What a disappointing book. The subtitle declares it contains “The Conservatives' Road to Recovery.” I expected insight or leadership as to the future of the Republican Party (there is an elephant on the cover).
What I got was Tyrrell’s recounting of the history of Conservatism and his special place in it. The reader is treated to 32 pages of William Buckley and Tyrrell’s friendship with “Bill.” The reader is reminded time and again about the books Tyrrell himself has written. There are some 200 pages of reminiscing and scores of critiques of books on Conservatism by people I’ve never heard of. Readers are treated to Tyrrell’s literary skill and vast knowledge but with little meat on the healing of the Republican Party.
Tyrrell’s bias shines through. Regarding the Bork nomination, “The Liberals snarled and clawed.” (5) He loves inflammatory statements; “...Liberals perceive ordinary Americans as primitive, bigoted, overweight, and incapable of earning a PhD.” (96) (This is interesting because on page 128 he admits, “For much of [the 1980s], the growing number of Americans who considered themselves forthrightly conservative also considered themselves somehow elevated above the mass of ordinary Americans.”) Sometimes Tyrrell is just crude. Speaking of Iraq, “We should have left the place in a heap.” (224)
Democrats can do no right and Republicans can do no wrong. While Tyrrell does admit Bush was “disappointing,” Bush’s claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, “…was clearly not a lie but a mistaken belief.” (99) Clinton and Obama, however, “practiced deception.” (10)
Tyrrell suggests, “Conservatism’s recovery will be through an archipelago of public policy think tanks… The whole process of recovery will be enhanced by the conservative’s New Media: talk radio, Fox News, and the Internet.” (167) Tyrrell finally gets down to the priorities of recovery on page 208 (in a 234 page book). So if you want to know what he suggests, you can easily read the few meaningful pages while you are browsing in a bookstore.
As to the future, Tyrrell does admit that, “few high-quality leaders are recognizable among conservative intellectuals and politicians.” (230, 231) The lack of leadership does not bother Tyrrell as he is sure some will come forward. But as Tyrrell himself says, “The truth is that only a troubled person would aspire to political leadership today.” (24) Tyrrell predicts the demise of Liberals and that shortly, “Even nudists will be more numerous…” than Liberals. (232) Fortunately, we’ll still have the “model” of “interacting intelligently” in Limbaugh, Hannity and Levin. (123)
I received this book for review from Thomas Nelson Publishers.