In his address to the Conservative Political Action Convention this weekend, talk radio veteran Rush Limbaugh offered parents advice. “Don’t be afraid to tell children that they’re wrong,” he said. “They don’t know what you do. They simply haven’t lived long enough.” True, the kids will “hate you for a while.” But parents should press on because “you owe them the truth about things.”
Limbaugh meant this as a criticism of the broader culture, but it applied just as forcefully to CPAC itself. Early on the first day, I picked up the book Define Conservatism: For Past, Present, and Future Generations, by Jonathan Krohn, one of the speakers at the “two minute activist” panel. The cover is normal enough — a silhouette with a picture of Congress in session in the background. It looks like something that could be published by a university press, perhaps.
Then, the trick. You turn it over and see the picture of a “13 year-old home schooled young man” who was named “Atlanta’s Most Talented Child” by Inside Edition. He even “had 3 call-backs for the Broadway part of Michael Banks in Mary Poppins.” The young Mr. Krohn “loves talk radio” and has “taken up golf in hopes to play with his favorite politicians.”
This reviewer wishes him good luck with that and hopes that he never, ever gets the itch to write another book. Define Conservatism is terrible. It’s not simply that the book is riddled with typos (though it is) or that it’s shallow and awkwardly phrased that annoys so. There’s also anger at the parents for allowing this book to be published at all. One of the things that good parents ought to do is keep their charges from embarrassing themselves this badly.
It would be cruel to quote this book at great length but here is the first paragraph of Krohn’s second chapter: “Now that we have finished our discussion of old school conservatism and the constitution, let’s move on to the next major aspect of the conservative belief system: the life issue. The life issue is near and dear to all conservatives. Does not life keep all of us alive? If it wasn’t for life would we not surely be dead? Conservatives believe that life is something that everyone should have.”
Yes, conservatives do generally believe in a right to life, and also in Krohn’s other three pillars of conservatism: respect for the Constitution, a smaller government, and personal responsibility. But that specific answer is the sort of unrefined thought that we expect young people to throw out there for adults to respond, “Isn’t he cute?” or “Well that’s not quite right, son. See…”
Let’s stipulate that prodigies do exist. Sometimes very young people managed to do the great and the unexpected. Define Conservatism is neither of those things. It’s a mix of flawed history (Jefferson and Hamilton are said to be founders of “the conservative movement”), partisan hackery (John McCain’s plan to help bail out people with distressed mortgages is given the small government Jeffersonian thumbs up), and sheer goofiness. Krohn’s parents should have put their foot down and said, “Sorry kid, but it’s for your own good.”