“The Truth is Great, and Shall Prevail”: Remembering Bill Rusher 1923-2011

“The Truth is Great, and Shall Prevail”: Remembering Bill Rusher 1923-2011

William A. Rusher …

came to our aid in a pinch. Striv­ing to “bal­ance” our polit­i­cal speak­ers, we Churchill Con­fer­ence orga­niz­ers plan­ning the 1994 event in Banff, Alber­ta want­ed a con­ser­v­a­tive. We had wel­comed the lib­er­al Roy Jenk­ins on our Scot­tish Churchill Tour that sum­mer. We’d invit­ed Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and William Man­ches­ter to address our 1995 con­fer­ence. So to Banff we invit­ed Mil­ton Fried­man, to explain why Churchill was right (yes!) to put Britain back on the gold stan­dard when he was Chan­cel­lor of the Exche­quer in the Twen­ties. (It was what Churchill didn’t do, in wage and tax pol­i­cy, Dr. Fried­man main­tained, that caused the uproar and the Gen­er­al Strike of 1926.)

Alas Dr. Fried­man took ill, and we scratched around for a replace­ment on short notice. Mil­ton Friedman’s home town, San Fran­cis­co, pro­duced Mr. Rush­er, long­time pub­lish­er of Nation­al Review and friend of William F. Buck­ley, Jr. “After all,” I told my fel­low orga­niz­ers, “his ini­tials are W.A.R., so nobody can think him a peacenik.” W.A.R. duly arrived and deliv­ered a charm­ing speech.

We held a Q&A at Banff because we want­ed to ask Mr. Rush­er why his friend Mr. Buck­ley wrote such dread­ful things about Churchill when Sir Win­ston died in 1965. We were actu­al­ly try­ing to get Buck­ley to address a Churchill con­fer­ence, but he was resist­ing. And so we cor­nered his col­league.

“You have to remem­ber,” Bill Rush­er replied in his crisp stac­ca­to, “that the Buck­leys were Amer­i­ca Firsters before the war. A streak of lib­er­tar­i­an­ism always ran through them. They were not fans of Euro­pean entan­gle­ments. And of course, as you know, they were Irish….”

But lo, with the help of Hills­dale Col­lege Pres­i­dent Lar­ry Arnn, we actu­al­ly did get Buck­ley, who gave a mem­o­rable pro-Churchill speech in Boston, though alas we couldn’t get both him and Arthur Schlesinger togeth­er on the same night.

Memories

In remem­ber­ing the learned, charm­ing man that was Bill Rush­er, I can do no bet­ter than to recall his last words to us in Banff, which I can quote almost from mem­o­ry:

”As long as human­i­ty admires courage, elo­quence and tenac­i­ty, Churchill will be remem­bered and honored—and these are virtues which will come into fash­ion again, ladies and gen­tle­men.

”I know we have a ten­den­cy to be dis­cour­aged about how things are going—although in our time, you know, they haven’t gone all that bad­ly. The Sovi­et Union lies in ruins. Free mar­ket eco­nom­ics, which I wouldn’t have giv­en you a plugged nick­el for at the end of World War II, is now so pop­u­lar that even Red Chi­na calls its pol­i­cy ‘Mar­ket Social­ism,’ what­ev­er that is. These are big vic­to­ries. Still there is much that is wor­ri­some. I’m sure Churchill, if he were here, would encour­age us: ‘nev­er despair’ and ‘nev­er give in.’

That is why I think he would enjoy a lit­tle qua­train by the 19th cen­tu­ry British poet Coven­try Pat­more, (who, like Churchill, called West­er­ham, Kent home). I always like to end my talks with it, because it is upbeat, opti­mistic and true.

”For want of me the world’s course will not fail.

When all its work is done the lie shall rot.

The Truth is great and shall pre­vail,

When none cares whether it pre­vail or not.”

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