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William A. Rusher, RIP

William A. Rusher, the long-time publisher of National Review, great friend of John Ashbrook and a member of the Ashbrook Center's board of advisers, has died at the age of 87 out in California.  I know everyone in the Ashbrook Center circle, as well as the wider conservative movement, will mourn his passing.

I got to know him fairly well after his retirement from National Review, when he moved to California and took a position as a distinguished senior fellow at the Claremont Institute.  I think it was Bill who joked that it was better to be a distinguished senior fellow than an extinguished senior fellow.  Then when I used to spend two or three days a week working in San Francisco at the Pacific Research Institute in the early 1990s, he'd treat me to lunch at the University Club up on Nob Hill fairly often, and we'd always retire to the lounge afterward for a good cigar, and better conversation.  I'd ask him question after question about the early days at National Review, whether all the rumors and stories about Willmoore Kendall were true, what Whittaker Chambers was like to be around (surprisingly funny at times he told me), and of course about Reagan, whom Bill tried very hard to convince to found a third party in 1976.  Bill was above all a fabulous story teller.  He was one of the great happy warriors of the conservative movement.  Somehow I can't see him on the O'Reilly Factor or Hannity's "Great American Panel."

Richard Brookhiser offers a few observations about Bill over at The Corner.

My own favorite memory of Bill was back when he used to square off on the PBS show "The Advocates" against an obscure out of office governor from Massachusetts named Dukakis.  Right before the 1980 election, an episode was dedicated to Reagan versus Carter.  Bill asked the most devastating debate question I ever heard, concerning Carter's remark right after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that he (Carter) had learned more about the nature of the Soviet Union in the last three days than in his previous three years in office.  Bill asked the Carter advocate (I forget who it was now) in his best deadpan: Please tell us exactly what the president believed to be the nature of the Soviet Union during those prior three years?  The Carter advocate did not do well.  I reminded Bill of that line once, and he recalled it with great fondness.
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Discussions - 9 Comments

This is sad news. He was a cause of much political good and a delight in person. RIP.

I too will miss his goodwill and learned conversation.

We remember with pleasure hearing him lecture at West Virginia University in Morgantown, duringthe late 1960s. His mastery of the debate along with his astringent wit, was as instructive as it was delightfully entertaining. With his passing, the conservative cause will be missing a strong and effective intellectual voice.

I am so saddened by this news . . . among all the impressive things that others can say to better effect about him, nothing is more true than that he was a dear, kind, and generous man. In short, he was a true gentleman. I will miss him and recall him with fondness.

I recall William Rusher very well during the days when the Advocate aired. He was incredibly impressive. The court room nature of the Advocates gave both the left and right side of the political spectrum an opportunity to get their views across in a structured manner. The left, as usual, lost those intellectual debates and they were very entertaining. No wonder that the format for the Advocates was dropped as a medium of serious political discourse. Joe

Mr. Rusher introducted me to conservatism. For that I will alway be greatful.

So sorry to learn of his passing. One of the most influential people in my life in those early days of National Review, YAF, and ACU. He was the ultimate conservative strategist. He berated me for working for Richard Nixon, but supported me when I worked for Barry Goldwater. There was never anyone else like him. Wasn't someone writing a book abouto him?

Another of the founders of the Conservative Movement has left us. Bill Rusher was somewhat overshadowed (as few could ever overshadow him) by Bill Buckley but his contributions to the cause were immense. May be rest in peace after a lifetime of toil in the effort to advance individual freedom and defend America.


To answer the question about the biography, it's forthcoming from ISI Books this summer: "If Not Us, Who? William Rusher, National Review, and the Conservative Movement." I am very sorry that Bill did not live to see it. He did see the draft last year.

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