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   PastimesRonald Reagan 1911-2004

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (206)6/23/2004 1:35:03 PM
From: Glenn Petersen
   of 264
Ronald Reagan’s amazing, mysterious life Part 2.


Reagan’s scrupulously kept Presidential diary is remarkable for a near-total lack of interest in people as individuals. In all its half million or so words, I did not find any affectionate remark about his children. He conscientiously names every visitor to the Oval Office, having a printed schedule to refer to, but in conversation he tended to rely on pronouns. Nor did he pay much attention to faces. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Ambassador,” he greeted Denis Healey, the former Defense Minister of Great Britain, while the real British Ambassador stood by. “But I’ve already met him,” his Excellency complained, “eleven times.”

This may be the place to note that, in all the years I observed Ronald Reagan until 1992—when he suddenly became weird—I never saw any sign of cognitive dementia. There were, to be sure, days late in his Presidency when he drifted off, as old men do. On May 29, 1988, for example, he emerged from an extended one-on-one with Gorbachev unable to recall a word that had been said. But such lapses were rare, and could usually be ascribed to fatigue. His prose style remained clear and sequential through 1994, when he bade farewell to the American people in a handwritten letter of unsurpassable poignancy.

Nancy Reagan conceded that there were “parts of Ronnie” that he kept to himself. I discovered, interviewing her, that she had little clue to how his mind worked—how he memorized scripts, pondered decisions, intuited political opportunities. He trusted her superior judgment of people but hardly ever asked her political advice; he did not even consult her about running for the Presidency. His locker-room side (which could be jovially obscene) was foreign to her, as was the Practical Christian and the imaginative dreamer who wanders through some unpublished short stories he wrote in college.

I hesitate to blaspheme against one of the most celebrated amours in White House history, but the way Reagan advertised his uxoriousness—the fulsome toasts and tributes, the hand-holding, the on-camera kisses—always struck me as excessive. There was something guilty about his superimposition of an enormous valentine card, all ribbons and bluebirds, over the stark black-and-white of his divorce decree from Jane Wyman. Possibly he was embarrassed by the many similarities between his two wives. Both had been wide-eyed, street-smart, scorchingly ambitious starlets, abandoned by their fathers in infancy, convinced of the world’s treachery, drawn to Reagan as a haven of goodness and strength, then frustrated to the point of despair by his reluctance to propose.

The difference with Nancy was that her ambition concerned only him: she wanted nothing for herself except the satisfaction of making him powerful. She had taken him on, moreover, when his acting career was in rapid decline, and when his brilliant future as a politician could hardly have been predicted. Yet she never flinched in her steely belief that he would recover and prevail. Even when he was forced to do variety in Vegas for money, early in 1954, she was there every night at a front table, giving him the luminous “look” that bolstered his self-respect.

Within a few months, Ronald Reagan was professionally reborn, as the host of “General Electric Theatre.” He became a star of the corporate lecture circuit, honing his oratory into “The Speech,” a statement of the free-market conservative principles that would sustain him ideologically for the rest of his life. Nancy’s stepfather, Dr. Loyal Davis, one of the most rock-ribbed reactionaries in the American Medical Association, has often been blamed for her husband’s swing to the right. But the truth is that Reagan lost his New Deal liberalism immediately after the Second World War, when he was targeted by Communist-controlled crafts unions as a lackey of studio management. He was a conservative Democrat long before he remarried.

By the early nineteen-sixties, he was a confirmed Eisenhower Republican, rich, well connected, and a political force strong enough to be courted by Richard Nixon and Barry Goldwater. The more widely he travelled as campaigner and corporate spokesman, the more joyously he returned to his showplace house in Pacific Palisades, red-draped, mother-dominated, thrumming with appliances supplied free by his parent company. It was a kind of womb, to which he became almost pathologically attached. This ode to a shag rug was written by Reagan in 1961:

Across from where I sit . . . I can see certain paths pressed into the pile of the carpet . . . paths leading to a chair (big footprints), to a piano (feminine nine-year-oldsize prints), to a corner handy for hiding (very small prints) and of course narrow side paths (middle-size prints) . . . to her chair. To me, these middle-size prints act as guy wires and girders holding all the rest together. I am glad that the carpet sweeper can never erase them.

Much as he embraced domesticity, however, he relied on Nancy to relieve him of its petty nuisances, such as school and servant problems, and finding a home for his mentally ailing mother while he was out of town. She made her own and Jane Wyman’s children understand that although Dad was available for certain carefully scheduled hours of face time, in the pool or on horseback, he was not to be burdened with emotional demands. He had more important things than mere fatherhood on his mind: the governorship of California, for a start.

In grateful compensation, Reagan refused to believe any unsettling news about his wife—her parsimony, her pill dependencies, her violent disciplining of Patti, her middle-aged infatuation with Frank Sinatra. “I want you to go away and think carefully about what you have just said,” he reproved a gubernatorial aide, who worried that Nancy’s verbal abuse of staffers might become a news story. “My Nancy doesn’t behave like that.”

There is no doubt that she loved him for better and for worse, as her care of him in his last years has shown. Neither was there any equivocation in his love for her, as far as it went. But my impression is that it stopped at the frontier of his own comfort. One can read right through “I Love You, Ronnie,” the volume of love letters published by Nancy in 2000, without finding a single perceptive remark about her. The countless references to “Mommie” in the Presidential diaries are expressed almost entirely in terms of personal need. During her rare absences from the White House, his complaints of being “lonely” and “lonesome” echo with foghorn-like regularity. And this: “Why am I so scared always when she leaves? . . . I do an awful lot of praying until she returns.” It never occurs to him that she might be lonely, too, or bereaved or frightened, that she has any identity other than—by extension—his own.

Well, if love is the satisfaction of mutual needs, they got what they wanted. I stood behind them in church on May 10, 1992, just before Alzheimer’s began to separate him from her. They held the same hymnbook with their outer arms, while the inner ones circled in an embrace, and their voices blended as they sang “Blest Be the Tie That Binds.”

Ronald Reagan’s air of gentleness was such that few people noticed, or could believe they were noticing, that he had little private empathy with them. In November of 1988, a delegation of Bangladeshis visited the Oval Office to tell him about the catastrophic effects of the Burhi Ganga floods. After a few minutes, their spokesman stopped, disconcerted by the President’s dreamy smile. “You know,” Reagan said, “I used to work as a lifeguard at Lowell Park beach, on the Rock River in Illinois, and when it rained upstate you wouldn’t believe the trees and trash, and so forth, that used to come down.”

Yet he could be movingly sincere when he was required to emote in public. To question his identity with “the boys of Pointe du Hoc,” or the nameless dead of Bergen-Belsen, would be to misunderstand his essentially thespian nature. Actors are not like you or me: their real world, where they really feel, is onstage.

Reagan in any case was more than just an actor. He was a statesman, unaccustomed to encountering any will stronger than his own, and his detachment was a necessary armor against the emotional demands that responsibility attaches to power. All leaders have to sheathe themselves, or they cannot function. André Malraux’s first impression of Charles de Gaulle is equally applicable to Ronald Reagan:

[One felt] a remoteness, all the more curious because it appeared not only between himself and his interlocutor but between what he said and what he was. . . . He established with the person he was talking to a very powerful contact, which seemed inexplicable when one had left him. A contact above all due to a feeling of having come up against a total personality.

Was Reagan familiar with de Gaulle’s leadership maxim, “Il faut cultiver le mystère”? Probably not, but he didn’t have to be: the mystery was already there. I have a whole sheaf of “enigma” cards, wherein various interviewees speculate on how much the President knew, or didn’t know, about what they were trying to tell him. If he was as disengaged as he often seemed, doodling absent-mindedly during long presentations, how did he, time and again, manage to pose exactly the kind of simple hypothesis that showed the presenter to be confused? Was he sending a subtle message, when the doodle curved into the hindquarters of a horse?

Which brings me to the cards I most enjoyed compiling—those that caught Reagan’s humor. Most of his very funny stories (told with a verbal economy and cadence that would tax any prose stylist) were mentally prerecorded and played back at will. As a young actor in the Warner Bros. commissary, he used to sit at the “fast” Jewish table in order to study, and eventually compete with, the shtick of such motormouths as George Burns, Jack Benny, and the Epstein brothers. Although not naturally a wit, he was capable of dry riposte, as in the crack about Archbishop Desmond Tutu that George H. W. Bush repeated the other day at the Washington National Cathedral, convulsing the congregation.

Perhaps the best of Reagan’s one-liners came after he attended his last ceremonial dinner, with the Knights of Malta in New York City on January 13, 1989. The evening’s m.c., a prominent lay Catholic, was rendered so emotional by wine that he waved aside protocol and followed the President’s speech with a rather slurry one of his own. It was to the effect that Ronald Reagan, a defender of the rights of the unborn, knew that all human beings begin life as “feces.” The speaker cited Cardinal John O’Connor (sitting aghast nearby) as “a fece” who had gone on to greater things. “You, too, Mr. President—you were once a fece!”

En route back to Washington on Air Force One, Reagan twinklingly joined his aides in the main cabin. “Well,” he said, “that’s the first time I’ve flown to New York in formal attire to be told I was a piece of shit.”

Reagan’s most regrettable characteristic in later years was his incuriosity, compounded, as it was, by a refusal to be budged from any shibboleth that suited him. He had been quite the opposite as a young man, avid to learn what he could about world affairs. He passionately espoused the New Deal, and by 1938 he had swung so far toward the idealistic left that he tried to join the Hollywood Communist Party. He was quickly rejected, on the shrewd ground that he was not Party material (too garrulous, too patriotic). During the Second World War, he became addicted to the Reader’s Digest—so much so that he seemed to memorize every issue as soon as it hit the stands. Reagan has been rightly mocked for the condensed, packaged quality this gave to his thought, but at least until he left the employ of General Electric, in 1962, he was able to talk interestingly about subjects other than politics. From then on, all his considerable intelligence focussed on conservative doctrine, and his general knowledge atrophied.

As a result, he relied more and more on memories of past reading, and began to commit the gaffes that would bedevil all his political campaigns. By the time he became President, his ignorance had attained a kind of comic poignancy. He thought “Camus” rhymed with “famous” and that trees caused acid rain. He had never heard of “Our Town,” “The Magic Mountain,” “Carmen,” or “Blow-Up.” The names Goethe, Guevara, Disraeli, Knopf, Schumann, Fellini, Hockney, Piaf, and Prospero rang no bell. When I mentioned the Suez Canal, he shook his head sorrowfully and told me that it had been a mistake to give it back to the Panamanians.

His mind, if not protean, could nevertheless be described as Procrustean, in the scientist Frederick Turner’s definition:

[Such an intelligence] reduces the information it gets from the outside world to its own categories, and accepts reality’s answers only if they directly address its own set of questions. . . . It insists on certainty and unambiguity, and so is at war with the probabilistic and indeterminate nature of the most primitive and archaic components of the universe.

As anyone can see who consults Ronald Reagan’s disciplined, dogged manuscripts, he needed to impose order on chaos. He did not like to be surprised, or hustled; he liked punctuality, symmetry, sureness. Every item on his schedule was crossed off upon completion, with a triumphant arrow pointing down to the next. When travelling, he packed his own clothes, synchronizing them with his itinerary, so that each change would suit the time, occasion, and climate stops on tour. He even tried to reorder nature at Rancho del Cielo, his mountain retreat above Santa Barbara, pruning every thicket of brush, every dead madrona branch, until the skyline was as sharp as a sketch by Grant Wood.

Two sets of cards tabbed “rr: paradox” and “rr: passivity” might be combined in my drawer, were they not already alphabetical neighbors. It is indeed paradoxical that this most passive of Presidents should have been so active in bringing about the collapse of Soviet Communism. Ronald Reagan was not an initiator; he never called a meeting or drafted a new policy or hired or fired, unless somebody suggested it. He raised no objection when his first chief of staff and his Treasury Secretary swapped jobs. Even his angriest phone call to a foreign leader (Israel’s Menachem Begin, during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982) had to be prompted by Michael Deaver. Happy and fulfilled inside his Oval O—“I’ve got the biggest theatre in the world, right here,” he said, grinning at me—he paid no attention to noises off: the furious arguments of Alexander Haig and Caspar Weinberger, David Stockman’s whines and Donald Regan’s roars, the whisperings of Oliver North and John Poindexter. Even when truly disturbing sounds invaded his tranquillity—the blowing up of the Marine barracks in Lebanon, the outcry of Jews over the Bitburg affair, the explosion of the Challenger—he seemed oddly equable, although in each case he performed a moving ceremony of grief.

One sound, however, did shake his complacency. It was the pop-popping of John Hinckley, Jr.,’s .22-calibre pistol outside the Washington Hilton Hotel on March 30, 1981. Since Reagan nearly died in that attack, so early in his Presidency, we can credit the sincerity of his written vow: “Whatever happens now I owe my life to God and will try to serve him in every way I can.”

Nothing afterward, not even the debacle of Iran-Contra, deflected him from what he was convinced was his double mission: at home, to restore the American entrepreneurial spirit after fifty years of federal paternalism; abroad, to display such a resolute contempt for Marxism-Leninism that it would follow Nazism onto “the ash-heap of history.” Both conceits were perceived as laughably naïve in 1981, at least in those Chardonnay-fragrant areas of Manhattan and Marin County where political issues are always described as “complex.” Three years later, the first dream came true in a landslide reëlection, amid such a blizzard of red-white-and-blue as had not been seen across America since V-J Day. And after five years more—sadly, a little too late for Reagan to see it as President—the “evil empire” began to self-destruct, just as he had said it would.

History already shows that Reagan’s political instincts were astute and his sense of the future prophetic. The Berlin Wall, which he so memorably described as “ugly as the idea behind it,” is reduced to a few chips in museums. Teen-agers stroll hand in hand where guard dogs used to run. Cybercafés beep and brew in downtown Moscow and Beijing. Free-enterprise capitalism is now the norm of most economies, and free speech floods the Internet.

We became so positive a society under Ronald Reagan that we forget how low our national morale had sunk before he raised his right hand on January 20, 1981, and, by plain force of character, reinvested the Presidency with authority and dignity. In recent years, we have seen the office belittled again, but that is the way with democracy and its cycles: big men are followed by small; power gives way to dereliction. The Republic survives, and for as long as it survives I think Reagan will be remembered, with Truman and Jackson, as one of the great populist Presidents, an instinctual leader who, in body and mind, represented the better temper of his times.

In one of my last interviews with him, I tried out my theory that he “thought with his hips,” as follows:

Q: Mr. President, do you realize that you had Einstein all figured out at age eighteen?

A: Huh?

Q: There you were, a summer lifeguard on the Rock River, swaying every day in your high chair on the diving raft. Somebody starts to drown in midstream. You throw down your glasses—everything’s a blur—you dive into the moving water—you swim, not to where the drowning person is, but where he’ll be by the time you intersect his trajectory. You think that you’re moving in a straight line. But actually you’re describing a parabola, because the river’s got you too. Your curve becomes his curve; you grab him, swing him around, and start heading back in reverse, not toward the diving platform but upstream, sothat by the time you get to shallow water you’ll be back where you started. During all this action, you’re in a state of flux: no fixed point of reference, no sense of gravity. Everything’s relative. . . .

A (Uninterested, interrupting): Yeah, that river sure ran strong. Out there beyond the swimming line.

My Relativitätstheorie had understandably not impressed him, but I felt I’d at least touched on a subject that penetrated his shy pride. Long after the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, when he could not understand the simplest question or recognize photographs of himself as President, he would still show visitors a watercolor of Lowell Park beach on the wall of his office. “I was . . . uh, a lifeguard . . . there . . . uh . . . I saved seventy-seven lives!” Then words would fail him, and he would gaze at the picture with his glossy head cocked, looking out beyond the swimming line to where the river ran strong.

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To: Glenn Petersen who started this subject6/23/2004 6:23:07 PM
From: calgal
   of 264
Ronald Reagan From the People’s Perspective: A Gallup Poll Review
Reagan’s image improved substantially in the years after he left office


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To: Glenn Petersen who started this subject6/24/2004 12:25:30 AM
From: calgal
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To: calgal who wrote (209)6/24/2004 12:25:40 AM
From: calgal
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Ronald Reagan, God and Jesus Christ

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To: calgal who wrote (210)6/24/2004 12:25:47 AM
From: calgal
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A little rightward tilt is a good thing
Bruce Bartlett (archive)
June 22, 2004

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To: calgal who wrote (211)6/24/2004 12:25:54 AM
From: calgal
   of 264
Ronald Reagan: From Liberalism to the Light
James Hirsen
Tuesday, June 8, 2004
America has lost one of the greatest presidents. The nation also lost one of the greatest conservative thinkers. The Left Coast Report reflects upon the Hollywood star, the towering leader and the American icon.
A Special Edition of
The Dreamer

In 1937 a young radio broadcaster drove to the West Coast in pursuit of a Hollywood dream. A friend introduced him to an agent. As good fortune would have it, the 26-year-old would land a screen test.

Only in a Hollywood fantasy would a kid from the Midwest get signed to a major movie studio on his first try. But in a whimsical script-come-to-life moment, Warner Brothers signed the budding actor to a seven-year deal for $200 a week.

At the time, the studios produced hundreds of films a year. The reliable young actor would fit into the system perfectly. His first movie role was as a radio announcer in “Love Is on the Air.” During the following three years he would make about 20 more films.

The ‘Hemophiliac Liberal’

When he first signed the contract with Warner Brothers in 1937, Reagan was a New Deal Democrat and a union activist.

In his first memoir, he described himself politically as “a near-hopeless hemophiliac liberal,” adding, “I bled for ‘causes.’”

Before America’s entry into World War II, Warner Brothers cast him in a cluster of movies that had patriotic themes.

Reagan joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 and served in the motion picture unit in Hollywood, where he worked on training films and documentaries. He began to question the role of government when he was exposed to the burdensome Civil Service rules that were imposed at the time. He would later write, “I think the first crack in my staunch liberalism appeared in the last year and a half of my military career.”

Reagan became disillusioned with some of the groups he had joined over the years. He came to the conclusion many organizations that were operating in Hollywood were communist fronts.

Conference of Studio Unions, a breakaway labor group that Reagan believed was a communist front, led a series of strikes against the studios in 1946. With Reagan's backing, the Screen Actors Guild ultimately crossed the group’s picket lines.

The strike experience played a part in Reagan’s changing worldview. “I guess I was also beginning a political transformation that was born in an off-screen caldron of deceit and subversion and a personal journey of discovery that would leave me with a growing distaste for big government,” Reagan would write. “I didn't realize it, but I'd started on a path that was going to lead me a long way from Hollywood.”

Reagan’s involvement in SAG increased. He took the reins as the group’s president in 1947. He served as the leader of the union for five additional one-year terms.

“Ronald Reagan presided over the Screen Actors Guild at one of the most challenging moments in our union's history, as the rise of television significantly impacted the compensation and working conditions for the nation's screen actors,” SAG President Melissa Gilbert said in a recent statement. “He leaves behind an enduring legacy to this industry, as he does to the country as a whole.”

During the shooting of a film “The Hasty Heart,” Reagan learned additional lessons from the experience of living in the U.K. for several months. In one of his memoirs he wrote, “I saw firsthand how the welfare state sapped incentive to work from many people in a wonderful and dynamic country.”

The Actor

Most people don’t realize how prolific an actor Ronald Reagan was. In a remarkable Hollywood run, he appeared in more than 55 films over two decades. Critics have not been particularly kind, though, when commenting about his acting ability and have frequently overlooked some of his most outstanding portrayals.

In “Kings Row,” Reagan played a man whose legs were amputated by a malicious, revenge-seeking surgeon. It was in this film that his character uttered the words that would eventually become the title of Reagan’s first memoir, “Where's the Rest of Me?”

He would later write that the illusion of the actor having no legs was so compelling, while he lay there performing he felt anxiety. He considered it his best role. In “Knute Rockne: All-American,” he played the dying young athlete George Gipp. Reagan had gone after the role using pictures of himself dressed in his college football uniform to try to persuade producers to give him the part.

In one of the most famous lines in cinematic history, as the dying Gipp, Reagan said, “Ask them to go in there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper.” The line would become a theme.

After a 20-year career, Reagan left film and moved to television, where he was a host of the “General Electric Theater” series from 1954 to 1962 and “Death Valley Days” from 1965 to 1966.

The Republican

As host of “General Electric Theater,” Reagan gained a high degree of visibility, with vast numbers of people tuning in each week.

He appeared at General Electric across the country on behalf of the company. He would often make more than a dozen speeches in a single day. The experience turned out to be campaign training ground for Reagan.

Although Reagan was a registered Democrat, he supported Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956. And he supported Richard Nixon in 1960. His Democrat political affiliation began to make less and less sense. Finally, he switched parties at a public meeting in 1962.

In 1964 he campaigned avidly for Barry Goldwater’s run for the White House. Reagan dazzled Republican National Convention attendees with his speaking ability.

He was persuaded by a group of Republican leaders to run for governor of California in 1965. The following year he won the governorship and headed for Sacramento. He served two terms.

Reagan won the Republican nomination for president in 1980 and became the nation’s 40th president. He went on to restore America’s dignity, revitalize the economy and win the Cold War.

The Man of Faith

Ronald Reagan named the Bible as one of his favorite books. He called it “the greatest message ever written.”

While speaking to a crowd at Kansas State University in 1982, he reminded folks of “admonition of the Man from Galilee to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

On Oct. 13, 1983, then President Reagan spoke to some of the female leaders of Christian religious organizations and said, “The Founding Fathers believed that faith in God was the key to our being a good people and America’s becoming a great nation.”

In addressing the convention of the National Religious Broadcasters in January 1984, Reagan referred to the Blessed Hope: “He promised there will never be a dark night that does not end.” He added, “By dying for us, Jesus showed how far our love should be ready to go: all the way.”

Reagan’s words offended the New York Times. “You don’t have to be a secular humanist to take offense at that display of what, in America, should be private piety. It's an offense to Americans of every denomination, or no denomination, when a President speaks that way,” the paper groused.

The Times told Reagan he was “the President of a nation whose Bill of Rights enjoins Government from establishing religion, aiding one religion, even aiding all religions.” There was no mention of “free exercise.”

Immediately after the space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986, as comforter-in-chief Reagan soothed us with poetic grace: “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’”

At the dedication of his presidential library on Nov. 4, 1991, Reagan elaborated upon the attribute with which he is most often associated. He remarked that he has “been described as an undying optimist, always seeing a glass half full when some see it as half empty. And, yes, it’s true — I always see the sunny side of life. And that’s not just because I’ve been blessed by achieving so many of my dreams. My optimism comes not just from my strong faith in God, but from my strong and enduring faith in man.”

The Left Coast Report gives thanks and prays that, for your strong faith, unflagging hope and abundant love, God blesses you eternally, Ronald Reagan.

The Left Coast Report is put together by James L. Hirsen and the staff of NewsMax.

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To: calgal who wrote (212)6/24/2004 12:27:04 AM
From: calgal
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We All Loved Ronald Reagan

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To: calgal who wrote (213)6/24/2004 12:27:13 AM
From: calgal
   of 264
Ronald Reagan From the People’s Perspective: A Gallup Poll Review
Reagan’s image improved substantially in the years after he left office

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To: calgal who wrote (214)6/25/2004 11:05:08 AM
From: calgal
   of 264
God and Politics
David Limbaugh (archive)

June 25, 2004


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To: calgal who wrote (215)7/1/2004 3:58:24 AM
From: Glenn Petersen
   of 264
Before Ronald Reagan, there was William F. Buckley Jr.

June 29, 2004

National Review Founder to Leave Stage


Correction Appended

In 1954, when Ronald Reagan was still a registered Democrat and host of "General Electric Theater," the 28-year-old William Frank Buckley Jr. decided to start a magazine as a standard-bearer for the fledgling conservative movement. In the 50-year ascent of the American right since then, his publication, National Review, has been its most influential journal and Mr. Buckley has been the magazine's guiding spirit and, until today, controlling shareholder.

Tonight, however, Mr. Buckley, 78, is giving up control. In an interview, he said he planned to relinquish his shares today to a board of trustees he had selected. Among them are his son, the humorist Christopher Buckley; the magazine's president, Thomas L. Rhodes; and Austin Bramwell, a 2000 graduate of Yale and one of the magazine's youngest current contributors.

Mr. Buckley's "divestiture," as he calls it, represents the exit of one of the forefathers of modern conservatism. It is also the latest step in the gradual quieting of one of the most distinctive voices in the business of cultural and political commentary, the writer and editor who founded his magazine on a promise to stand "athwart history, yelling 'Stop,' at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who urge it."

In explaining his decision, Mr. Buckley said he had taken some satisfaction in the triumph of conservatism since then, though he expressed some complaints about President Bush's unconservative spending and some retrospective doubts about the wisdom of invading Iraq. But his decision, Mr. Buckley said, had more to do with his own mortality.

"The question is choose some point to quit or die onstage, and there wouldn't be any point in that," Mr. Buckley said, recalling his retirement from his television program "Firing Line" a few years ago. "Thought was given and plans were made to proceed with divestiture."

With characteristic playfulness, Mr. Buckley said that he had not disclosed the timing of the hand-over. He plans to give the trustees his shares at a private party tonight at an Italian restaurant near the magazine's East 34th Street office. "It is kind of a big event in my life," he said, sipping a glass of wine over lunch at the same restaurant last week. "I thought I might as well put a little bit of theater in it. When I leave this building a week from now, I will probably feel a little bit different."

Mr. Buckley, whose syndicated column will continue to appear in the magazine, said he did not expect changes in the contents of the magazine. Richard Lowry, the editor, will continue in that job. Mr. Rhodes, president of National Review, will become chairman of the newly formed board of trustees. The trustees will include Evan Galbraith, an executive of Morgan Stanley who was ambassador to France under Mr. Reagan, and Daniel Oliver, who was chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under Mr. Reagan and whose son, Drew Oliver, was an assistant editor at the magazine.

By virtue of his relative youth, Mr. Bramwell is the most notable of the five trustees. "I wanted somebody who is very young and very talented," Mr. Buckley said. "One likes to think in the long term."

A former officer of the Conservative Party of the Yale Political Union, Mr. Bramwell began writing for National Review two years ago as a Harvard law student. At a recent ceremony at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, he presented Mr. Buckley an award for contributions to the conservative movement along with an admiring, perhaps even Buckleyesque, appraisal of Mr. Buckley's literary style.

"By ironic periphrasis, arch understatement and surprising deployment of familiar and of course unfamiliar words, Buckley convinced his opponents that he knew something they did not, and what's more, that he intended to keep the secret from them," Mr. Bramwell said as he presented the award. "Thus did he waken their minds to the possibility that liberalism is not the philosophia ultima but just another item in the baleful catalogue of modern ideologies."

Not everyone shares this assessment of Mr. Buckley's work. Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic, called Mr. Buckley's sometimes baroque style "genially ridiculous."

Mr. Wieseltier added: "It is a kind of antimodern pretense, but of course he is in fact a completely modern man. His thinking and his writing have all the disadvantages of a happy man. The troubling thing about Bill Buckley's work is how singularly untroubled it is by things."

But Mr. Buckley's voice has always been singular. He was not much older than Mr. Bramwell when he founded National Review. The son of an oilman, Mr. Buckley was already famous for his first book, "God and Man at Yale" (1951). Conservatism in the United States was close to its 20th-century nadir, marked by Dwight D. Eisenhower's defeat of the conservative Robert Taft for the 1952 Republican nomination.

The first issue of National Review appeared in 1955. As Mr. Buckley tells it, he became chief editor in part because deferring to a young man was unthreatening to many venerable contributors. "It was easier to allow them to accept a 29-year-old than to select among themselves who will be boss," he said.

William J. Casey, who later became director of central intelligence under Mr. Reagan, incorporated the magazine. Mr. Buckley retained ownership of all the voting stock. National Review has never made a profit, Mr. Buckley said. It makes up any shortfalls each year with contributions from about 1,000 to 1,500 donors, and every other year it sends a solicitation to its subscribers in an effort to add names to the "A list" of regular donors. Mr. Buckley will continue to write the fund-raising letters, he said.

As for conservatism today, Mr. Buckley said there was a growing debate on the right about how the war in Iraq squared with the traditional conservative conviction that American foreign policy should seek only to protect its vital interests.

"With the benefit of minute hindsight, Saddam Hussein wasn't the kind of extra-territorial menace that was assumed by the administration one year ago," Mr. Buckley said. "If I knew then what I know now about what kind of situation we would be in, I would have opposed the war."

Asked whether the growth of the federal government over the last four years diminished his enthusiasm for Mr. Bush, he reluctantly acknowledged that it did. "It bothers me enormously," he said. "Should I growl?"

Still, he professed more than a little pride at the country's rightward drift during his years in control of National Review. "We thought to influence conservative thought, which we succeeded in doing," he said.

Correction: July 1, 2004, Thursday

An article on Tuesday about William F. Buckley Jr.'s decision to give up control of his magazine, National Review, misstated the location of a ceremony at which he received an award from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. It was the National Building Museum in Washington, not the Heritage Foundation.

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