The Day I Cracked Up WFB

I believe I may be the only human being alive who’s personally cracked up both Jimmy Buffett and William F. Buckley, Jr. The Buffett incident doesn’t bear repeating, but in honor of WFB’s retirement from National Review, here’s what happened:

In 1991, Buckley gave a speech at my alma mater, Auburn University, and took questions after his remarks. I’m sorry to say that most of the questions were terrible; psuedo-intellectual claptrap from students who’d cribbed a few big words from their philosophy texts. Buckley was visibly bored, and after four or five pointless efforts, the moderator motioned for the last student questioner.

Which was me.

My question: “Mr. Buckley, I’m sure you’re familiar with the famous observation of Sir Winston Churchill that a young man who is not a liberal has no heart, but an old man who is a liberal has no brain.

“Just before the last election [1988], a poll here found that 75 percent of Auburn’s students were voting for President Bush [41], while over 80 percent of the faculty were voting for Michael Dukakis.”

(Brief pause for breath, hopeful I wouldn’t screw up the punchline.)

“Given all those facts, would you say that Auburn is a school of heartless students, being taught by a brainless faculty?”

Brought the house down. When WFB finished laughing, his answer went so far over my head, it smacked into a guy six rows behind me. But I walked away with this oh-so-satisfactory thought in my mind, one that I’ll be able to take with me forever: I just cracked up Buckley!