Like many I came to conservatism through WFB, National Review, and firing line. I raced to the library every two weeks to read NR, and at one point had every WFB book except for "McCarthy and his Enemies".
However, in the 1980's WFB began to lose interest in Politics and I began to lose in interest in him. I started to Skim not read - NR. I felt his columns became predictable, superficial and without passion. In 1988 I welcomed Firing line changing to a 1/2 hour format but soon found even 30 minutes too boring. By 1990 I had stopped watching all together.Politically speaking he went into semi-retirement in 1988-1989 and full retirement 10 years later. (Not surprising since he was had been involved in politics since 1951 and was 65 in 1990).
Sadly, he should have retired completely in 1989 since afterwards he only spoke on the side of establishment. He supported George Bush in '92 and joined Abe Rosenthal and the NYT's in attacking Buchanan as an "anti-semite." He supported Dole in'96 and Bush II in 2000 and 2004. No longer the rebel but an old, tired Yale Blue blood supporting the Republican establishment. On immigration he was AWOL, on trade he was with Wall Street. The cultural issues, even abortion, seemed to bore him. He fired Sullivan as editor in 1997 for being anti-immigrant, and Coulter in 2001 for being too controversial. And in 2003 when Frum smeared Novak (one of our greatest conservative columnists) as "unpatriotic" WFB said nothing.
Not surprisingly, many haven't forgotten. Coulter's column on WFB lacked warmth, and neither Novak, Buchanan, or Chronicles has written about his death. Others have restricted themselves to talking about what a great man he was on a personal level while others Peter Brimelow of VDARE - and a former NR Buckley associate - has written a particularly negative column.
Tenanhaus, his official biographer, states he refused to talk politics unless "someone paid him to" - which didn't surprise me at all.