Willam A. Rusher, former National Review publisher, nationally syndicated columnist, and friend, counselor and mentor to countless leaders and aspiring leaders of the conservative movement, passed away Saturday in San Francisco after a long illness.
Rusher was a founder of the modern conservative movement, serving for decades as National Review's publisher, helping launch and then guide Young Americans for Freedom in its best years, and being an active advocate and productive political organizer within and without the Republican Party from the Goldwater era through and beyond the Reagan presidency.
A lawyer by training, Rusher was also a formidable media voice, serving as the conservative presence on the award-winning PBS series, “The Advocates.” Rusher was devastatingly effective in cross-examination of liberal advocates and witnesses, yet always conducted such pursuits in a deceptively winsome manner.
The Wikipedia entry on Rusher is especially comprehensive and concise regarding the milestones of his career, especially in relation to the growth of the conservative movement as a political force in this country. The National Review Online obit here is also usefully detailed. And Richard Viguerie, Lion of the New Right, looks back upon his own friendship of long-standing with “the last of the first generation of conservative” leaders.
I can't say that I knew Rusher well, but in all of my encounters he was unfailingly gracious, always solicitous of the views of others, and a source of sage advice. One lunch in particular has stayed in my memory. It was somewhere in the late 1970s or early 1980s, and Rusher had invited my friend Ron Docksai and I to lunch at the Metropolitan Club.
Rusher regaled us with detailed analyses of who was up and who was down politically on the Right and elsewhere, interspersed with hilarious insiders' tales from the early days of the movement. But he also asked for and listened with serious interest in our views about things and asked detailed questions that made it clear he really was paying attention.
But the reason I recall the lunch even today is that at the end when Ron and I thanked him profusely for lunch, he replied in an ever so impish tone that “It was my pleasure. Understand that this is a pleasure of older men that younger men like you must humor.” At the time, I thought perhaps he was compiling material for a future book on the insolence of youth, but then he later recalled the details of our conversation that day in a manner that removed all doubt about his sincerity.
Bill Rusher was a man of intellectual substance, carefully understated influence and genuine class. He will be missed by many.