The Revolution Reviewed

The season of Kauffmaniana continues, as Bill takes a look at Ron Paul’s book over at Taki’s Magazine. Here’s a taste:

As for the word “isolationist,” which I’ve always thought had a nice pacific ring to it, Rep. Paul gives taxonomic reversal the old college try. He tags the unilateral bullies of the Bush administration “isolationists” and avers, “I favor the very opposite of isolation: diplomacy, free trade, and freedom of travel.” And ‘tis true that the “isolationist” Paul was the only GOP presidential hopeful to support lifting sanctions against Cuba.

He fires off this nice line: “Mine is an ‘isolationist’ position only to those who believe that the world’s peoples can interact with each other only through their governments, or only through the intermediary of a supranational bureaucracy.”

Update: Dave Weigel offers a Reason-ed review of The Revolution here, while Stacy McCain reviews Bill’s book over at The American Spectator on-line.

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Bill Kauffman Reviews A Conservative History of the American Left

I have a review of Dan Flynn’s new book written and awaiting publication, but in the meantime, Tory Anarchist readers will certainly enjoy Bill Kauffman’s take on the book at First Principles.

And if you’re in the D.C. area, don’t forget to come to Bill Kauffman’s event at the Cato Institute tomorrow. I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks.

Two Reviews for You

The May June issue of Reason includes my review of Pure Goldwater, the John Dean and Barry Goldwater Jr.-edited collection of the late senator’s journals. The May 5 issue of The American Conservative, meanwhile, features my piece on Bill Kauffman’s Ain’t My America. Both books, coincidentally enough, are published by Palgrave-Macmillan, which is also home to James Bovard.

The magazine’s probably won’t be hitting bookstores and subscribers’ mailboxes for about 10 days or a little more — print has its advantages, but alacrity isn’t one of them. In the meantime, here’s a link to Dean and Goldwater Jr. discussing their book at the Huffington Post.

In Print: Ron Paul, Bill Kauffman, and Ralph Adams Cram

The 4/21 issue of The American Conservative, which should be showing up in bookstores and subscribers’ mailboxes right about now, contains my article “The Ron Paul Evolution,” on the future of the Ron Paul movement — already there are candidates, a youth organization, and nonprofit ventures rising out of the Paul phenomenon, and there’s much more to come. I relate a few of my own experiences with the campaign in the piece, too. Hunt down a copy.

The next issue of the mag, out in about two weeks, should contain my review of Bill Kauffman’s terrific new book Ain’t My America: The Long, Noble History of Anti-War Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism. The book is every bit as good as you would expect from the Sage of Batavia–and even better. If you need any convincing, just check out my review.

Gerald Russello, the editor extraordinaire of the University Bookman tells me that my review of Douglass Shand-Tucci’s recent biography of Ralph Adams Cram is in the current issue of that venerable (and Russell Kirk-founded) quarterly. It’s on-line here, but I’d recommend tracking down a print copy as well — or better yet, subscribing. Under Russello’s able editorship, the Bookman has gone from being a neglected cousin of Modern Age to becoming essential reading.

(The revivified Bookman is hardly Russello’s only notable achievement in recent years: he’s also the author of The Postmodern Imagination of Russell Kirk, which I reviewed for Reason a while back.)

Two Takes on Bill Buckley and a Look at the Future of the Right

WFB’s memorial service was yesterday. Matthew Richer and Austin Bramwell offer some reflections on the man they knew — lightly in Richer’s case, somewhat better in Bramwell’s. As you might anticipate from the venue, Richer’s VDARE commentary is rather scathing. Bramwell is affectionate but also judicious; this bit from his article is particularly revealing:

The net result of his divesting himself of control of National Review was to turn over ownership of the magazine to its employees. Today, Rich Lowry is the editor-owner of National Review to nearly the same extent that Buckley himself was. Lowry is by no means an untalented journalist. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that anybody would have chosen him as the man to control NR for the next fifty years. This result could have been avoided, if Buckley had cared enough to prevent it. As far as I could tell, however, he did know enough about NR even to begin to have any influence. His ignorance of the affairs of his own magazine at times astonished me. Although Bill congratulated me on my criticisms of movement conservatism and spoke candidly of its failings, its future simply did not concern him.

Meanwhile, the American Spectator blog has several items up — by Christopher Orlet, J.P. Freire, and Jim Antle — on Jeff Hart’s recent Buckley reminiscence in TAC and what it indicates about the future of the conservative movement. Daniel Larison comments as well.

Orlet asks whether a movement with as much young talent as conservatism has can really be doomed. Of course it can. Young journalists are one thing, but there’s no young Willmoore Kendall or young James Burnham or young Frank Meyer on the scene. No, I wouldn’t expect a 20-year-old or a 30-year-old to have the gravity of any of those thinkers — but even looking at our 40-year-olds and 50-year-olds, I can’t think of too many who are of much significance as theorists or academics. Some of the “Catholic Straussians” fit into that age cohort and are notable, but the best of them, Patrick Deneen, is at his best when he’s furthest from movement conservatism. There are some keen minds among the generation of conservatives ages 25 to 60, but few of them seem as keen as the minds of the conservatives who are in their 60s or older. (Maybe that’s not quite right: you could get another Stephen Tonsor or another Jeffrey Hart. But you won’t get another Robert Nisbet, I suspect.)

Part of the problem on the theoretical side is that too many of the best young minds in conservatism have followed Buckley’s example by shunning grad school and embracing journalism or the movement instead. That’s what I’ve done. (Daniel Larison is one of the few who hasn’t — he’s somehow writing more than anyone else and getting a Ph.D. too.)

In politics, the situation is even more embarrassing for conservatives. The failure to produce a single conservative leader of a caliber even close to Goldwater or Reagan (as flawed as both of them were) over the course of some five decades — for that’s how long the movement has been around — is conspicuous. Nobody who came out of Young Americans for Freedom went on to become a leading politician. Former College Republicans heads turn into backroom strategists like Ralph Reed and Karl Rove, advisers to awful politicians rather than awful politicians themselves. It’s ironic that a movement that become increasingly political over time has never become any better at cultivating young statesmen. Mostly, it just creates hacks and para-politicians; campaign managers rather than candidates.

There’s a silver lining to all of this. The conservative movement has gone so far off the rails over the last half-century that a wholesale reconstruction is in order, if not a replacement of the movement by something else. There’s some real intellectual fermentation going on in the exile quarters of the Right — among reactionary radicals and some of the more daring libertarians. This fermentation actually looks a lot like the Old Right, in the sense that it’s producing journalists who are more than just journalists (I’m thinking of people like Mencken or Bill Kauffman) and may yet produce some theorists. With the Ron Paul movement, it may have created some statesmen, too, though it will take some time to find out who they might be. For now, this alternative Right is more hoped-for than apparent, but it has the right ideas, and that’s more than can be said for the Bush-McCain movement.

Scattershot Notes

Contrary to my stated intention, @TAC actually has cut into Tory Anarchist blogging, at least a little bit. But then, this blog is more of a place for stray thoughts, so I don’t feel too shabby if I let it go for a few days. I don’t plan to let it go as long as I have sometimes done in the past, though. (Especially since I was a little intimidated — flattered, but intimidated — to see the Tory Anarchist quoted, at some length, in Bill Kauffman’s new book, Ain’t My America.)

Right now the stray thought on my mind is a theme: movement making. I have a post up at @TAC talking about the Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee movements, taking a few cues from Doug Wead. (And as an aside: while I identify Wead as an influential evangelical and former Bush I staffer, he also happens to have been the Arizona Republican congressional candidate whom Barry Goldwater famouly refused to endorse in 1992, was when BG was vociferously dissenting form the religious right’s influence on the Arizona party. BG endorsed Democrat Karan English instead.) I’m also at work on an article for the print magazine on post-campaign developments with the Ron Paul movement.

In my spare moments, I’ve been reading Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72. The Thompson cult is too hip for my tastes — and many a young writer has been ruined trying to emulate the godfather of gonzo — but I’m enjoying the book a great deal. George McGovern is the hero of the book, and since McGovern is also one of the good guys in Kauffman’s book (which I’ll eventually be reviewing, the fact that I’m quoted therein notwithstanding) means that I suppose Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail counts as research. My Ron Paul campaign colleague Jonathan Bydlak was the one who recommended the book to me — a good call.