Our thoughts today are pretty largely on writers, philosophers and diplomats.
The great journalist and political thinker Charles Moore had a briskly intelligent piece in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph on a new biography of Edmund Burke. Everyone who to any degree read his way to conservatism—that is, people who start with experience, with an emerging understanding of the truths of the world around them and then turn to books to help order, deepen and sort through their thoughts—has a political philosopher who more than any other spoke to him. Mine is, was, Burke.
The author of “Edmund Burke,” Jesse Norman, is a member of the British Parliament elected in 2010. Before that he was a writer, and still is. Moore calls him “a rising politician.” His review reminds me of a central difference between British and American political figures, which is that many of the former still operate within an intellectual tradition and are capable of writing and researching books on political philosophers. As if thoughts matter and are part of a continuum. Can you imagine a Republican member of Congress writing such a book, or a Democrat? Our politicians always seem so hackishly unintellectual—anti-intellectual, actually—and ungrounded in anything but the moment.
The Burke book is available for preorder on Kindle, as is Charles Moore’s first volume of his biography of Margaret Thatcher, awkwardly titled to American ears “Margaret Thatcher, from Grantham to the Falklands.” That sounds like a book that’s going to tell you more than you need to know, though Moore in his writings doesn’t do that. The title over here should be “Thatcher, Volume One.” Quick and definitive, like a handbag going THWACK on an erring minister’s head.
* * *
At the end, Kapan attempts to steal a rather major base by characterizing Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy Wilsonian, without bothering to argue why. Boo. But the rest of the piece: great.
* * *
Something I read a few weeks ago stays in my mind. Pat Buchanan gave a great speech called “Nixon at 100” at the Richard Nixon Centennial Celebration in Washington on Jan. 9, 2013. The American Conservative published an essay taken from it.
Buchanan covers Nixon as internationalist: “By the end of his first term, all US troops were out of Vietnam, our POW’s were on the way home. . . . He had ended the war with honor, as he promised. He had negotiated and signed the greatest arms limitation treaty since the Washington Naval Agreement of 1922: Salt 1 and the ABM Treaty. He had ended the implacable hostility between the United States and the People’s Republic of China that had endured since Mao’s Revolution and the Korean War. In his second term he would order the strategic airlift that saved Israel in the Yom Kippur War. Israel never had a better friend, said Golda Meir.”
But it is the end of the speech that is most ringing, and most Buchananesque: “As this centennial approached, the phone calls started coming in from the offspring of the old jackal pack, asking my thoughts on Watergate. My great regret is the Old Man is not here tonight so I can tell him my thoughts on his old tormenters. In the words of Nick Carraway to Gatsby: ‘They were a rotten crowd,’ sir. ‘You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.’”
The freshness of Pat’s resentment, and his epic, gargantuan loyalty to a leader he both saw clearly and loved—these are something to behold.