Bob Tyrrell is the man for whom the term “stand-up guy” was invented.
After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to
By R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.
(Thomas Nelson, 272 pages, $24.99)
1. Bob Tyrrell is an American icon. Ace swimmer at Indiana University, which is to swimming what Athens was to the Olympics. Founder, lo, these 40 years or so ago, of one of the leading magazines of intellectual output in the United States, this very own American Spectator you are reading right now. Exposer, one might say, of Bill Clinton as golf cheat and misguided procurer of beautiful girls through the Arkansas State Troopers, and most of all, relentless pursuer of Bill Clinton (whom I personally admire for his fiscal policy) as a liar under oath and a smearer of innocent girls.
2. It is fair to say of Bob Tyrrell, as one can say of very few human beings, that with his tenacity and fearlessness he changed the course of history by stopping Clinton dead in his tracks for a good long time. Tyrrell himself, left for dead by the jubilant left at one point as The American Spectator struggled financially, reemerged like Phoenix with his wingman, Wlady Pleszczynski, as editor of a better, stronger Spectator and that’s just the beginning of the Bob Tyrrell story.
3. For all this time, he has been a prolific and gifted writer of books and essays and guest on TV, commenting trenchantly on the world political scene with a wit rarely matched except by his idols H. L. Mencken and William F. Buckley Jr. To Bob Tyrrell we owe the ideas of “the conservative crack-up,” by which he meant conservatives sniping endlessly at each other instead of at the leftists; “the Kultursmog,” by which he meant the left-wing, anti-American, anti-conservative vapor that has long since captured the American and world media and its hangers-on (I just took a break from writing this and watched a few minutes of a rerun of a TV show called Boston Legal, one long anti-GOP commercial masquerading as a drama, about which no one ever complains); and one of his best, the term “Boy Clinton,” to describe, well, Bill Clinton: a big lovable lug who, as heir to George Washington, just happens to put a cigar in the vagina of a woman intern of college age, then lick it and smoke it in the office of Abraham Lincoln, then tries to tell the world he is holier than thou. I actually like Bill Clinton, but can you even imagine if George W. Bush did that? I mean, can you even imagine the outrage? And now Bill Clinton is worshipped, yes, WORSHIPPED, in Democrat circles. But once upon a time, Bob Tyrrell stopped him in his tracks.
4. Few and far between are there Americans with the dimensions of intelligence and articulation of Bob Tyrrell. And yet even here, we do not get to the meat of the real Bob Tyrrell, because it’s not about words. It’s about deeds.
5. Bob Tyrrell is the man for whom the term “stand-up guy” was invented. In a fight of any kind, verbal, physical, ideological, he is the guy you want at your back and at your side, too. He never backs down, and he’s never afraid, and he plays by the rules but he keeps playing even when the other guys do not play by the rules. I have known him man and boy since Spiro Agnew was vice president, and there is no more loyal pal. “No better friend. No worse enemy,” as the Marines say about themselves, and rightly so.
6. As I write this (back from that silly Boston Legal), I am in a street fight with some very bad people who are determined to wreck my life. As I lie in my bed at night with my faithful German Shorthaired Pointers, Brigid and Cleo, and think of how fast some people will dump me if this fight gets worse, I get a certain glow thinking that I can count on Bob (and Wlady) to always be there. That’s saying something.
However, this is a book review. Bob can write his own autobiography. Bob Tyrrell has written a book about the political situation right now in the U.S. of A. It came about as the result of his ruminations and incandescence after the GOP losses in 2006 and 2008. Of course, the loss in 2008 was far narrower than most commentators ever noticed. Senator McCain actually won most of the white vote. Without the near total solidarity of the black voters for Obama (and who can blame them? The idea of a post-racial world is an idea with no objective correlative), we would now be seeing a brisk-looking old man named John walk around the White House instead of a balletic middle-aged man named Barack. The totals for Obama vs. McCain were not even close to the routs by Nixon in 1972 or Reagan in 1984. Still, right after the elections, the GOP was given up for permanent minority status, just a Southern, regional, racist party, or so they said. (I give credit to my young GOP attorney — writer pal, Russ Ferguson, who jauntily said, “We’ll be back,” immediately after the election.)
Anyway, the gloom in the conservative world after early November 2008 was palpable. But some people see farther both backward and forward than others. So, in the aftermath of the 2008 election and with a few months yet to go before the 2010 midterms, R. Emmett Tyrrell, best-selling author and founder and editor in chief of this very journal you have before your eyes, has provided us with a timely, irreverent, and informative new book, After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery. The book gives us a rundown on the state of conservatism in America (it’s not good, but it’s extremely far from serious illness, let alone death), what went wrong, and how conservatism can make its comeback.
With his insider political knowledge and astonishingly broad and deep mastery of historical fact, Tyrrell proves himself to be the premier chronicler of conservatism in America. This is a book worried conservatives must have and thoughtful liberals will read if they know what’s good for them. It is nothing less than the book of Genesis of postwar conservatism.
Tyrrell notes that the chattering class has been writing conservatism’s obituary ever since the rise of the modern conservative movement in the early 1950s. The first round of obits came in 1964, with the crushing defeat of Goldwater, a pioneer and a truth teller, but not a great campaigner and pitted against the unbeatable combination of a unified liberal media and the most seasoned of seasoned political operators, Lyndon B. Johnson, a titan in many ways. Then conservatism was supposedly dead after the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974 — even though, as Tyrrell rightly notes, RN was not even remotely a movement conservative except on lifestyle issues. Then when Clinton beat G.H.W. Bush, again, hardly a conservative, the movement was dead and buried, and when Barack Hussein Obama beat McCain, that was supposedly the un-qualified end of conservatism.
That was before New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts — yes, freaking Massachusetts — brought forth The Resurrection.
Conservatism, tyrrell explains, is the “longest dying political movement in American history. Yet the movement is still around, and oddly enough, the political center toward which Liberal political candidates claim they are running is more clearly shaped by modern American conservatism than by Liberalism.” Just for me, I see conservatism as working better than whiny, bitching leftism because for most Americans, life is pretty darned good, and we want it to stay as it is for as long as we can. That’s probably too simple-minded, but then I am writing this from Southern California. To be sure, conservatism is in some trouble, due in part to what Tyrrell calls the “petty competitiveness” among conservative intellectuals, the “low standards” of conservative pundits and political leaders — you should read how he slices and dices David Brooks, David Frum, and Ross Douthat. It is a skilled moyel, the Jewish functionary who does circumcisions, about his work, but going a bit far.
But liberalism is just as badly off, if not worse, we are told.
Tyrrell reminds readers that he first diagnosed Liberals’ “unstable
condition” in his 1984 book, The Liberal Crack-Up. “Since
the Reagan presidency, Liberalism has endured more years of decline
than ascendancy. Listening to the sweeping rhetoric of President
Obama and witnessing the shifting emphases in his brief tenure, I
think we can conclude that Liberalism is again in one of its
periods of schizophrenia.” He remarks on Liberalism’s own
shortcomings and near-death experiences, again comforting those
conservatives who fear for their movement: “Liberalism has not
experienced the growth that conservatism has and can boast of none
of conservatism’s diversity, though diversity is one of
Liberalism’s most harped-on values.”
This part is worth quoting at some length:
What diversity liberalism has experienced is merely the identity politics of those liberal-leaning mal-contents who have cultivated through the years ever more grievances, for instance, feminists, homosexual activists, adepts of racial or ethnic politics, and of course the consumerists and environmentalists. The last two…since the 1960s…have practiced what I have called Masked Politics, opposing the Giant Corporations, land developers, and new technologies that give them endless anxieties and visits to their gastroenterologists.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?