Bill Buckley's Presidential Pick
Most conservative commenters are united in their belief that John McCain is not an acceptable conservative. It is hard to disagree with the assertion that McCain is not a conservative—his positions on amnesty for illegal aliens, campaign finance “reform”, and embryonic stem cell research pretty much disqualify him from calling himself a conservative.
The question over whether he is an acceptable candidate for conservatives, however, is unclear. Most of those conservatives who now vehemently oppose McCain supported Mitt Romney, which sets a pretty low bar. Rommey is as far left as McCain, but without the experience and with better pandering skills. If Mitt Romney is an acceptable conservative, it is hard to imagine that John McCain is completely intolerable.
Rush Limbaugh is probably John McCain’s biggest nemesis, and it’s not hard to see why. He is probably the most influential conservative alive today, and his words set a heavy weight of precedent. His opposition to McCain is significant, because of his respected place in the conservative movement. Of all the political thinkers and pundits of the last half century, he has probably had the second greatest amount of influence on conservative thought.
The man with the largest amount of influence, of course, was William F. Buckley, who tragically passed away a few days ago. He made the conservative movement into a political force. He was, in large part, responsible for the nomination of Barry Goldwater and the election of Ronald Reagan. It is no exaggeration to say that he was the guiding force behind Reagan conservatism.
With that in mind, it is informative to see which of the many Republican candidates he donated money to, as it is reasonable to assume that he believed that candidate would carry on the conservative principles he did so much to establish. He contributed money to only one candidate—John McCain.
UPDATE: I found this article by Buckley about McCain. It is not about McCain's presidential hopes, but Buckley obviously likes McCain a great deal.
Some years ago, after hearing what John McCain withstood in North Vietnam,
I pledged never to write a negative word about him, and over the years it has
required very few beads of charity to stand by him.
As I look at the presidential race more closely, I am starting to feel better about a McCain candidacy. I like both McCain and Mike Huckabee more than most Republican pundits did (which is still not very much), and liked Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani a great deal less than most conservatives did. John McCain was the best (with the exception of Fred Thompson) of a poor bunch this year, and he is probably better than most of the Republican parties recent nominees. (He is at least as conservative as George W. Bush, and is probably better than Bob Dole or George H. W. Bush). Conservatives are not getting a really good candidate in 2008--but I don't think they are getting a really bad one either.