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The Confederate Lawyer
March 12, 2010

Restoring Nobility to the Name “Conservative”
A book review by Charles G. Mills

Tom Pauken: Bringing America Home, How America Lost Her Way and How We Can Find Our Way Back
Chronicles Press, 2010.

Bringing America Home

GLEN COVE, NY — Former Reagan official and GOP activist Tom Pauken’s important book, published this month, is titled Bringing America Home: How America Lost Her Way and How We Can Find Our Way Back (Chronicles Press, 2010). The first half is a study of how conservatives have lost control of the Republican Party and of the name “Conservative” itself. The second half is a proposal for re-conquest.

The best part of the book is a description of how the supposed heirs of the Goldwater-Reagan conservatives — the two President Bushes — promoted big government, deficit spending, trade deficits, and a speculative economy. Pauken, who served in both the Nixon and Reagan administrations, points out that the Reagan administration was sharply divided into two distinct camps: Goldwater-Reagan conservatives and Bush-Baker “pragmatists.” The conservatives favored shrinking the civilian federal government (which they actually did during the first three years of the Reagan administration), low taxes, and an economy based on manufacturing and small business. The pragmatists, not guided by fixed principles, wound up raising taxes and creating new, untried, and useless big government programs.

Pauken identifies the tipping point at which power passed from the conservatives to the pragmatists as the 1996 election, in which Robert Dole repudiated the Republican Party’s conservative platform.

The second President Bush presided over something worse than pragmatism. It was during his administration that “neoconservatives” became the only respectable voices of conservatism. Neoconservatives are not conservatives at all; rather, they follow in the footsteps of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Goldwater-Reagan conservatism repudiated the excesses of the Roosevelt administration. Neoconservatives have never accepted the well-established fact that Roosevelt seeded the federal government with communists, Soviet spies, and communist sympathizers and tools. Neoconservatives do not believe that Franco’s victory in Spain was good for the West. They like to use a large federal government for power; they do not believe in Constitutional state sovereignty, an important principle for real conservatives. They defamed, marginalized, and ostracized conservatives like Pat Buchanan, Joe Sobran, and Ann Coulter, while presenting neoconservative magazines and radio and television personalities as conservatives, ensuring that the public gets a false view of conservatism.

The book is also excellent in its description of our culture of relativism, with its embrace of immorality and its denial of a place for religion in public life. The relativist indoctrination of Western youth in amoral relativism may indeed be the most intractable problem of our time.

Conservatives believe that America should try to avoid getting involved in wars in the Eastern Hemisphere unless we are directly threatened. Pauken’s criticism of our insane policies in the former Yugoslavia, especially championing Moslems against Serbs, is excellent. He treats the first war against Iraq as legitimate but the second one as disastrous. I am not sure he is right. The first war against Iraq may have made the second one inevitable. In any event, every act or failure to act in Iraq has both good and bad consequences. We lost an opportunity during the first Bush administration to make Iraq an ally. We may get another opportunity, and let us hope that the new Iraq is not too relativist.

Neoconservatives controlled U.S. foreign policy in Iraq, the Balkans, and elsewhere during the second Bush administration. Pauken’s description of this control is excellent. Neoconservatives completely lack a prudent reluctance to make America the policeman of every neighborhood in the world. Conservatives take the opposite view and wish to avoid participation in as many Eastern Hemisphere wars as can be done safely. Few neoconservatives have even led five men in a training exercise, much less experienced war.

In the last half of the book, Pauken provides a prescription for what we must do. He correctly points out that it is easier to get into a mess than to get out of it, and that getting out of it, in our case, requires returning to sound spiritual, political, economic, and military principles. Pauken, who has no illusions about how hard this process will be, asks, “If not us, who? If not now, when?” These are the great unanswered questions. Can the veterans of the Goldwater conservative revolution recapture the noble meaning of the name “conservative” — or must these veterans train an entire new cadre of true conservatives in defiance of those who abuse that name?

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The Confederate Lawyer column is copyright © 2009 by Charles G. Mills and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com. All rights reserved.

Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles about the law.

See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.

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