Vox Populi: The O'Shaughnessy Files

By William O’Shaughnessy | Go to book overview

GOVERNOR MARIO M. CUOMO
ON WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY JR.

I knew William Buckley for more than twenty years and opposed
him in his last public debate. I have never encountered his equal
as a brilliant, gentle, charming philosopher, seer and advocate.
William Buckley died, but his complicated brilliance will live on
as long as words are spoken and read.

Governor Mario Cuomo

WILLIAM O’SHAUGHNESSY (W.O.): Governor Cuomo, you and William Buckley are both wordsmiths. Was he a pretty tough guy in a debate?

GOVERNOR MARIO CUOMO (M.C.): Extremely. His was a very subtle and profound intelligence. And he was well read and knowledgeable. Even at a very young age, when he attended Yale and wrote his first well-known book. Buckley was a grandmaster of the English language.

When I debated him in Cincinnati recently, he announced it was the last time he would ever debate publicly. We had a lot of fun, but I was beguiled by his elaborate syntax. I enjoyed his responses so much, my counterpoint was shorter than it should have been.

W.O.: Cuomo and Buckley: opposite ends of the political spectrum. Did you guys get along?

M.C.: Yes, we did. And his magazine, The National Review, complimented me on several occasions. We often agreed.

To be candid with you, public officials who diligently study the issues agree on a large part of the dialogue. He was flexible in his beliefs, and our differences were much more subtle. He believed government was a little bit too active, and I felt the opposite. And again, in that last debate, he had me mesmerized.

W.O.: Governor Cuomo, you’ve told us about your humble beginnings in Queens. Bill Buckley evokes Park Avenue, East Hampton, and Hobe Sound. He acted like a quintessential WASP, but I think he was a practicing Catholic.

-575-

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