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.