- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 8, 2010


By R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.

Thomas Nelson, $24.99,

272 pages

Reviewed by John R. Coyne Jr.

Finally, after a deluge of books about what’s wrong with conservatism and how to cure it - the solution usually being for conservatives to transmogrify into liberals - comes a conservative book by a genuine card-carrying conservative whose credentials span nearly five decades.

Hard to believe that Bob Tyrrell, whose American Spectator was born as the Alternative back in the 1960s, when the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Black Panthers rode high and many of today’s crop of old tenured professors were chanting “Ho, Ho Chi Minh, the NLF is gonna win” - hard to believe that Mr. Tyrrell, whose magazine in those days was smarter, sharper and livelier than anything on the left, old or new, has been there for nearly half a century and is still serving up, in the American Spectator, both online and on the newsstands, some of today’s sharpest, smartest and liveliest articles, commentaries and reviews.

And there’s Mr. Tyrrell, still wielding the satirical rapier - and at times the saber - skewering and slashing the leftist ungodly.

Perhaps it’s because his prose remains as quick, supple and young, with the humor and irreverence undiminished, that it’s difficult to remember that Mr. Tyrrell has been there since William F. Buckley Jr. led the conservative movement out of mediocrity and premature senescence into intellectual and then political hegemony.

Mr. Tyrrell rode with Buckley during those years, one of the most trusted and effective young guns of the conservative movement. Today, he retains many of the attributes of those early years, but he also increasingly has assumed the role - whether he likes it or not - of one of conservatism’s elder statesmen. It’s from this perspective that much of this book is written.

From the earliest days, much like Frank Meyer, an ex-communist and senior editor at National Review who ran the book section when it was among the country’s most respected and who profoundly influenced a generation of young conservatives with his concept of “fusionism” (and about whom a first-rate book begs to be written), Mr. Tyrrell believed it possible to unite all strands of conservative thought into a powerful political and cultural force, and his magazine has reflected this philosophy, both in its staff and contributors, from libertarians to traditionalists to neocons.

It was at the American Spectator that many of the most prominent conservative writers and commentators in the country first made their mark, from George Will to William Kristol.

During those years, the American Spectator, led by Mr. Tyrrell, never wavered in its belief in the superiority and rightness of conservative thought and principles, tempered and shaped by American exceptionalism. That remains the case today, despite the still-reverberating debacle of 2008 and the disarray of an apparently leaderless conservative movement (to say nothing of the Republican Party).

But this is nothing new, Mr. Tyrrell says, pointing out that what is being written is “the premature obituary of America’s longest dying political movement.”

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