I have never met Senator Harry Reid, but he makes me angry. Not just for some of his stances, but because he, and others like him in Washington, cost me a lot of sleep in 2009. Let me explain.
It was around this time last year that my New York City apartment was almost constantly filled with chattering computer keys. Like all starving artists, my roommate needed a side job to supplement his internship. By late fall, a couple of political journalists hired him to transcribe interviews for an upcoming, juicy book about the 2008 election. Because he was working full-time, the transcription took place in the late hours of the night and the wee hours of the morning.
5-8am: Click, click, click, tap, tap, tap10pm-2am: Click, click, click, tap, tap, tap
I would wake up in the middle of the night to a torrential downpour of computer keys. No soothing rain on the roof for me, just the pitter patter of my roommate's Macbook. For awhile I was annoyed. And for the last year I've told him that this “juicy” book better be as good as biting into a ripe plum. He promised me it would. This week, I found out he wasn't kidding. Come January 14, when the book finally comes out, you will too.
The book, called Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, could be one of the most revealing of its kind. Think Deep Throat in prose. Even though it doesn't come out until Tuesday, it's already creating controversy. Marc Ambinder over at The Atlantic points out some of the best, or worst, parts. There are details about explosive arguments between John and Elizabeth Edwards, frank conversations between Giuliani staffers, another Clinton affair, and comments that will prompt more apologies than the board game “Sorry.”
Just ask Senator Reid. On Saturday, the New York Times reported that the Nevada Democratic called President Obama to issue an apology for statements he gave Heilemann and Halperin. In the book, Reid says he believed Obama could become the country’s first black president because he was “light-skinned” and had “no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”
It's quotes such as this that should permeate the book. And it's books such as this that give us an inside look at the imperfect world of politics. Ambinder says it best:
“[T]his book . . . portrays politics as it is actually lived by the candidates, their staff and the press, which is to say a messy, sweaty, ugly, arduous competition between flawed human beings . . . .”
Senator Reid knows full well about the “messy” part. And after this Thursday, there will be many more people asking many more Beltway bureaucrats “where?” and “why?” But while I can't tell you where or why these words were said, I can tell you where they were most likely transcribed: In a small New York City apartment at about 2am. Click, click, click, tap, tap, tap. Thank you Senator Reid.
Jonathon M. Seidl is a 2009 graduate of The King’s College in New York City where he studied politics, philosophy, and economics. His writing has appeared in WORLD and online with The American Spectator. He currently writes from Denver, where he works at Colorado Christian University's graduate division.
('76 Editor) Hearing from Greg Schaller, my CCU professor pal, about an online book club starting up at Redstate.com, I compared their list with mine as compiled a few years back at the suggestion of Kevin Teasley, my school-voucher activist pal. The overlap is interesting, and either list is a needed reminder that we're well repaid by devoting more time to the writings that endure, and less to the ephema of journalism, TV-radio, or blogs (this one included).
So first, here's the read-and-respond shelf recommended by Redstate:
1. A Message to Garcia by Elbert Hubbard
2. Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg
3. Economics in One Lesson by Hazlitt
4. Liberty & Tyranny by Mark Levin
5. The Road to Serfdom by F. A. Hayek
6. The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk
7. Free to Choose by Milton Friedman
8. Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater
9. The Federalist Papers
10. Democracy in America by Tocqueville
11. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
12. God and Man at Yale by W.F. Buckley
13. Witness by Whittaker Chambers
14. The Political Writings of St. Augustine
Then here's my list as put together for Teasley back in 2003. He asked for my "ten best" in terms of books that had the greatest impact on my life. The order in which they are listed is a combination of chronology and categories, not necessarily the most impactful from 1 thru 10. 1. Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy It taught me to love the Bible.
2. The BibleIt engaged me with Jesus Christ. 3. The Everlasting Man, G. K. ChestertonIt grounded me in Christian tradition. 4. Mere Christianity, C. S. LewisIt showed me the beauty of truth.
5. The Conscience of a Conservative, Barry GoldwaterIt awakened me politically.
6. The Law, Frederic BastiatIt was my primer in political economy.
7. The Road to Serfdom, F. A. HayekIt set me against collectivism.
8. Ideas Have Consequences, Richard WeaverIt bonded me to the permanent things.
9. The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. TolkienIt convinced me that life is a sacred quest.
10. A Man for All Seasons, Robert BoltIt inspired me with the possibility of heroic integrity.
In looking over the authors on both lists, I'm gratified to have met, or seen in person, Bill Buckley, Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Russell Kirk, Jonah Goldberg, and Barry Goldwater. This is said not to name-drop, but rather to record my sense of obligation for helping to hand on our heritage of faith and freedom to the rising generation of the 21st century, in return for having known -- if only slightly -- some of the giants who handed on that heritage in the 20th century.
Like most news junkies who had followed the war in Iraq on a daily basis for six years I thought I was pretty well informed. However when I read Bing West’s The Strongest Tribe I was stunned at how much I had missed- not just unreported or misreported events but also how to think about those events in balanced perspective. Soon after the lightning overthrow of Saddam the mainstream media began to turn against a war they had never much liked in the first place. As the war ground on their reporting disproportionately revolved around suicide bombers in Iraq and grieving families in America. Most books that promised “deeper analysis”- even well written ones like Bob Woodward ‘s trilogy- revealed a clear liberal bias and left us yearning for some Paul Harvey to tell us “the rest of the story”. We find such a person in Bing West whose book is long on “on the ground” reporting and short on political opinion. It radiates an evenhandedness that gives a reader great confidence in its veracity. West was a career military officer who distinguished himself as an authority on counterinsurgency warfare in Viet Nam. That war produced relatively few good books, but West’s classic The Village is one of them. Later he would serve as an Assistant Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan. Published in 2008 the book covers the war from the beginning through the success of the “Surge” which snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. West employs a strictly chronological approach and avoids those annoying back and forth digressions that confuse readers. West comes down hard on both civilian and higher military leadership who through most of the war utterly failed to define a unified and coherent American mission in Iraq. Whether it was Defense (Rumsfeld) vs. State (Powell) in Washington or their counter-parts (General Abizaid vs “Proconsul” Bremer) in Iraq their conflict and confusion over strategy profoundly undermined mission effectiveness on the ground. Underlying this confusion was an American naiveté and general cluelessness concerning cultural/historical and political realities in Iraq. The State Dept. seemed to think that giving Iraqis a few PowerPoint presentations on tolerance/diversity, constitution writing, and Roberts Rules of Order could swiftly transform their country into an up and running self-defending democracy. Having achieved their quick battlefield victory a la Afghanistan, the Pentagon wanted to get out of Iraq as soon as possible, and while waiting to do so corralled its soldiers in large isolated bases from which the troops “commuted to work”. Having no coherent plans for “post-victory” operations both Defense and State bought into the bizarre “Light Footprint” doctrine which suggested that the very sight of American soldiers so inflamed young Iraqi males that they immediately ran to the nearest Al-Qaeda recruiting office to become instant jihadists. All this confusion went on for three years (2003-2006) during which Iraq spiraled downward into chaos and the American people soured on the war. The great strength of West’s book rests on his frequent and lengthy stays in Iraq mostly spent embedded with American troops. He persuasively demonstrates that local American commanders and local Iraqi leaders (notably the Sheiks of Anbar Province) figured out what was wrong and what was needed long before the politicans and military brass in either Washington or Baghdad. Finally a senior military leader emerged who grasped the validity of these local viewpoints. General David Petraeus saw clearly that victory was impossible without local Iraqi support, and that support was absolutely dependent on Americans providing the people with the security and stability that would allow them to inform on and fight back against the detested foreign fighters of Al-Qaeda who were terrorizing them by systematically murdering their men and raping their women. Petraeus took a strategy that had worked for a number of local American commanders and applied it country-wide. He took his troops out of their isolated bases and had them “move in” with the people and stay. Beginning in the deadly “Sunni Triangle” he also authorized local American commanders to recruit, arm, and pay local Iraqi males (“Sons of Iraq”) as fighting auxiliaries to the American forces. Thus empowered local leaders (mostly tribal sheiks) courageously faced murderous Al-Qaeda reprisals and blessed joint combat operations against a suddenly exposed and then decimated enemy whose power rapidly melted away in the face of this new turn of events. Petraeus success in selling this new strategy which was the critical element in the success of the “Surge” was absolutely dependent on his views becoming known to key National Security Council staffers who orchestrated an “end run” around the Pentagon and the State Dept- both highly resistant to any notion of increased troop levels. While West praises the gutsy decision of a politically battered President Bush to authorize the “Surge” despite the rampant and poisonous “defeatism” pervading Washington, he severely faults him for his passivity and unwillingness to challenge senior Cabinet and military leaders during the long period (over two years) when the situation in Iraq was clearly deteriorating. Citing Lincoln, FDR, and Truman as examples, West correctly insists that Presidents must be willing to aggressively intervene and even fire people when a war is obviously going badly. For too long George W. Bush failed that test. Even more severely does West condemn the rank hypocrisy of Democratic leaders like Reid, Pelosi and Murtha who endlessly chanted their “support for our troops” while doing everything in their power to undermine the mission of those troops and also giving aid and comfort to the enemy by publicly announcing that “the war was lost” when in fact it was about to be won. The real heroes of West’s book are American soldiers. Their valor uncelebrated by their country’s media, their mission undercut by politicians, and often poorly served by their own higher leadership, they fought against a savage and fanatical enemy in deadly battle spaces like Fallujah street by street, house to house, often room to room with incredible skill and bravery. West sternly reminds us that “They are not victims; they are Warriors”. Their individual stories- the best part of the book- will fill your heart with pain and pride. The title of the book comes from the remark of a Sunni Sheik when West asked him why the top Al-Qaeda leader in Fallujah had fled the city in a woman’s dress. The Sheik pointed to a passing Marine patrol and in respectful tones replied “Because they are the Strongest Tribe”. West closes his book expressing concerns about the future of the “Strongest Tribe” in a country whose martial virtues are being drained by the poisonous atmosphere of political division and cultural warfare. We all should worry about a day when- like contemporary Europe- there will be nothing worth fighting for and no more volunteering young warriors even if there was.
William Moloney is a Centennial Institute Fellow and former Colorado Education Commissioner. His columns have appeared in the Wall St Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post.
Imagine a world in the near future where the Left has saddled pro sports with quadriplegic refs, transgendered concessionaires and stuttering sportscasters. Now the festering forces of radical feminism have decided to launch a direct assault upon the blatantly oppressive, misogynist and patriarchal world of “maleness” that is professional football.
Such are the premise and storyline of a new novel by author Gary Wolf. A rational person in a rational world should be able to say all this is silly, ridiculous, and prone to flights of fancy. Unfortunately, in the first decade of the 21st century the subject matter and conjecture found in the pages of The Kicker of St. John’s Wood is not so far-fetched and is indeed instead a remarkably accurate and reflective look at the forces, feelings and mindset of the modern-day Left.
Wolf takes us to the 2020 Super Bowl, which has been chosen as the stage to debut the first female professional football player and to announce a major revision in American politics. Both gambits end in dramatic failure, however, and this sets the stage for place-kicker Jayesh Blackstone, born in London of Indian heritage, to be involved in a high stakes game of intrigue as he discovers the courage to fight to be a free American.
Blackstone is selected to be used and manipulated by the administration as a symbol to attack European imperialism and to establish a National Electoral Fairness Commission. Monitored by the United Nations Special Advisory Institute on National Expropriation, it is the final blow against “religious fanatics, stolen elections, the last vestiges of sexist domination, the exploiters of developing nations, and all those whose goal has been to exclude women, minorities, and newly-arrived Americans.” All steps are taken to ensure the most progressive norms of political conduct in the world today.
In addition to the political conspiracy and intrigue, the character of Jayesh Blackstone is taken on an internal journey to discover the draw of his own heritage and native country. He also experiences the love of two women, the struggle to choose between them, and the sacrifices and dedication that embodies true friendship along the way.
The Kicker of St. John’s Wood is definitely one of Gary Wolf’s best novels to date, and a frightening reminder of the fast track of idiocy this country has decided to follow that increasingly defines humanity exclusively in terms of race and gender. I found it to be a page-turner filled with twists, turns, and unexpected surprises throughout the story. It is also an eye -opening book that helps to remind that each and everyone of us will eventually have to decide if we have the personal fortitude, character and courage to choose to do the right thing and oppose the whirling forces of Progressivism, Multiculturalism, Diversity, Political Correctness and “Tolerance” that increasingly dominates every aspect of education, business and even your daily life. Will you be like Jayesh Blackstone and be willing to risk professional and personal attacks, slander, and even worse for what is right and true?
This book is the story of one man’s struggle with that question and the series of choices he must face as he discovers the difference between being a serf to the system and a free citizen. Not all know the difference but the choice is one that all will soon have to face. The end result of the agenda and catalogue of “isms” of the modern-day Left is lunacy and few do as fine a job as Gary Wolf at pointing that out through the medium of speculative fiction.
The Kicker of St. John’s Wood is available for sale at Amazon and all other major online publishers. You may also visit the author’s website at http://awolcivilization.com/ for direct links to the book's page at the various online stores and the opportunity to read the first chapter online. Gary Wolf was formerly an analyst and commentator on international and strategic affairs. He was raised in New York and London, lived for six years in Paris, and currently resides in the state of New Mexico. Wolf is also the author of The Embracer, Shaya, Alternating Worlds and Workshop of the Second Self.
David Huntwork is a conservative activist and freelance columnist in Northern Colorado where he lives with his wife and three young daughters. He strongly believes in the importance of Faith, Family, and Freedom as the formula of success for a good life and a healthy nation. You may view his bio and past columns at: http://DavidHuntwork.tripod.com.