One of the most important Americans of the last two generations has passed from the scene:

William F. Buckley Jr., the erudite Ivy Leaguer and conservative herald who showered huge and scornful words on liberalism as he observed, abetted and cheered on the right’s post-World War II rise from the fringes to the White House, died Wednesday. He was 82.

I can only imagine what he’d have to say about that first sentence of the AP obituary.

I was kind of a weird kid. I became a politics junkie at an early age, and went on to major in political science at Rutgers. I was also a debater in high school and college. Those two things meant that when I was a teenager, one of my favorite programs on television was Buckley’s “Firing Line.” I was not at all conservative, but that was beside the point. Buckley was so engaging, so skilled at verbal repartee, and so charming even toward those he disagreed with that I found myself sucked in, Sunday afternoon after Sunday afternoon. I’ve missed it, especially since so much of what has replaced it has been so vapid, uncivil, and mindless. I can’t believe Buckley thought much of what today passes for political discourse, given that so much of it is just plain coarse.

Whether you thought him a Neanderthal or a prophet, there have been few public intellectuals who have had more of an impact on American society. He will be missed.

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