National Review is celebrating its fiftieth birthday. I salute Buckley and everyone else involved in this great enterprise. NR has been good for the country. This was Bill Buckley’s opening statement in November, 1955, justifying the creation of this new magazine. I started reading NR in 1964 just before my first year in college. I was involved in politics, by then, you understand. Goldwater was the good guy and Rockefeller was the bad guy; he represented the East Coast Elite, Liberalism somehow in GOP clothes. Goldwater was straightforward, he spoke about extremism and liberty and virtue, and why some things are worth the effort. I stuck with the cowboy from Arizona through his unjust loss to LBJ, and then stayed with the actor who became famous during that campaign. I mention this because--and this may seem odd to you--once I started reading National Review I actually participated less in practical politics, while becoming more deeply political. By 1965 I stopped almost all my political activities (Young Republicans, etc.) because my time was now consumed less in political action than in the words surrounding that action. These guys writing for NR were interesting and, it seemed to me, deeply thoughtful about almost everything. The words in National Review, I surmised, would have much deeper effect on the common life of the nation than most elections. I was right. NR’s writers always dug deeper, led me to things I knew nothing about, led me to wonder. In short, the minds writing for NR began my education. By the summer of 1965 I was attending seminars offered by professors I could not hope to meet at the state college I attended: Ronald McArthur, Thomas Molnar, Martin Diamond, and Harry Jaffa. I have National Review to thank for all that, and I do.
It is interesting to note that the draft Goldwater movement was launched in 1961 by Ohio Congressman John Ashbrook, William Rusher (the publisher of National Review), and F. Clifton White. White ended up running the extremely effective Goldwater primary campaign against Rockefeller for the GOP nomination in 1964 (see White’s book Suite 3505: The Story of the Draft Goldwater Movement). After the death of John Ashbrook (1982) Clif White became the first director of the Ashbrook Center, with Rusher as Chairman of the Board. Rusher is still active on the Board. Of course, John Ashbrook had one more memorable national moment: He opposed Richard Nixon in the primaries in 1972 (price controls, China policy, etc.; many things about Nixon irritated Ashbrook). In the end, of course, Ashbrook failed, but he helped set things up for Reagan and the conservatism of the eighties. In all these things he was supported by National Review. This is National Review’s endorsement of Ashbrook’s campaign against Nixon in the January 21, 1972 issue of NR. Bill Buckley said of Ashbrook: "He shows the kind of political courage by which one distinguishes between those automatons who represent us in Washington and those special others who are human beings endowed with mind and an active conscience… a human force in which the high qualities of the statesman come together in profusion."
John Ashbrook died on April 24, 1982, during a campaign for the U.S. Senate (Democrat Howard Metzenbaum was running for re-election). Ashbrook was 53 years old. William Rusher mourned the passing of John Ashrbook in the May 14, 1982 issue of National Review.