“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. Back in 1994, the Churchill Soci­ety was striv­ing to “bal­ance” its polit­i­cal speak­ers, and the Churchill Con­fer­ence in Banff, Alber­ta was the con­ser­v­a­tives’ turn. We had wel­comed the Lib­er­al Roy Jenk­ins on our Scot­tish tour that sum­mer, had invit­ed Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and William Man­ches­ter to address our 1995 Boston 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 to fol­low up, Dr. Fried­man main­tained, in wage and tax pol­i­cy, that caused the eco­nom­ic cri­sis and Gen­er­al Strike of 1926.)

Alas Dr. Fried­man took ill, and we scratched around for anoth­er con­ser­v­a­tive who could take his place on short notice. Mil­ton Friedman’s own home town, San Fran­cis­co, pro­duced Mr. Rush­er, long­time pub­lish­er of Nation­al Review and friend of William F. Buck­ley, Jr. “After all,” I told the orga­niz­ers, Randy Bar­ber and John Plump­ton, “his ini­tials are WAR, so nobody can think him a peacenik.” WAR duly arrived and deliv­ered a charm­ing speech.

We held a Q&A at Banff because we want­ed to ask Mr. Rush­er why his friend 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 will 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!

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, with which I like to end my talks, 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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