Clidston's Reviews > Conservatives Without Conscience

Conservatives Without Conscience by John W. Dean
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Jul 09, 07

Read in July, 2007

The title of the book is a reference to Barry Goldwater's "The Conscience of a Conservative," and in fact Dean had initially planned to write this book together with Goldwater, but the senator's failing health and eventual death prevented it.
Partly a clinical, psychological study and partly a catalog of the many sins of J. Edgar Hoover, G. Gordon Liddy, Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, Bill Frist and of course Dick Cheney. There's also some account of the intellectual history of conservatism, a number of thinkers' definitions of conservatism, and a longish and frankly jaw-dropping personal account of how Liddy and some conspiracy theorists attempted to pin the Watergate break-in on Dean twenty years later in a libelous book called "Silent Coup."
Dean talks about personality types in terms of "social dominators," "right-wing authoritarian followers" and then the ominous "double highs" who combine characteristics of both of those other types. Dean considers everyone I listed above to be a double-high, although he goes marginally easier on Bill Frist than on the others.
There's some truth to the criticisms that Dean is going a little far, for how can you "diagnose" people psychologically/sociologically if you're not treating them over some length of time? You could see this book as a collection of hit pieces on Republicans that Dean doesn't like (but whose conduct, I'd say, is objectively reprehensible), but I think that to do that is to ignore the truth of the larger theses a) that Republicans have become less moderate and much less civil since 1994 and b) that "American conservativism" has been redefined and popularized by this bunch as something almost antithetical to what it originally was: a philosophy of limited government characterized by the desire for transparency, strict constitutionalism, and overwhelming skepticism toward the prospect of an imperial executive (see FDR).
I think you can (and very well might) agree to disagree about the psychological profiling and still be very, very concerned about the future of libertarian conservatism in the Republican party, and the future of the Republican party itself, after Bush.
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