Buckley didn't lecture against anti-Semitism. Rather, he showed how an editor, an intellectual, and a highly civilized man acts when taking into account, as he put it, the "certain immunities properly attach[ing] to pro-Israel sentiment for historical reasons." I remember, as a college student, reading his NR column in 1986 explaining why Sobran would no longer be allowed to write in the magazine about Israel. Buckley said, "I here dissociate myself and my colleagues from what we view as the obstinate tendentiousness of Joe Sobran's recent columns." He commented later to his biographer about how "terribly painful" this was--very much, I think, like having to "dissociate" yourself from a beloved but seriously erring son. But his own pain was necessary, he concluded, as was Sobran's.

The much more pleasant legacy that he continues to generate is, for all the slashing dissections of ideological opponents, the example of a man of uncommon kindness and loyalty. Liberals talk about compassion, but it's curious how few, when they reach a position where they are employing or leading many subordinates, come to be known as generous, sweet-hearted bosses.

Perhaps this is because liberalism emphasizes the moral obligations of the society rather than of the individual. Buckley, when he still owned NR was like the beloved liege lord of a medieval castle town--existing in a little bit of a different plane from everyone else, but intensely protective of us all, to the point that in all the time I worked there no one was ever fired by National Review.

At 78 years old, Bill Buckley has lost nothing of his compassion, nor of his accustomed illuminating brilliance. I hope at 78 I'm as vital, as full of the spark of life, as he is. As we Jews say, may he live to be 120. He might just do that.