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A Reader’s Guide to the Best Conservative Books

Books conservatives ought to read

Wondering what to read this summer? Perhaps I, as editor of Conservative Book Club, may be of service. The following list of books–most recently published, some about to be–are organized according to a few rough categories. Each book is available at attractive discounts from the Club, and also from the HUMAN EVENTS Book Service. Foreign Policy Democrats believe that America’s national security and foreign policy should be made subservient to the United Nations and Old Europe. That means that if John Kerry and Hillary Clinton have their way, Kofi Annan and Jacques Chirac will gain veto power over American foreign policy. But in Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe are Worse Than You Think, Jed Babbin reminds us that we’ve been down this road before, during the presidency of Bill Clinton — and it leads to failure. In this book, he shows why. Babbin takes you deep inside the UN, showing you the inner workings of this out-of-control organization that richly deserves the nickname “the Asylum.” He details how the UN has eagerly adopted the role of handmaiden to international terrorism, and explores the outrageous oil-for-food program that shows that it is the UN, not the U.S., that has sold its soul for oil. And that’s just the beginning. The UN, Babbin explains, is riddled with mismanagement and incompetence: His tour of the UN bureaucracy is positively hair-raising. Babbin also takes Kofi Annan to the woodshed in a richly documented exploration of how the universally lionized UN secretary general is in reality just a symptom of the UN’s disease: a perversely anti-American moral relativist who misses no opportunity to arrogate power to the UN.

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“America has never been an empire,” declares President George W. Bush. “We may be the only great power in history that had the chance, and refused–preferring greatness to power, and justice to glory.” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld echoes this view: “We don’t seek empires. . . . We’re not imperialistic.” Nonsense, says Niall Ferguson. In Colossus: The Price of America’s Empire he argues that in both military and economic terms America is nothing less than the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. But unlike others who have remarked on this, Ferguson believes it is, on balance, a good thing–that many parts of the world would benefit from a period of American rule. The question is: are we up to the task? Possibly not. Ours, Ferguson explains, is an empire with an attention deficit disorder, imposing ever more unrealistic timescales on its overseas interventions. Worse, it’s an “empire in denial”–a hyperpower that simply refuses to admit the scale of its global responsibilities. Ferguson shows how, on the rare occasions when American occupations have been sustained–as in Germany and Japan after World War II–the results have been spectacular. But more often America meddles in haste, on the cheap, and through proxies. And the negative consequences will be felt at home as well as abroad. “Part of my intention,” writes Ferguson, “is simply to interpret American history as in many ways unexceptional–as the history of just another empire, rather than (as many Americans still like to regard it) as something quite unique. However, I also want to delineate the peculiarities of American imperialism: both its awesome strengths and its debilitating weaknesses. The book sets recent events–in particular, the terrorist attacks of September 11 and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq–in their long-run historical context, suggesting that they represent less of a break with the past than is commonly believed.” Presidents, Good and Bad The Left is convinced that President Bush is an idiot–yet again and again, he has come out on top when they took him on. Now Bill Sammon in Misunderestimated: How Bush is Beating Terrorism, Democrats, and the Press reveals why Democrats never can seem to get the better of this man for whom they have so little respect. Sammon, the senior White House correspondent for the Beltway’s plucky conservative daily newspaper, the Washington Times, has had numerous opportunities to witness the President’s considerable political skills up close. He proves here that, just as with Ronald Reagan, the liberals have misjudged their foe–and that the George W. Bush who liberated Afghanistan and Iraq and resuscitated the American economy is far more intelligent and focused than his detractors will admit, even to themselves. The author of two other bestsellers about Bush and his presidency, At Any Cost and Fighting Back, Sammon in Misunderestimated gives you a gripping insider’s view of the second 18 months of the President’s term, as the Bush Administration turned its attention from Afghanistan to Iraq and began preparing for the 2004 election. He recounts in thrilling detail the whole story of the astonishing 2002 congressional elections, when the GOP confounded both the pundits and precedent to register historic gains. Sammon’s view of Bush is unflinchingly honest. He thoughtfully considers whether the President may himself have “misunderestimated” the challenges of postwar Iraq–as well as the strength and persistence of the growing “Bush haters” contingent. But in the end he shows why the President’s own summation of himself and his presidency is the most apt: “I’m not afraid to lead. I’ll make tough decisions and I’ll stick with them. That’s my nature.”

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Jimmy Carter is enjoying a new day in the sun, with left-wing historians taking a “fresh look” at his disastrous presidency and trying to bamboozle Americans into thinking that it was actually successful. This ongoing Saint Jimmy campaign would be laughable if it weren’t part of a larger strategy to whitewash the records of failed Democrats and justify Carter’s outsize influence on today’s Democratic party. But now in The Real Jimmy Carter: How Our Worst Ex-President Undermines American Foreign Policy, Coddles Dictators and Created the Party of Clinton and Kerry, Steven Hayward demolishes the Carter myth once and for all. Hayward knows a real leader when he sees one (he’s the author of The Age of Reagan, 1964-1980 and Churchill on Leadership) and in this book he provides a wealth of devastating new information that proves that Carter was and is one of the worst American leaders in history. He explains why Carter’s presidency really was as bad as we thought at the time, or worse. Turning to today, he details how Carter’s lasting and dominant impact on the Democratic Party of today–the party of John Kerry and Hillary Clinton–has been calamitous, and that his supposed status as a “model” ex-President is the reverse of the truth (unless your idea of a model statesman is Jesse Jackson).

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Rankings of presidential performances are common, and usually irritating: liberal academics love to place Ronald Reagan near the bottom and the likes of Slick Willie near the top. But now editors from two stalwart conservative organizations–the Wall Street Journal and the Federalist Society–have put together Presidential Leadership: Rating the Best and Worst in the White House. This is the first examination of presidential performance that includes a significant number of conservatives in the group of judges. Each President receives a ranking, and the rankings are refreshingly free of the dreary liberal biases that mar most similar studies. Ronald Reagan ranks as “Near Great” and eighth best President of all time. Nobel laureate and “great ex-President” Jimmy Carter? Below average–just one notch above outright “Failure.” James Taranto of the Journal and Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society include essays on each President, plus several broader thematic essays on presidential leadership. The authors include such conservative luminaries as Victor Davis Hanson, Peggy Noonan, Robert Bork, Paul Johnson, Edwin Meese, Christopher Buckley, Kenneth Starr, Lynne Cheney, Theodore Olson, Richard Brookhiser and many more. The War on Terror Tom McInerny and Paul Vallely know well that America is at war today with an enemy every bit as dangerous as Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and the Soviet Union: Radical Islam. Like our past enemies, it is driven by a utopian, totalitarian ideology and rejects American-style freedom. But unlike them, it is not confined to particular nations and cannot be defeated solely through conventional warfare against enemy states. Endgame is a blueprint for victory over these tenacious and bloodthirsty foes. It details the new strategy that America must adopt to fight the very new kind of war we’re in, and reveals a wealth of inside information–including the location of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. Endgame explores radical Islam’s global Web of Terror, showing how Muslim terrorists have established, armed, and funded a large number of terrorist organizations–al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Jemaah Islamiyah and others–that have committed atrocities across the globe. But their main target, say McInerny and Vallely, is America. They explain why the next major terrorist assault on the United States could be everyone’s worst fear: an attack involving weapons of mass destruction. That’s why, they argue compellingly, we must act now to destroy the terror masters before they can strike us.

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Last year Americans watched with revulsion as French President, Jacques Chirac, sought to rally an international coalition to oppose the U.S.-led war in Iraq. At the same time, a French public opinion poll showed that fully one quarter of the French population actually supported Saddam Hussein at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Since then, new stories have emerged almost daily of how the government of French President Chirac has sought to undermine the U.S. war on terror–publicly sniping at America and inciting other countries to do the same. Now, in The French Betrayal of America, best-selling author Kenneth R. Timmerman reveals why Americans can no longer trust the French–especially when our national security is at stake. He also raises some very serious questions: Should the United States depend on France for its defense in the event of a nuclear strike from a rogue nation? Should we continue to share our nuclear weapons secrets with a country that has increasingly declared itself to be America’s enemy? The Judiciary The text of the U.S. Constitution establishes a government of “enumerated” limited–powers, while guaranteeing to the people both enumerated and unenumerated rights. In other words, argues constitutional scholar Randy E. Barnett, the Constitution as written creates islands of government powers in a sea of liberty. But the Constitution as interpreted–and enforced–by the modern U.S. Supreme Court is the near-opposite, creating islands of liberty rights in a sea of governmental powers. How did this reversal come about? In Restoring the Lost Constitution, Prof. Barnett argues that since the nation’s founding–But especially since the 1930s–he courts have eliminated clause after clause that interfered with the exercise of government power. With meticulous scholarship, Barnett shows how this started early with the Necessary and Proper Clause, continued through Reconstruction with the destruction of the Privileges or Immunities Clause, and culminated in the post-New Deal Court that gutted the Commerce Clause and the scheme of enumerated powers affirmed in the 10th Amendment. In the process, the written Constitution has been lost. Barnett establishes the original meaning of these lost clauses and offers a practical way to restore them to their central role in constraining government. He also provides a new, realistic and philosophically rigorous theory of constitutional legitimacy that justifies both interpreting the Constitution according to its original meaning and, where that meaning is vague or open-ended, construing it so as to better protect the rights retained by the people. That Woman Dick Morris knows Hillary Clinton. Having worked closely with the Clintons for two decades in both Arkansas and Washington, Morris was both a political advisor and personal confidant. Now, in Rewriting History, he draws on his extensive interaction with the Clintons to deliver a blistering rebuttal to Hillary’s deceitful memoir, Living History. Focusing on Sen. Clinton’s attempts to remake her image in preparation for a future presidential bid, Morris exposes Clinton’s attempts to pad her résumé, amplify her accomplishments, and otherwise misrepresent her life story–in short, to lie–or political gain. As Morris states, “All public figures use makeup to cover a blemish or two. But only Hillary wears a mask of so many layers, one that hides her true face altogether.” Norris argues that her book merely provides a flattering self-portrait of the thoroughly reinvented Hillary she wants the public to know–but, as the possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidency becomes more and more real, we need to know who Hillary Clinton is. Political and Social Issues While it has been said that the unions are an adjunct of the Democratic Party, it’s now more accurate to say that the Democratic Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of Big Labor. So writes Linda Chavez, President George W. Bush’s original choice for secretary of Labor, and one of the foremost authorities on America’s labor unions. In Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics, Chavez and fellow union expert Daniel Gray expose how union bosses funnel as much as $800 billion into Democratic coffers every year, in return for which they get to wield extraordinary political power at all levels of government–federal, state, and local. As a result, write Chavez and Gray, “Big Labor has corrupted not only the electoral process but also our system of governing.” Chavez and Gray not only name names–fingering the politicians who have sold out to Big Labor–they also show exactly how we arrived at this unholy alliance between unions and the Democrats. Finally, they reveal the devastating real-world consequences for all Americans.

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Demolishing dozens of liberal half-truths, myths, and fabrications, full-time mom Suzanne Venker proves in 7 Myths of Working Mothers: Why Children and (Most) Careers Just Don’t Mix that woman simply can’t be successful in the workplace and at home at the same time. She demonstrates that the only option that doesn’t lead to ruined families and destroyed lives is for women to plan their careers around motherhood, rather than planning motherhood around their careers. Venker fearlessly tackles the issues of working motherhood that have caused the most contention: family economics, the notion of “quality time,” women’s guilt and stress, gender equality, and daycare. Drawing on extensive research and her own experience as a mother and teacher, she explodes myth after myth about working mothers, including: “I’m a better mom for working.” “My children just love day care!” “I could balance work and family if I had more support.” “Men can have it all. Why shouldn’t we?” As she takes on these myths, Venker builds an unassailable case for the link between the problems of today’s children and the absence of mothers from the home.

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The American debate on affirmative action has centered on whether or not it is just or fair to give preferences to certain groups. Less attention has focused on whether it actually does what it sets out to do–create a just, equitable society–and whether it does more good than harm in other ways. But now Thomas Sowell has produced an astute study that could transform the affirmative action debate in this country. Instead of endlessly debating theories and principles, in Affirmative Action Around the World Sowell examines other countries where affirmative action has been tried–India, Nigeria, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere–in order to trace its precise effects. What he finds should make every supporter of affirmative action lie awake nights. Sowell’s sober, factual examination of these countries reveals a picture of affirmative action that flatly contradicts much of what most of its advocates and analysts have expected and almost all of what they have claimed. Basing his arguments on clear empirical data from the countries he examines as well as the United States itself, he demonstrates that affirmative actions doesn’t redress social injustices–and has other costs and dangers that are worse than the injustices it is supposed to correct. Religion For more than a year, Dan Brown’s No. 1 New York Times bestseller, The Da Vinci Code, has been entertaining readers with its dark tale of a conspiracy to suppress the supposed “truth” about Jesus and early Christianity–a “truth” that the novel, on its very first page, insists is historical fact, not fiction. Among the novel’s central claims: that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had children by her. Now, in Breaking the Da Vinci Code: Answers to the Questions Everyone’s Asking, New Testament scholar Prof. Darrell Bock dismantles the reckless, quasi-nonfiction claims made in Brown’s novel–and shows how they are misleading millions of unsuspecting readers, many of them Christians. “This book is my effort to clarify the difference between virtual reality and historical likelihood,” writes Bock, a professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. “In other words, I hope clearly to distinguish between fictitious entertainment and historical elements of the Christian faith.” The Hollywood Left Debauched behavior by Hollywood celebrities is nothing new. What is new is that instead of concealing their misconduct while outwardly conforming to societal norms, they now celebrate their immorality as a way of redefining those norms. And whereas they once knew their place as entertainers, they are increasingly taking on the role of political thinkers and social reformers. Now, in Hollywood, Interrupted, investigative journalists Andrew Breitbart (former online sidekick to Matt Drudge) and Mark Ebner reveal just how corrupt, hypocritical, and politically biased the entertainment elite actually is–and why, with its baneful influence on the rest of society, Hollywood has become Ground Zero in the Culture Wars. Manners and Morals In these days of astonishing confusion about what it means to be a man, Brad Miner has gone back into the riches of our Western cultural heritage to recover the oldest and best ideal of manhood: the gentleman. In The Compleat Gentleman: The Modern Man’s Guide to Chivalry, he revives a thousand-year tradition of chivalry, honor, and heroism, providing a model for modern masculinity that our fractious culture needs more than ever. With an engaging lightness of touch combined with a forthright willingness to state difficult and unpopular truths, Miner traces the concept of manliness from the jousting fields of the 12th Century to the decks of the Titanic. From this he delineates three masculine archetypes: the warrior, the lover, and the monk. Combined, he explains, these make up the “compleat gentleman.” This modern knight cultivates a martial spirit in defense of the true and the beautiful. He treats the opposite sex with the passionate respect required by courtly love. And he values learning in the pursuit of truth–all with discretion, decorum, and the detachment that comes from a proper awareness of the true order of things. The Compleat Gentleman contains the wisdom that can bring healing and renewal to our increasingly uncivilized age–one gentleman at a time. Science It is a dogma of modern scientific materialism that the “the mind” and “free will” are merely illusions, side effects of electrochemical activity in the physical brain. Now comes a major work, grounded in two decades of research, that argues exactly the opposite. In The Mind and the Brain, Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, a leading neuroscientist and professor at the UCLA School of Medicine, demonstrates that the human mind is an independent entity that can shape and control the functioning of the physical brain. At the core of The Mind and the Brain is an extraordinary scientific finding. Through decades of work treating patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Schwartz discovered that, while following the therapy he developed, his patients were effecting significant and lasting changes in their own neural pathways. It was a scientific first: by actively focusing their attention away from negative behaviors and toward more positive ones, Schwartz’s patients were using their minds to reshape their brains. The scientific implications of this discovery are manifold. But the repercussions of Schwartz’s discovery may go well beyond the realm of abstract science, for it amounts to the most conclusive scientific evidence to date of the existence of free will–that is, the power of human beings to take an active role in the choices they make. Challenging the scientific mainstream, Schwartz points accusingly at the “moral vacuum” created by the old, materialistic worldview and raises questions of personal responsibility in a new light.

Written By

Mr. Rubin is the editor of the Conservative Book Club and an award-winning screenwriter.

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