Yesterday’s giants continue to exit the arena: I missed the news cycle on this, but two weeks ago Bill Rusher died at the ripe old age of 87.
Rusher was a conservative writer and activist, and the publisher of National Review in its first few decades. Although he mostly dropped off the public stage after retiring from NR in 1989, he had latterly been involved with such Cato-friendly groups as the Pacific Research Institute and Pacific Legal Foundation.
From the Wall Street Journal’s obit-itorial:
In the early 1960s, Rusher and others built the foundation for what became Barry Goldwater’s successful run for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1964. While Goldwater lost, his candidacy signaled the conservative ascendancy within the GOP that culminated in Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980.
Rusher wrote a successful syndicated column for 36 years in which he exhibited his fundamental optimism about America and its purposes—even through the dark days of reckless government expansion after 2008. Having once thought Reagan should mount a populist, third-party challenge to the GOP in the 1970s, Rusher and the tea party were kindred spirits. He had a deep faith in the ability of the American people to regain their bearings after a political mistake.
He was also a man of great personal dignity and superb taste who we recall once offering us the very good advice that, “The best restaurant is the restaurant that knows you best.”
It is this last bit that has perhaps stuck most with me about the man, whom I met a few times in college because Rusher enjoyed mentoring young right-of-center writers. I remember well talking with him late into the night about how to balance intellectualism and activism, or more simply how to put ideas into action. Well into his 70s by then, Rusher had this cool, stylish charm, a lively mind behind a steely manner (and an impeccable wardrobe).
Not quite a household name any more even in conservative circles, Bill Rusher will certainly be missed in my household.