TBA – Alvin S. Felzenberg, A Man and His Presidents: The Political Odyssey of William F. Buckley Jr.

TBA – Alvin S. Felzenberg, A Man and His Presidents: The Political Odyssey of William F. Buckley Jr.

In A Man and His Presidents: The Political Odyssey of William F. Buckley Jr., Alvin S. Felzenberg delves into the history of William J. Buckley, perhaps the most influential American conservative writer, activist, and organizer in the post-war era. Felzenberg explores little-known aspects of Buckley’s life, from his close friendship with the Reagans and role as a back-channel adviser to policymakers to his break with George W. Bush on the Iraq War.

It is important to remember that, when National Review was founded, Buckley was the leader of a fringe movement. He made conservatism respectable again after the Great Depression and Second World War had delegitimized it. His prominence was due not only to his energy, diligence, and charisma, but also to his novelty, his impudence. For many years people wanted to hear what he had to say because no one else was saying it. In the world of I Like Ike, the New Frontier, and the Great Society, no similarly situated member of the New York elite held his then-outlandish views on the role of government, academic freedom, the place of religion in public life, and confrontation with the Soviet Empire. His courage shifted the intellectual and political landscape.

The Irreplaceable William F. Buckley Jr..

Buckley’s primary contribution to politics was a fusion of traditional American political conservatism with laissez-faire economic theory and anti-communism, laying the groundwork for the new American conservatism of presidential candidate Barry Goldwater and President Ronald Reagan.

Air Date: TBA

Alvin S. Felzenberg


A Man and His Presidents: The Political Odyssey of William F. Buckley Jr.

Miami Book Fair –  American Presidents
Saturday, November 18 @ 2:30 pm, Room 8203 (Building 8, 2nd Floor), 300 NE Second Ave., Miami, Fl 33132

From the Publisher:

A new understanding of the man who changed the face of American politics William F. Buckley Jr. is widely regarded as the most influential American conservative writer, activist, and organizer in the postwar era. In this nuanced biography, Alvin Felzenberg sheds light on little-known aspects of Buckley’s career, including his role as back-channel adviser to policy makers, his intimate friendship with both Ronald and Nancy Reagan, his changing views on civil rights, and his break with George W. Bush over the Iraq War. Felzenberg demonstrates how Buckley conveyed his message across multiple platforms and drew upon his vast network of contacts, his personal charm, his extraordinary wit, and his celebrity status to move the center of political gravity in the United States closer to his point of view. Including many rarely seen photographs, this account of one of the most compelling personalities of American politics will appeal to conservatives, liberals, and even the apolitical.

Praise for the Book:

“Deeply researched and smoothly written. . . . A superb political biography.”—Lee Edwards, Wall Street Journal

“In high school, I searched drugstores for each new issue of National Review. It was that important. For me, William F. Buckley, Jr. was the door-opener to intellectual politics. He made ideas as important as the rivaling personalities, even the parties themselves. I’ll always be grateful for the wildly adventurous thinker who welcomed me into serious political debate. I thank Alvin Felzenberg and A Man and His Presidents for bringing it all back.”—Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s Hardball

“William F. Buckley was the most consequential journalist of his era because he always was much more than a journalist. This is a brisk, groundbreaking examination of Buckley’s history-shaping role as a tireless and sometimes audacious political operative.”—George F. Will

“History comes alive as this lively and important book takes us on a trip covering Bill Buckley’s views of twentieth-century presidents.”—Former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz

“Here is the political Buckley, a revelation of range and influence, wit, friendship, inexhaustible letter-writing, and a subtle evolution of views. As always with Buckley, love of the language came first.”—James K. Galbraith, author of Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice: The Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe

“A well-delineated portrait of an impassioned conservative.”—Kirkus Reviews

“A gracefully written and richly informative book.”—Damon Linker, New York Times

“A magisterial biography. . . . Felzenberg captures the toute ensemble, telling the story of modern America’s most vital conservative force in prose that is as enlivening as it is illuminating. No one with an interest in the past six decades of American history will want to miss this wonderful and irreplaceable book.”—New Criterion

“Describes Buckley’s various crusades with skill and detail. . . . A Man and His Presidents thoroughly captures Buckley’s life and decades-long career, a comprehensive portrait of one of the towering figures of 20th-century conservatism.”—Andrew Burt, The Los Angeles Review of Books

Buckley by Decade:

  • Publishes God and Man at Yale (1951)
  • Founded National Review (1955)
  • Publishes Column – Why the South Must Prevail
  • Anti-Eisenhower, Eisenhower was “undaunted by principle, unchained by any coherent ideas as to the nature of man and society.”
  • Takes on Ayn Rand
  • Takes on John Birch Society, George Wallace
  • 16th Street Baptist Church bombing led to a conversion of civil rights.  See How William F. Buckley, Jr., Changed His Mind on Civil Rights
  • National Review provided strong support for Goldwater campaign
  • Runs for Mayor of New York
  • Launches “Firing Line” on PBS
  • Debates Gore Vida at Dem/GOP Conventions (1968)l, later subject of movie “Best of Enemies
  • Critic of Nixon’s establishing relations with China
  • Nixon appointed him as delegate to UN
  • Backed Reagan’s challenge to President Ford
  • Comes out in favor of decriminalizing marijuana


  • Retires from National Review
  • Takes on Pat Buchanan
  • Received Presidential Medal of Freedom Award from President George H.W. Bush.
  • Retires from Firing Line
  • Critic of George W. Bush and Iraq War
  • Called Donald Trump a “demagogue” and “narcissist”  in 2000 column
  • Dies in 2008

About the Author

Alvin S. Felzenberg was the principal spokesman for the 9/11Commission. He served in two presidential administrations, as an adviser to the U.S. Departments of State and Defense, and on the majority staff of the U.S. House of Representatives. In the 1990s, Felzenberg was New Jersey’s assistant secretary of state. He holds a Ph.D. in Politics from Princeton University. Felzenberg has been a fellow at the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and Visiting Professor in Politics at Princeton University.

Felzenberg teaches at Yale University, the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University, and Johns Hopkins University’s Graduate Program in Political Science. He has appeared as a commentator on major public affairs television shows, including CNN’s “Crossfire,” C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal,” and many others and has contributed to the Washington Post, the Weekly Standard, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor, and National Review Online. His most recent books include “The Leaders We Deserved and a Few We Didn’t: Rethinking the Presidential Rating Game” (Basic Books, 2008) and “Governor Tom Kean.”