G.O.P.: Get Thee To A University Pt. 2 – Get Thee A Reading List

by Steve Finefrock – [scriptwriter]

Students of the New Conservative University, née Frum University, prepare your Christmas shopping list for giving to your conservative friends, and ‘persuadable’ moderate friends, who are open to learning anew, what is long-established doctrine. Our Mission: SAVE AMERICA.

The data are there, the thoughts are written, the promising prospects for conservatism are very well documented of late – see American Thinker article by Michael G. Franc, “Conservative Nation”; he’s VP of the Heritage Foundation. We must begin anew, and study the old verities. The syllabus for your college of conservatism is being formed, and its most useful entries are noted below, as a prospective shopping list to give to friends this Christmas.

And for yourself: it helps to re-examine our beliefs, to reaffirm our strength of thought, and thus better equipped to engage those persuadables in the coming campaign. Let us begin stocking your ‘fridge’ of yummy intellectual nutrition, with this initial issue of the ‘NCU’ Review of Books [and DVDs]:

The Art of Political Warfare, by John J. Pitney, is the very best – by far, by far, by far – collation of the classics of military theory applied to the combat terrain of politics, and weaves sports doctrine into the lessons as well. This is the “Bible” of the NCU Curriculum. Pitney smoothly blends the works of Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, von Clausewitz, Mao Tse-tung, Liddell Hart, Patton, Frederick the Great, Keegan, de Gaulle, Fussell, the Marine doctrine and a host of political operatives from Washington to FDR, Truman, Khachigian, Alinsky, Norquist and even Matalin-Carville, in a cultural combat officers’ guidebook that is entertaining, well organized, and with footnotes galore. And best of all, perhaps, is its publisher: University of Oklahoma Press!

Machiavelli on Modern Leadership, by Michael Ledeen, referenced often in Pitney’s text, organizes all of Machiavelli’s life work into a singular trek through his thoughts on the necessities of political combat. Also well-footnoted, and enlightening as to the political climate of the period when political thought got its booster shot.

The New Prince, by Dick Morris, takes a different tack than Ledeen, from a political captain’s viewpoint. If you must read only one such treatment, the boldface for Ledeen is your first-read; then try Morris’ take.

Liberal Fascism, by Jonah Goldberg, who is fast becoming a key candidate to succeed WFB. He documents thoroughly enough that this should be a college text – but then you know how likely that will be.

Hardball, by Chris Matthews, one of ‘Them’ but almost good enough to be an adjunct to Pitney’s classic. As Patton said, after defeating Rommel, in that fabulous desert-battle movie scene, “Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I READ YOUR BOOK!” Read this bastard: he’s got some good thoughts and illustrative anecdotes to facilitate the experience.

More Liberty Means Less Government, by Walter Williams, a collection of his more salient essays. Oh, that we could clone WW: wonder if the media would have cheered someone of his ‘ilk’ as the first black president.

It’s My Party, by Peter Robinson, speechwriter for Reagan who penned the ‘tear down this wall’ speech, went on his own self-discovery after leaving the White House, to belatedly examine why he was a republican/conservative. His adventure might be a pathway-guide for yours also.

Hard America, Soft America, by Michael Barone, one of our smarter former liberals, who’s seen the facts and thus the light of the Right. Short and compact, it shows where we’ve been and what might plague us if we don’t get our ducks in a row.

Warfighting: The U.S. Marine Corps Book of Strategy, a bit of a ‘graduate’ treatment on leadership, so be a prepared reader when you take on this official commandant’s memo to his corps in the early 90s. Since then it has become a corporate executive guide. This one is tough to find; you may have to go thru Amazon used-books, like I did. Or your library, or interlibrary loan. Keep it on your top shelf, for constant reference – Pitney does, often.

The Greedy Hand, by Amity Shlaes documents the history of taxes, TAXES and MORE DAMNED TAXES in America’s history since the Stamp Act. Entertaining and startling to see how we’ve become so like the British.

The Forgotten Man, by Amity Shlaes, re-examining the New Deal, and its assumptions, with tons of facts and details I’ve seen no where else. This gal’s got game when it comes to making economics, and its history, a good deal less dismal.

Freedomnomics, by John Lott, who applies his techniques for defending the Second Amendment to defending and extolling free-market thought.

Eat the Rich, by P.J. O’Rourke, adding his humor to economics, it bites off a good bit of that ‘dismal science’ of economics, examining different political-economy systems over the globe, with some history and humor together.

Wealth of Nations, by P.J. O’Rourke does an improved job over his earlier work, ‘translating’ Adam Smith’s ponderous tomes into a digestible dish. And with a bit o’ humor as well. Beats reading Smith directly.

Conservatives Are From Mars, Liberals Are From San Francisco, by Burt Prelutsky, a turned-right conservative, one-time liberal Jewish TV writer [once with M*A*S*H], now very much One Of Us, and funny too.

An Empire of Wealth, by John Steele Gordon, as readable a treatment you’ll find, of why capitalism, freedom, markets, technology, brilliant minds and the American System works so well, for so many, for so long. A paean to entrepreneurs. And weaves financial history into the mix as well [the current financial grief has happened before, many times], showing how steam power and the power of finance and freedom and the succession of derivative technologies brought us the world we all assume is ‘just there’ in our everyday lives.

Comeback, by David Frum, a partial joy to read, as not all he advocates is exactly ‘conservative’ but when he hits one, it goes out of the park. At least Frum has taken a stab at defining a strategery for the future.

George Washington on Leadership, by Richard Brookhiser, gives an insight on the Father, and how he learned to lead a diverse, combative collection of egos, and what we may learn from him.

Adventures in the Screen Trade, by William Goldman, who gives as concise an insight to Hollywood, its crafts and viewpoints, and how films get made [and why they often don’t]. Also is a general survey of this “Rommel” world, for conservatives – read what They write, so We can ultimately make inroads into those culture wars which Bill Bennett so fervently insists we must undertake.

1776 – DVD of the Broadway musical’s conversion to the screen, takes a sometimes lyrical look at the constant friction between our founding fellers’ interests and egos, en route to approving the Declaration of Independence, with Jefferson’s mental block from ‘sexual combustibility’ resolved in most human manner [delectable Blythe Danner adoringly plays TJ’s mane squeeze]. Survive the opening Continental Congress breaking into song, and you’re on your way to an entertaining journey with the journeymen of our liberty, with pithy observations by a restless John Adams, often on Congress’ glacial decision-making, such as this eternal verity: “I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace; that two are called a law firm; and that three or more become a congress.”

America Alone, by Mark Steyn, a good place to start in studying Islam and its real character. He’s almost as funny as O’Rourke, and you can sometimes hear his Canadian lilt as you read his perspectives. And tremble at his fears. And hope, oh so hope, his predictions are wrong.

The Crisis of Islam, by Bernard Lewis is a good companion with Steyn, is short, and a bit academic at times, but very accessible. Maybe the smartest Arabist around, who’s Jewish to boot.

What Went Wrong, by Bernard Lewis, a short examination of the most common question by Arab/Islamist nationalists, published just after 9/11. A good place to start on the general question of America, the West and Islamic fundamentalism. Follow his footnotes to deeper understanding.

The Arabs, by David Lamb, tough to find now, but worth the effort, to examine this survey by a reporter who worked out of Cairo for the LA Times [forgive him; the book is useful] and now is a freelancer. Nice overview of the 80s and 90s perspective.

God Has 99 Names, by Judith Miller, who organizes this tome by Arab nation – the chapter on Saudi Arabia includes as concise a short-history of Muhammad as you will ever find. Exhaustive treatment in some chapters.

Muhammad, Islam’s First Great General, by Richard A. Gabriel, who examines the political and military aspects of Islam, sponsored by a foundation with Victor Davis Hanson on its board. Excellent footnotes, weaving the military theme with insights on the culture of the 7th century, military methods and tactics, as well as some of the major players who in some cases continued the soap-opera several decades beyond the Prophet’s death. And, also published by Oklahoma University Press!

Lawrence of Arabia, DVD that captures an early 20th century sense of the grandeur and intrigue that survives from Muhammad’s seventh century. T.E. Lawrence seems to be infected with the passion and zeal of the Prophet himself. Script approved by Lawrence’s family, so you know it’s true!

The New Dealers’ War, by Thomas Fleming, predates Shlaes treatment, but a professional, academic historian’s perspective, with many yet-unrevealed facts on FDR’s scheming and deceptions. Fleming also wrote “Liberty” for the PBS series, so his cred is good, if he lost some with liberals for this one.

Leave Us Alone, by Grover Norquist, with some pearls for inclusion in the curriculum. When Grover focuses on what he knows [taxes and regulation], he hits it like a laser beam. Not so much when he gets into choosing allies among the Islamists!

Rules for Radicals, by Saul Alinsky: READ THIS BASTARD, the godfather for Obama The One [OTO], with some useful advice sprinkled with insights on ‘who’ OTO is, who are his minions, and what are some of OTO’s tactics we can anticipate. Put it on your ‘bastard’ shelf beside Hardball.

The American President, DVD of the Aaron Sorkin screen story, a baseline for “West Wing” and a perspective on the culture challenges – someday, SOMEDAY we are going to engage in that battle, with talent [artistic] and talents [biblical currency] – which still lie in our pathway. Aaron Sorkin, you magnificent bastard, let us learn from thee. [put this one on your bastard shelf, alongside An Inconvenient Truth, also a template on how-it-is-done.]

There you have the core curriculum’s text list – send ‘em to friends who already agree [to shore up their grasp of why they/we so believe] and to any persuadables who ain’t quite gotten across the Rubicon of political pondering. The list is mostly in descending priority by my own judgment [Yes, I’ve read every one], the bold and underline hints which should be first considered, especially for an initial experience into conservative thought and political strategery.

The ‘graduate’ list comes after Christmas. For now, Feliz Navidad and Happy New Conservative Year…… Cogito ergo conservatis sum! ExileStreet

copyright 2008 Steve Finefrock Finefrock is founder of Hollywood Forum, a speaker-bureau and panel-discussion vehicle to “Bring the Potomac to the Palisades” on issues that overlap politics and culture with the Hollywood film-TV influence on such national concerns. His scripts have addressed politics [including a TV series pilot/bible package about state political combat, called “A State of the Union”], hazardous materials [from twelve years in emergency management, including six years managing FEMA’s Superfund curriculum for hazmat], terrorism, equestrian reincarnation, serial murderer killing journalists in the nation’s capitol, and fantasy about time-wasters. Finefrock is proprietor of PhoneBooth: The Smallest Space in Hollywood…

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