Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for President Bush, has written a wonderful book based on his years in the White House. The book, both a manifesto and a memoir, is full of insights into the events of the last eight years and also into the character of George Bush. Gerson titles it Heroic Conservatism and in it he calls for a conservatism that refuses to turn its back upon the poor. He thinks that conservatism is the best hope for the country's future, and one gets the impression that he thinks liberalism, about which he says almost nothing, is pretty much incompatible with, or irrelevant to, our national well-being.
In some ways the book is mildly self-serving. Gerson praises Bush's vision, for example, by quoting throughout the volume what Bush said about this or that issue, but these words were often written for Bush by Gerson himself.
He's also a little unfair to traditional economic conservatives who he faults for lacking sufficient compassion for the disadvantaged. He says that traditional disdain for big government leads many to a libertarian view that market forces will by themselves somehow pull the poor out of the mire of destitution, and he faults some for opposing welfare reform and other initiatives to help the poor. This all seemed a little strange to read since it's not so much government itself that conservatives abhor but rather the tendency of bloated, profligate government to squander our tax dollars, wasting them on ineffective programs.
It's bureaucratic ineffectiveness and incompetence that provoke conservative contempt, not government per se. It was also strange that Gerson chose to criticize conservatives for opposition to welfare reform in the nineties when in fact this was a reform initiated by Republicans and opposed almost exclusively by liberal Democrats.
Such quibbles aside, however, Gerson's prose scintillates and the portrait he paints of George Bush will be a real eye-opener for anyone who gets their news from the mainstream media and who believes Bush to be both stupid and evil.
Heroic Conservatism is a call for conservatives to stand against oppression and tyranny around the world and to make the poor a priority here at home. He grounds this call in an explicit Christian worldview that informs everything Gerson (and Bush) believes. It's a book that gives the reader a good idea of the conservative thinking embodied in Ronald Reagan and George Bush and which appears to be the brand of conservatism represented in the current crop of presidential candidates by Mike Huckabee. It is, one hopes, the kind of thinking that will set the agenda of our nation for decades to come.
You can get the book at Hearts and Minds Bookstore. If you're interested in politics and political ideas you're certain to enjoy Heroic Conservatism.RLC