The Biggies Weigh In I

The Washington Post review is here. Money quote:

Tcscover_2 [If you] have ever read anything by Ann Coulter, this is not a book for you. It is written by a card-carrying intellectual and aimed at card-carrying intellectuals. Sullivan wades deep into the high grasses here; he is more interested in Hegel, Hobbes and Leo Strauss than anyone you've seen arguing on television, much less voted for. Further, the book doesn't really explain how conservatism lost its soul, just that it did, and it doesn't offer any real prescription for getting it back.

The only fair response is to say that he's mistaken, in my view, about the first point about how conservatism lost its soul. I have a whole chapter devoted to the slow implosion of principled conservatism in the 1990s and under Bush - and the necon and theocon intellectuals who helped transform it. In fact, it's the central, pivotal chapter.

But he's right on the second point. I see no easy political way to get the soul of conservatism back in the near future. McCain is, at best, a tenuous hope. But I do try and describe a positive, skeptical conservatism that is a vibrant alternative to what "conservatism" has now become: a "conservatism of doubt" and a "politics of freedom". This is a book about ideas, not political prescriptions. But I do believe ideas matter in the long run. This is a philosophical and theological analysis, not a political manifesto. (Real conservatives don't write manifestoes, by definition. Burke and Oakeshott wrote reflections and essays, not prescriptions.) It's an attempt to start the long road back to conservative intellectual clarity. Before we can change anything, we need to be clear about what our principles are again. The book is an attempt to restate them in stark contrast to what they have become. If you still care about those first principles, and why they are more relevant today than ever, you can buy the book here.

I'm traveling and want time to absorb, mull over and respond to David Brook's review in the NYT. I'll try to comment tomorrow.