Exciting Books at a Crucial Time for Conservatives

This is an exciting—not to say absolutely crucial—time for conservatives in America. The next few months, culminating in the 2010 midterm elections, will decide whether the people outraged by the President’s agenda are just blowing off steam, or if we can actually utilize their anger to reverse the transformation of America that Barack Obama and his allies are accomplishing before our eyes. Below, the authors of exciting new conservative books lay out the issues that face us and provide ammunition for the fight ahead. 

Power Grab: How Obama’s Green Policies Will Steal Your Freedom and Bankrupt America
Chris Horner
Regnery, 2010
$27.95, 396 pp.

It’s easy to think we’ve got the environmentalists on the run. First, with the financial crisis and recession, global warming dropped to the bottom of Americans’ list of concerns. Then the Climategate scandal revelations punctured the “scientific consensus” argument for the rush to drastically scale back our economy before we melt the icecaps. Meanwhile, “cap and trade” failed to get through the Senate after narrowly passing the House of Representatives. And “Green Jobs Czar” Van Jones had to resign. 

But it would be foolish for us to conclude we’re winning. For the environmentalists, it’s two steps forward to every one step back. In Power Grab, Chris Horner exposes the powerful forces still bent on taxing and micromanaging our economy back to—well, if not quite back to the Stone Age, to some utopian ideal of pre-industrial harmony with nature. 
The fact that they have to sell their program as something it’s not is the tip-off: Americans aren’t willing to give up the prosperity and mobility our modern industrial economy gives us. But we might just be tricked and cajoled into going along with the “green” program if we don’t find out the cost till later.

The “green jobs” scam is Exhibit A demonstrating the environmentalists’ dishonest pitch. Horner’s trenchant observation on “green jobs:” “How many job-creation schemes include massive unemployment assistance for the people they put out of work?… The truth is that every single iteration of these supposed job bills pushed in the name of ‘global warming’ has, buried deep inside, an admission of the truth, providing years’ worth of aid to workers displaced by the bill’s restrictions.”

Ironically, if the environmentalists were really motivated by love of nature (rather than the leftist itch to curtail and micromanage other people’s lives), they might be able to see that prosperity is actually the best hope for the planet. It’s only when people have their basic needs met that they begin to care about living “greener” lives—and can afford them.

New Threats to Freedom
Edited by Adam Bellow
Templeton, 2010
$25.95, 304 pp.

The venerable Thomas Sowell argues that conservatism is harder to define than its opposite. While the left is unified by a common utopian impulse—and divided mainly by how fast and violently various stripes of liberals, progressives and radicals believe we need to move toward the shiny new future—conservatives are united only by their opposition to this program.

Thus, defenders of tradition and family ally with hard-core libertarians to fend off the encroachments of the ever-expanding state. But if you had to pick a single value (setting aside “reality”) around which the troops on the right can rally, “freedom” is a good pick—if only because everyone fighting for the conservative side agrees that the ultimate victory of the left would mean the loss of the freedoms he cares about most. 

Veteran conservative editor Adam Bellow (Illiberal Education, The Bell Curve, and Liberal Fascism) has put together a varied, interesting collection of different takes on current threats to our freedom. Threats anatomized in these essays range from “the new dogma of fairness”—the latest iteration of the inevitably destructive egalitarian imperative—through “the loss of the freedom to fail,” “bad political theater,” the UN Women’s Treaty, “the rise of antireligious orthodoxy,” ingratitude, complacency about liberty, “the urge to regulate” to Islamic shariah law. Playwright David Mamet, who announced his conversion from “brain-dead liberal” to conservative (and Thomas Sowell fan) before the 2008 election, eviscerates the “fairness doctrine.” Christopher Hitchens indicts multiculturalism. British M.P. (and Youtube sensation) Daniel Hannan exposes the European Union to well-deserved criticism. Jessica Gavora picks a very unlikely threat to our liberties—single women—and then makes a persuasive case that women are exchanging marriage for dependency on the state, and voting the way they live in such large numbers that the trend is endangering our entrepreneurial economy, the free market in medicine in America, and more.

The neoconnish and libertarian-leaning wings of the loose conservative coalition are better represented among the contributors to New Threats to Freedom than paleocons and traditionalists. But even the most traditional conservatives among us will find much fodder for thought in this valuable collection.

2010: Take Back America: A Battle Plan
Dick Morris and Eileen McGann
Harper, 2010
$26.99, 368 pp.

So much depends on the 2010 midterm elections for Congress. In November of 2008 the American people elected a leftist demagogue with a pitifully unimpressive track record in office—in fact in anything but running for office. We elected President Obama in a fit of pique, distraction and white liberal guilt—all completely understandable motivations at the time.

We were utterly sick of the admittedly imperfect Bush Administration (in retrospect, looking better every day). We’d been blindsided by the mortgage crisis and banking meltdown. And we wanted racial healing for America. At my polling place, where the voters are overwhelming black, even I felt the buzz.  I could see how exciting it was for descendents of slaves and survivors of Jim Crow to be voting America’s first black President into office. And I could have climbed on the bandwagon, too, if I hadn’t kept in mind that presidential elections aren’t just opportunities to feel good about ourselves. We can’t afford to abdicate our responsibility for self-government in pursuit of catharsis. In the end, it was childish of the American electorate to allow themselves to be distracted from the scant experience, well-established radicalism and untrustworthy character of Barack Obama by the buzz and the rhetoric.

Now that the American people can see clearly what we did in 2008, we have a chance to undo it. Dick Morris and Eileen McGann stand ready to advise us on how to defeat the congressional Democrats this November and take away Obama’s power to radically transform America.

Dick Morris, Bill Clinton’s former pollster, is well versed in the power of political rhetoric. In the first half of 2010, he and McGann demonstrate exactly what President Obama and the Democrats in Congress are doing with the power his demagoguery bought them. Then, having established just how crucial this election is, they set about showing precisely how to take that power back from the Democrats, come November. They identify which incumbents are vulnerable, show how the liberal talking points can be debunked, urge the importance of making Obama the issue in every election, and demonstrate how to use e-mail and YouTube to build enthusiasm for our candidates. As more conservatives get involved in electoral politics, they’ll find 2010 a useful blueprint to build their campaigns with.

That’s No Angry Mob, That’s My Mom: Team Obama’s Assault on Tea-Party, Talk-Radio Americans
Michael Graham
Regnery, 2010
$27.95, 259 pp.

Recent photos from the Quincy, Ill., Tea Party—police in riot gear were called out to intimidate peaceful protesters singing “God Bless America”—perfectly illustrate the thesis of Michael Graham’s That’s No Angry Mob, That’s My Mom.  Despite persistent attempts by the Democrats and liberal media to find and even to incite ugly racial incidents at the Tea Parties, the retirees, ordinary employed people, stay-at-home moms and cute kids who make up the visible and vocal opposition to President Obama’s program are no threat to civil order. And no, Andrew Sullivan, the Tea Parties are not, as you claimed, “an essentially cultural revolt against what America is becoming: a multi-racial, multi-faith, gay-inclusive, women-friendly, majority-minority country.”

Insofar as Tea Partiers are, indeed, in revolt against the trajectory America’s on, they’re balking at our leaders’ rush to financial ruin. To our financial ruin, not theirs—as government at all levels continues to hamstring the private sector and rack up ever more debt in taxpayers’ names while government employees rake in salaries, benefits, and early retirement that the rest of us can only dream about.

Graham’s gentle humor is just right for the movement he’s celebrating. His chapter titles give a nice taste of the tone of the book. From “My Mother, the Terrorist” (Graham’s mom comes across as an engaging and very ordinary American character), through “America, He’s Just Not That Into You” (on Barack Obama’s somewhat distant relationship with the country he was elected to govern), to “Honk If I’m Paying Your Mortgage,” Graham’s account of the Tea Parties has the genuine flavor of this movement.

It’s a protest movement the likes of which we haven’t seen in our lifetime. We’re not used to protesters who pay their own way, invent their own slogans, clean up their own trash, and remind us of our moms, our co-workers, and the nice guy down the street (of whatever race) who takes the trouble to pick up our mail and keep an eye on the house while we’re out of town. The Tea Parties are a reminder of how out of step the semi-professional “protest movements” we’ve grown accustomed to since the 1960s are with the concerns of the productive, family-oriented folks who are responsible for the bulk of our country’s financial prosperity and for raising flourishing young Americans. Whether you’ve participated in one of the Tea Parties or cheered from the sidelines, you’ll enjoy Michael Graham’s book.

10 Books Every Conservative Must Read: Plus Four Not to Miss and One Impostor
Benjamin Wiker
Regnery, 2010
$27.95, 256 pp.

Benjamin Wiker, author of the funny and enlightening 10 Books That Screwed Up the World, now takes on the more constructive and much more difficult task of explaining which books conservatives ought to read. Let’s face it: Refuting the errors and exposing the butcher’s bill of Machiavelli, Nietzsche, Marx, Hitler, Kinsey and Margaret Meade is a little like shooting fish in a barrel. At least compared to identifying the ten works of literature in all world history that are most important for conservatives to read.
And this project is not only difficult, it’s crucial. Possibly the most successful tactic in the left’s war on our culture has been the effective un-education of recent generations of Americans. Instead of teaching the “dead white males,” our schools now deliberately alienate students from these fountainheads of Western civilization.

Wiker begins with the foundational insight of Aristotle’s Politics, that political life natural to man, not a “construct” or the result of a “social contract.” This is the meaning of Aristotle’s famous description of man as a “political animal.” Politics is not our invention, it’s as natural to man as migration is to geese. And this insight is the touchstone that distinguishes the mainstream of classical and Christian thought on politics from the innovations of the moderns, beginning with Machiavelli and Hobbes and culminating in Nietzsche’s explicit call to jettison both Jesus and Socrates and return to the world view of the sophists.  

But very wisely, Wiker hasn’t limited himself to expository writing. He includes works of Shakespeare, Jane Austen and J. R. R. Tolkien and, along the way, makes a valuable contribution to the reconstruction of our culture.  

Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One
Zev Chafets
Sentinel, 2010
$25.95, 240 pp.

President Obama seems to have backed off his campaign to make Rush Limbaugh Public Enemy No. 1. The Saul Alinsky “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it” didn’t seem to be working against Limbaugh. There’s actually some truth in the notion that a radio talk-show host is the leader of the opposition. But that’s not as damning as the party in power seems to assume it is, when that radio talk-show host is as seasoned, talented and articulate a spokesman for conservative principles as is Rush Limbaugh. (And when it is, unfortunately, so easy to outshine our actual political leadership.)

Now, at what may be the height of Limbaugh’s importance in American politics, comes Zev Chafets’ fascinating biography of the man behind the golden EIB microphone. Chafets is no dittohead. He’s a New York Times reporter friendly enough with the liberal elite to have asked high-ranking Obama supporters about a golf game between Rush and the President. (The overture was rejected, rudely.)

But he’s an open-minded man and a good reporter. And Rush and the people closest to him really opened up to Chafets. As a result, there’s material here that will fascinate all Rush’s fans. Chafets delves into Limbaugh family history in Missouri, Rush’s relationship with his father and his early struggles in radio. He reports private conversations with Rush and takes us behind the scenes at the radio show. We get to know Bo Snerdley as never before. There’s some mild, not particularly telling criticism of Rush Limbaugh in this book. And there’s some opacity about his politics and his personality, too. But by and large, this is a sympathetic biography that Rush fans will enjoy.

The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War
Phillip Jennings
Regnery, 2010
$19.95, 256 pp.

Phillip Jennings makes the case that everything we think we know about the Vietnam War is wrong. Insofar as involvement in Vietnam was folly, it was liberal Democratic, not conservative Republican, foolishness. The Russians and Chinese were more, not less, responsible for the Viet Cong’s successes than American supporters of the war claimed at the time. Reports of American atrocities—and the carpet-bombing of cities—were greatly exaggerated.

Jennings’s most contrarian claim: Not only was the Tet Offensive an overwhelming victory for us, but America had actually won the war when the liberal Congress, emboldened by their routing of Richard Nixon, forced our shameful withdrawal, the defeat of our South Vietnamese allies and the humanitarian disaster of the boat people and the Cambodian killing fields. If you learned about the Vietnam War from contemporary press and television, or from the public school system in the intervening years, this book will be full of surprises. 

Teaching the Pig to Dance: A Memoir of Growing Up and Second Chances
Fred Thompson
Crown Forum, 2010
$25, 272 pp.

To what does the quirky book title refer? That’s what Fred Thompson’s teacher said it was like trying to get a little Latin into his hard head in high school back in 1950s Lawrenceburg, Tenn.: teaching the pig to dance.

In this memoir, Thompson tells the story of how a roughneck kid from a little town in Tennessee grew up—quickly, largely as a result of a shotgun wedding (though no actual shotgun was involved) to his high school sweetheart at the age of 17—into a responsible and successful adult. Readers will have to await the next volume of Thompson’s memoirs for the full story of his life in the movies and politics, but they’ll enjoy these vignettes of his early life, and the window into Thompson’s folksy brand of conservatism.

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