William Rusher Interview: Conversations with History: Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

The Conservative Movement: Conversation with William A. Rusher, former publisher of the National Review; 4/25/90 by Harry Kreisler

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Background

Mr. Rusher, welcome to Berkeley.

Thank you.

Where were you educated?

In the public schools of New York, primarily, and Great Neck High School in New York. And then I went to Princeton just as the war was breaking out. I managed, by a hurry-up process, to get my degree before going off to serve. And then, after the war, I went to Harvard Law School and practiced law for nine years before turning to a life of crime and becoming a magazine publisher.

I see. And, did your education make you a conservative? What shaped you?

No, it was nothing that dramatic. My father and mother were Republicans, of no great special distinction; that was just the way they felt. My father's father had been a socialist all his life. Charles Rusher was a coal miner in western Indiana and supported Eugene Debs, who came from Terre Haute. But my father went into business, became a Republican, and my mother was a Republican. It so happened that Alf Landon, who was the Republican candidate in 1936, came from my mother's home town, Independence, in southeastern Kansas. (Not Independence, Missouri; Independence, Kansas.) And, when I found that out at age thirteen, you know who I was for. And, when he lost so heavily, I think that gave me the impulse to get into politics and correct this ghastly error that the American people had made.

But you really began as a moderate Republican when you were younger.

Yes. When I was in college, I wrote my thesis on the progressive element in the Republican Party and dedicated it to Willkie. I was a big Willkie man. I think my feeling was not so much that I preferred one wing of the party over the other, as that I deeply preferred to have the party in office and the only way I thought it could get there was by being a moderate party, which I think was true at that time. But, after the war, when the Cold War broke out, I became a staunch Cold Warrior and I watched with fascination and sympathy the investigations of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and the Chambers-Hiss controversy. So I was moving to the right, I would say, from that time forward, the late 1940s.

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