The Spectacle Blog

Berkowitz on Levin: More Mush From the Wimps

By on 7.21.09 | 12:49PM

Mark Levin has a great piece over at the American Thinker, reviewing a review of his best-selling book Liberty and Tyranny. The review by the Hoover Institution's Peter Berkowitz appears in this week's Weekly Standard.

I don't know Mr. Berkowitz. Mr. Levin is more than capable of answering on his own, which he has done in such specific detail that I have an image of Berkowitz seeking treatment in the scalded dog clinic at Stanford.

Still.

First reaction here to Berkowitz? More mush from the wimps, to borrow a line from several campaign seasons ago. Here is my own review of Levin's book.

"Like it or not, the New Deal is here to stay," says Berkowitz. Reading this gives one a sense of relief that Berkowitz was not around to advise Washington (who ended the "here to stay" premise that was the British monarchy's control of America), Lincoln (ditto with slavery) and Reagan (ditto with Communism). Indeed, Berkowitz on the New Deal sounds like John Kerry on Communism in his 1971 speech to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "We cannot fight communism all over the world, and I think we should have learned that lesson by now." Well, wrong. Not only could we fight, we could win. Had Reagan listened to the Kerry/Berkowitz view of the world, the Soviet Union would still be here, Berlin still a divided city.

Again, Levin's response is by far the best. But one is forced to ask Berkowitz if he reads history. The New Deal, come to power in 1932, had flowered by 1940. This in turn begat a long parade of Republican presidential nominees who were taking Berkowitz's advice, some well before there was a Berkowitz. By name: Willkie, Dewey (1944 and 1948), Eisenhower, Nixon (of 1960 but not 1968 or 1972), Ford, Bush (of 1992 but not 1988), Dole in 1996, and McCain in 2008. Eisenhower, while a moderate, was clearly elected because he was the biggest military hero since Grant, and presumably could have won short of anything up to but possibly not excluding beating up Mamie.

Every other time -- every single time -- the GOP nominee ran as a moderate, he lost. Nixon waxed Berkowitzian in the opening line of his first 1960 debate with Kennedy ("The things that Senator Kennedy has said many of us can agree with.") He lost. By 1968 and running for re-election in 1972, Nixon had learned his lesson. "Amnesty, acid and abortion" went the immoderate line from one of the Nixon commercials in 1972 -- and 49 states were carried. Berkowitz cites Colin Powell, he who has never run in a solitary election in his life yet advocates moderation -- and voted against McCain, precisely the kind of candidate he pretended to advocate. Powell is the classic case of the Emperor having no clothes. When it comes to things electoral, he is truly clueless.

One could go on. Moderation kept the House GOP in the minority for four decades. Conservatism made Newt Speaker of the House. Moderation lost the GOP House again in 2006. The Berkowitz remedy has been tried repeatedly -- and failed. Levin writes but a mere book on conservative principles and is vaulted to 15 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list with a book read by almost a million people. From ex-New Jersey moderate GOP Governor Christine Todd Whitman to moderate fanatic David Frum, books extolling Berkowitzian moderation theory vanish down the memory hole. Lots of talk radio hosts write books. They don't do 15 weeks atop the Times bestseller list. There is a reason for this. Levin's success in and of itself speaks volumes about the audience for seriously articulated conservatism.

With all due respect to Berkowitz, perhaps it's time to start seriously thinking in that tank out there. In brief: "Moderation" is a loser. It's also intellectually defeatist, politically corrosive and, well, stupid. Moderate Washington on King George? Lincoln on slavery? Reagan on Communism? Stop with the mush, already. 

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