Bob Tyrrell is the man for whom the term “stand-up guy” was invented.
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Tyrrell notes, and of course it’s true, that there are many kinds of conservatives. For example, there are neoconservatives who became disaffected by the radicalism of 1960s Liberals (the late Irving Kristol was their putative leader — the phrase “neocons” is now used by extremists on both sides to really mean “Jewboys”…it is almost invariably salted with some serious anti-Semitism); “reformed conservatives,” or RCs, who sometimes “ingratiat[e] themselves with the mainstream Liberal media by finding fault with conservatism”; our pals New York Times columnists David Brooks and Ross Douthat, again; and even “mini-cons” (see bow-tied journalist Tucker Carlson).
This brings us once again to Tyrrell’s pet peeve, or what he views as the biggest impediment to conservatism flourishing once again: conservatives who “snipe” at each other to get ahead. Some examples of Tyrrell’s conservative snipers include:
1. Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, who reviewed Tyrrell’s 1992 book, The Conservative Crack-Up, for the New York Times. Her review, Tyrrell writes, “was more a psychoanalysis of me than a review of my book.” Tyrrell continues, “Peggy’s sly disparagement validated another of my propositions about conservatives, namely: conservatives, particularly conservative writers, have remained marginalized by the political culture and left with only one expedient to stardom, which is to snipe at fellow conservatives.”
2. ”Reformed conservative” columnist David Brooks, who called Sarah Palin “a fatal cancer to the Republican Party.” Tyrrell really does not like this man.
3. Conservative talk radio host Joe Scarborough, “an RC for the airwaves” who “has rarely manifested an interest in much beyond his own self-promotion.”
Among the stories of sniping (which could have started to get depressing after a while), Tyrrell stays humorous and optimistic, never wavering in his belief that conservatism’s prospects are bright. He tells a funny story about an annual dinner The American Spectator puts on for its writers and supporters, one of which took place right after the 2008 election. He wanted his fellow conservatives to be prepared for the “wilderness years,” so he had his staff hand out 400 L. L. Bean catalogs to the dinner guests:
I urged my friends to settle for the offerings made available in the Bean catalog. Properly attired, we might not find the wilderness so bad. Sure, there would be poison ivy and wolves, clouds of mosquitoes and grim-faced members of the World Wildlife Federation stomping around on the mountain laurel, but there would be many instances of natural beauty. Once in the wilderness, I planned to pitch my tent close to that of the comely Governor Palin. She is very cute and can handle a shootin’ iron….As it turned out, conservatism’s wilderness years only lasted a few months, and I never did get an opportunity to taste Palin’s sautéed elk.
In a deeply touching portion of the book we behold the great respect and admiration Tyrrell has for his close friend the late Bill Buckley, the conservative movement activist and legendary editor of National Review who died in February 2008. We also hear of the disdain Tyrrell has for Buckley’s son, Christopher — novelist, political satirist, and “reformed conservative.” Tyrrell wallops Christopher for being disloyal to his father in both the flippant eulogy he gave at Buckley’s heavily attended memorial service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and in his memoir. “He felt himself to be the neglected son, who, as the eulogy suggested and the book made clear, envied his father’s superior talents,” Tyrrell writes. Sad but apparently true.
Tyrrell’s eloquent descriptions of Bill Buckley’s achievements and quirky habits serve as a springboard into a discussion on the differences between the Nixon White House and the Reagan White House. While the Nixon White House shied away from the conservative movement, the Reagan White House embraced it (Reagan was a longtime National Review reader, Tyrrell points out).
Tyrrell urges conservatives to stop sniping, join forces, and become a real force for solidarity. And he’s not talking about tea parties here, but rather those who travel in conservative intellectual circles:
[I]f the conservative counterculture is to vanquish the [liberal] smog, it has to start acting like a culture. There has to be intellectual activity shared among the conservative activists, personalities, and writers. The movement’s members have to desist from their solipsistic leapfrogging and do what I urged upon Bill Buckley back in 1986, to wit, take an interest in each other’s work — at least when it is interesting. Moreover they have to assess each other and each other’s work with a clear sense unclouded by the smog’s vapors.
Tyrrell predicts that conservatism’s recovery will be through “an archipelago of public policy think tanks,” aided by intellectual journals like his own as well as conservative new media, such as talk radio and the Internet. I personally think conservatism’s return to political power will come as Americans learn just how untrustworthy the Chicago gang they elected are.
In the book’s final chapter, Tyrrell lays out his agenda for the next conservative ascendancy, including his recommendations for financial reform, health care reform, and national defense — but not before he comments on how Liberals, especially President Obama, don’t believe in American exceptionalism: “To Obama, America is a failed state, and so he has traveled the world, apologizing for the delusions that he imagines have brought so much discredit to America’s brief but admirable history.” So Tyrrell urges conservatives to do the opposite — to embrace the last item on his conservative agenda: American exceptionalism. Tyrrell believes we should be proud of it and, as part of a conservative agenda, revel in our uniqueness as Americans. He concludes the book with a call “for real hope and change,” again reminding us conservatives that we need to be a culture, not just a party: “With the growth of the conservative counterculture, the prospects are good for conservatism now to do what it should have done in the 1980s and act not merely like a political party but like a political culture.”
And I can well imagine a genial, beaming, florid-faced Bob Tyrrell telling us all of this at one of the great Spectator dinners, and adding, “And please, dear Lord, let it start with me.”
I love this guy, and long may he run.
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?