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Can That Old-Time Religion Rescue Conservatism?
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March 29, 2010, 05:00 AM
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The latest round of restlessness on the Right—the widespread dissatisfaction with the Republican Party and the disastrous legacy of the Bush Administration—is astutely captured in Tom Pauken`s new book, Bringing America Home: How America Lost Her Way and How We Can Find Our Way Back.

Pauken, a Goldwater-era conservative activist and veteran of the Nixon and Reagan administrations, was the chairman of the Texas Republican Party during George W. Bush`s governorship, much to the latter`s disquiet, and is also the author of The Thirty Years War: The Politics of the Sixties Generation.

Pauken launched his book at the National Press Club before a small gathering of reporters and conservative activists earlier this month—a day before the release of fellow Texan and arch-nemesis Karl Rove`s much-hyped memoir, Courage and Consequence.

My former Human Events colleague John Gizzi [email him] asked Pauken if his criticism in his book of the neoconservatives would unfairly shove individuals out of the conservative orbit.

I wondered where Gizzi was going with this line of reasoning. After all, Gizzi was there representing America`s oldest conservative weekly publication, which once articulated the principles of the Old Right espoused by Pauken, supporting Taft-oriented anti-interventionist foreign policies and opposing "nation-building" abroad, as well as regularly publishing columns by Sam Francis, Joseph Sobran, and Pat Buchanan.

Gizzi`s question was particularly peculiar given that Eagle Publishing, now owner of Human Events, has itself a record of purging conservatives who do not embrace the newfound Political Correctness of the Beltway "Conservative" Establishment—for example, my own forced resignation as managing editor of Human Events. As a result of Heidi Beirich and the Southern Poverty Law Center`s modern-day witch hunt, I had about as much time to consider my employment options (termination or resignation) than it took Gizzi to ask his question and get a response from Pauken! (He stood his ground).

In a forty-year span, thanks to the Right`s capitulation to the cultural and political demands of the Left, we`ve "progressed" from an open and free society in which a National Review editor could sensibly examine "The Negro Problem" (as Jeffrey Hart did in his 1966 book, The American Dissent: A Decade of Modern Conservatism, published by the unimpeachably mainstream publisher Doubleday) to the point where a Human Events editor loses his job for expressing his views—elsewhere—on race and culture. We live in an era where free speech and freedom of association are relics of the past and the Beltway conservatives deserve much of the blame. (A few days after Pauken spoke, Human Events censored a Pat Buchanan column to remove criticism of Israel).

Pauken`s well-argued account of the political setbacks that conservatives suffered in the Bush Era explains the legacy of the Rove-Rockefeller "pragmatic" wing of the GOP—the embrace of "big-government conservatism" and the preference for "Wall Street" ethics over "Main Street" values.

Also noteworthy is Pauken`s critique of the renegade neoconservative foreign interventionism of the Bush Administration, which led to costly military excursions and nation-building in Iraq and now Afghanistan.  He puts the usual suspects on the carpet: Kenneth Adelman, Richard Perle, Vice President Dick Cheney, Michael Ledeen, Paul Wolfowitz, Norman Podhoretz, Charles Krauthammer, and David Frum. The foreign policy initiatives that extended the U.S. Empire abroad in no way reflect the Taft-oriented conservatism that once influenced the political Right. It reveals the hijacking of not only the foreign policy of the GOP, but the leadership of the conservative movement and draws attention to the radical-Left roots of leading neoconservatives.

Bringing America Home has its pluses and minuses. Pauken addresses some important matters, but he cautiously avoids others.  Consider America`s substandard education policies. Overall, the quintessential problems with federal control over education policy, exemplified in the gimmicky hollowness of No Child Left Behind, deserve further deconstruction. But the author`s general thrust captures the deplorable condition of America`s educational system. And Pauken does approvingly quote Charles Murray, author of Real Education and co-author of the 1994 bestseller The Bell Curve, who has identified four core issues that have escape notice by Newt Gingrich, Al Sharpton, Arne Duncan and our education elite: ability varies; half of school-age children are below average; too many young people are going to college; and our education policies should do a better job of educating the academically gifted.

Unfortunately, the reality of the Reagan years is that more should have been done to reduce the size of the federal government. Among others, the Department of Education, Housing and Urban Development, and the National Endowment for the Arts, should have been eliminated post haste.

The coarsening of America`s culture, and the steady sewage of pop-culture entertainment designed for the Young and the Restless, should be a major concern to any parent.

Disappointing to VDARE.COM readers, in Bringing America Home, Pauken criticizes the push for "diversity" and "multiculturalism" almost as an afterthought. He says surprisingly little about America`s suicidal immigration policies. Of course, an author has to to pick and choose from a menu of important national topics, but one would have expected that immigration, a subject on the minds of most Americans, would loom larger in any diagnosis of "How America Lost Her Way".

Pauken`s call for "Christian values" is a remedy for our social and cultural dispossession that too many nostalgic conservatives invoke. It is a subject that Paul Gottfried has carefully scrutinized in his recent work on the conservative movement. But a case could be made that such "values", as interpreted by both Protestant and Catholic hierarchies have aggravated a number of national problems, including current U.S. immigration policy. The "values" that inspired "compassionate conservatism"—the Invade The World-Invite The World outlook—have contributed to our present cultural calamity.

Certainly big-government conservatism is an easy target for conservative purists: the federal government is too big, spends too much, and intrudes all too often in constitutionally questionable areas, clearly against the intentions of the Founding Fathers.

Still, vital problems we face as a nation and people are simply ignored in any back-to-constitutional-principles solution to salvage what`s left of our national heritage, customs and European folkways.

Given America`s ongoing radical demographic shift, well predicted in Peter Brimelow`s Alien Nation, the twenty-first century will be a defining, or possibly undefining, period for our national survival.

Conservatives should embrace Lord Salisbury`s advice: "Hostility to Radicalism, incessant, implacable hostility, is the essential definition of Conservatism".

The stakes are high. They exceed the usual boilerplate "faith and freedom" rhetoric of yesteryear.

Kevin Lamb (email him) is a former library assistant for Newsweek and managing editor of Human Events. He was also assistant editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report. He is now Managing Editor of The Social Contract.