to condole someone he had never met and to say that he was planning to come to the memorial service, adding with what sounded like a grin, “if I can make my way through this 15-foot-high snowdrift outside my house.” I put down the phone and wept.

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