Category Archives: Commentary

Remembering the Conservatives We Lost in 2015


THE CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT lost a number of its leaders, heroes, and colleagues last year. Before we get further into 2016, we’d like to take a moment to note some of the people we will miss.

Martin Anderson
August 5, 1936 – January 3, 2015

Photo: The Hoover Institution
Photo: The Hoover Institution

Anderson wrote a paper that helped end the draft in 1973; advised Ronald Reagan on his domestic agenda of tax cuts and deregulation; and chronicled the history of the Reagan presidency in a series of books, including the widely praised Revolution: The Reagan Legacy and Reagan in His Own Hand: The Writings of Ronald Reagan that Reveal His Revolutionary Vision for America (with Annelise Anderson and Kiron Skinner).

Memorable line: “Reagan is more powerful today than when he was president.”

Harry Jaffa
October 7, 1918 – January 10, 2015

Photo: The Library of Law and Liberty
Photo: The Library of Law and Liberty

Jaffa’s histories—particularly Crisis of a House Divided—shifted the conservative perception of Abraham Lincoln from a president who expanded federal power to one who vindicated the principles of the Declaration of Independence. He penned presidential candidate Barry Goldwater’s line: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

Memorable line: “If self-government was a right, and not a mere factcharacterizing the American scene (more or less), then it must be derived from some primary source of obligation. There must be something, Lincoln insisted, inhering in each man, as a man, which created an obligation in every other man. And if any majority anywhere, however constituted, might rightfully enslave any man or men, it could only be because there was nothing in any man which, simply because he was a man, other men were bound to respect.”

Walter Berns
May 3, 1919 – January 10, 2015

Photo: The American Enterprise Institute
Photo: The American Enterprise Institute

Over nearly six-decades of teaching and writing—at Louisiana State University, Yale, Cornell, the University of Toronto, Georgetown, and the American Enterprise Institute—Berns helped revive an appreciation for the Constitution and citizenship. He also presaged today’s threats to religious liberty when he wrote in 1963 that the Supreme Court was wrong to have invalidated school prayer.

Memorable line: “[D]emocracy, more than any other form of government, requires self-restraint, which it would inculcate through moral education and impose on itself through laws, including laws governing the manner of public amusements. It was the tyrant who could usually allow the people to indulge themselves. Indulgence of the sort we are now witnessing did not threaten his rule, because his rule did not depend on a citizenry of good character. Anyone can be ruled by a tyrant, and the more debased his subjects, the safer his rule.”

Henry Manne
May 10, 1928 – January 17, 2015

Photo: Avante Garde Images, Law and Economics Center at George Mason University
Photo: Avante Garde Images, Law and Economics Center at George Mason University

A pioneer in using economics to study the law, Manne wrote the first scholarly work challenging the idea that insider trading is a real public policy problem, then advanced a similar heterodox argument regarding corporate raiding. He founded the Law & Economics Center at the University of Miami (later moved to Emory University and then to George Mason Law School) which at one point could boast that one-third of the federal bench and four members of the Supreme Court had attended its programs.

Memorable line: “Why should antitrust laws be used to block mergers that the market, by the existence of willing buyers and sellers, shows to be desirable?”

Arnaud de Borchgrave
October 26, 1926 – February 15, 2015

Photo: Maya Alleruzo, The Washington Times
Photo: Maya Alleruzo, The Washington Times

The globe-trotting correspondent wrote novels warning that the Soviets were actively duping the Western press, became editor of the Washington Times and turned the paper into the conservative alternative to the Washington Post, and interviewed Taliban leader Mullah Omar in the hills of Afghanistan just three months before 9/11.

Memorable line: “I have covered 17 wars as a journalist and I fought in World War II for four years in the British Royal Navy. My first trip to the Soviet Union was while on convoy duty when I was 16 years old. Since then, I have been a peace activist, but not in the conventional sense, for I happen to be what used to be called a ‘hawk.’ Why? Because the lesson of the past is that world peace was never more secure than when the United States was most powerful.”

M. Stanton Evans
July 20, 1934 – March 3, 2015

Photo: Accuracy in Academia.
Photo: Accuracy in Academia.

Evans wrote the Sharon Statement that became the manifesto of the modern American conservative movement, gave Ronald Reagan a boost in the 1976 campaign, and trained thousands of journalists to get the facts. He was also a keen debunker of liberal myth in books such as The Theme Is Freedom: Religion, Politics, and the American Tradition and Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies.

Memorable line: “The idea that there is some sort of huge conflict between religious values and liberty is a misstatement of the whole problem. The two are inseparable. … [I]f there are no moral axioms, why should there be any freedom?”

John H. Makin
May 29, 1943 – March 30, 2015

Photo: The American Enterprise Institute
Photo: The American Enterprise Institute

Makin was often the first to spot economic trends, which he reported in his signature Economic Outlook reports for the American Enterprise Institute. He warned of financial meltdowns ahead in his 1986 book, The Global Debt Crisis: America’s Growing Involvement.

Memorable line: “The fact that global savers accommodate U.S. consumers by keeping U.S. interest rates lower than they otherwise would be and the dollar stronger than it otherwise would be is simply a manifestation of America’s comparative advantage at supplying wealth storage facilities.”

John (Jack) Templeton, Jr.
February 19, 1940 – May 16, 2015

Photo: Ed Wheeler, The Templeton Foundation
Photo: Ed Wheeler, The Templeton Foundation

Originally a physician, Templeton made the Templeton Foundation a major distributor of grants for research on the big questions of life, including the role of free enterprise.

Memorable line: “Most scientists believe they are understanding the truth of the universe when they’re looking in their telescope, or the truth of cellular life when they’re looking in their microscope. I think most people on the theological side feel they’re reaching for a truer understanding of divinity, of meaning and purpose. This does not mean the truth the theologian acquires is going to be acknowledged by the scientist, but they shouldn’t be thought of as enemies of one another. Instead, they should be thought of as complementary.”

Ben Wattenberg
August 26, 1933 – June 28, 2015

Photo: The American Enterprise Institute
Photo: The American Enterprise Institute

Wattenberg challenged the fashionable doom-and-gloomism of the Left in an attempt to pull the Democratic Party back to the center. He ultimately failed in that task, but in the process created a one-of-a-kind show—Think Tank—that emphasized facts instead of shouting.

Memorable line: “In American history, the evidence suggests that it is the optimist who has been the realist.”

Robert Conquest
July 15, 1917 – August 3, 2015

Photo: L.A. Cicero, Stanford News
Photo: L.A. Cicero, Stanford News

Conquest’s histories, especially The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties,revealed the extent of the crimes perpetrated by the Soviet Union and exposed the mendacity of its apologists.

Memorable line: “They say that we were Cold Warriors. Yes, and a bloody good show, too. A lot of people weren’t Cold Warriors—and so much the worse for them.”

John Howard
August 10, 1921 – August 6, 2015


Howard, president of Rockford College for 17 years, led a coalition of university presidents who warned of the dangers of federal funding for higher education. Then he founded the Rockford Institute, which for the past 39 years has worked to defend the cultural institutions that the Left has been trying to tear down since the 1960s—the family, the church, and the rule of law.

Memorable line: “[T]he family with its daily affirmative influence on the child is the most reliable nursery of responsible, emotionally mature and socially compatible individuals. The family is also far more effective than any other agency in training new generations in the virtuous conduct required to sustain a republic. The family is the breeding ground for both the good life and the good society.”

Peter W. Schramm
December 23, 1946 – August 16, 2015

Photo: The Ashbrook Center
Photo: The Ashbrook Center

Schramm—Hungarian by birth and American by choice, as he described himself—helped thousands of college students understand America’s Founding principles and appreciate what it means to be an American. Along the way, he built Ashland University’s Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs into a leading center for the study of American constitutional government and political thought.

Memorable line: “In America, each generation has to be educated in our principles of right, the natural rights that stem from those principles, and about our constitutional soul, which gives these rights their functional order. As Madison put it, ‘liberty and learning always have to be attached.’ In this unique country—this novus ordo seclorum—citizens have to be made because it is not enough that they be born.”

Whitney Ball
September 26, 1962 – August 17, 2015

Photo: Donors Trust
Photo: Donors Trust

Ball founded Donors Trust in 1999 as the solution to the problem of foundations straying from the conservative and libertarian intentions of their benefactors. Under her leadership, Donors Trust distributed over $740 million to pro-liberty causes.

Memorable line: “If you involve your children early in philanthropic decisions, they’ll learn from it. Above all, I think what’s most important is being involved with the kids. Often people who lament the next generation’s decisions were never involved with that generation until it was too late.”

Amy A. Kass
September 17, 1940 – August 19, 2015

Photo: The American Enterprise Institute
Photo: The American Enterprise Institute

Kass used stories—teaching the great books of literature for 34 years at the University of Chicago and compiling notable anthologies—to encourage reflection on what makes a life well-lived. Since 2005, she had been a fellow at the Hudson Institute, where her work focused on philanthropy and citizenship.

Memorable line: “Developing robust and committed American citizens is a matter of both the heart and the head. Like all building of character, it requires educating our moral imaginations, sentiments, and habits of heart—matters displayed in but also nurtured by great works of imaginative literature.”

John Von Kannon
March 9, 1949 – September 5, 2015

Photo: Chas Geer, The Heritage Foundation
Photo: Chas Geer, The Heritage Foundation

Von Kannon helped found The American Spectator in the late 1960s, then spearheaded The Heritage Foundation’s development efforts for 32 years. In addition to raising over $1 billion for conservative causes during a 43-year career, he mentored countless fundraisers throughout the conservative movement.

Memorable line: “When fundraisers talk with donors about their plan and how they will execute it, they don’t inspire. When they talk about their dreams, why they exist, they can connect with people who share that dream.”

Jay Parker
November 1, 1936 – September 14, 2015

Photo: The Fund for American Studies
Photo: The Fund for American Studies

Against the liberal prescription of welfare and race-conscious programs, Parker made the case that what African Americans really needed was more free enterprise and a truly color-blind society. Parker founded the Lincoln Institute for Research and Education, which became the home of the black conservative movement, and led the Reagan administration transition team that charged the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s push for hiring quotas had created a “new racism in America.” In the 1970s, the Institute’s Lincoln Reviewconverted future Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to conservatism.

Memorable line: “Liberals have handed blacks a ticket to get on the train, but it’s not moving out of the station”

Richard A. Ware
November 7, 1919 – October 29, 2015

Photo: Intercollegiate Studies Institute
Photo: Intercollegiate Studies Institute

Through his work at the Relm and Earhart Foundations, Ware helped create a variety of fellowship programs supporting conservative and free-market scholarship at a time when academia was overwhelmingly liberal. Among those supported because of Ware’s efforts: Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, James Buchanan, Gary Becker, Ronald Coase, and Thomas Sowell.

Memorable line: “I always walked through the door whenever it was opened to me, is how I look at it.”

Fred Thompson
August 19, 1942 – November 1, 2015

Photo: Consolidated News Photos/ZUMA Press/Newscom
Photo: Consolidated News Photos/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Thompson asked Alexander Butterfield if he knew of the existence of any listening devices in the Oval Office and a year later President Nixon resigned. He brought down the governor of Tennessee with a lawsuit that revealed a cash-for-clemency scheme, and parlayed his whistle-blowing into an acting career. Representing Tennessee in the Senate from 1995 to 2002, Thompson was a strong voice for keeping the federal government out of matters better left to state and local governments. He also ran for the GOP nomination for President in 2008.

Memorable line: “After two years in Washington, I often long for the realism and sincerity of Hollywood.”

A Letter from Leonard Rein

Hello there Mr. Shirley,

After finishing page 535 of December 1941 I sat back in my chair, closed my eyes and thought about the salient details you provided for the events taking place during that historic month. On the day of the attack I was a boy of 11, but astonishingly, I can vividly recall the impact and the reaction the news had on my parents. It was a day I will always remember and as I read your outstanding portrayal of events I was immediately immersed in a personal trip down memory lane. You are absolutely correct it was a game changer for all of us who were alive on that date and it has impacted lives well beyond 1941. When my Dad was discharged in late 1945 and returned to Westinghouse, his former employer, he was given the opportunity as an Assistant Branch Manager in York, PA. We moved from Philadelphia, and, without a doubt it, it completely changed the trajectory of my life. We only lived there four years but virtually ever twist and turn in my life has had a connection to York, PA. Absolutely amazing.

As I sat reflecting on my thoughts about the events and circumstances you described my mind kept returning to the question … what do you think about the book: 1) I am impressed with the clarity and straight forward approach to your narrative; 2) as I thought more about my impression of your work it seemed to me  as if I was reading the transcript of a play by play 31 inning baseball ball game. I felt I was reliving my experience of the events in living color.

In addition to December 1941, I now have read the three books you have written on Ronald Reagan; Citizen Newt is next on my list. Thank you very much for taking the time to offer such enlightening reading material of major personalities and events. You are a true Patriot. Have you established a time line on your next book?

In your Epilogue I was impressed with the comment Borman made to Senator Anderson about how the devastating fire to Apollo One astronauts could have happened … it was a failure of imagination … seems apropos to events currently confronting our nation. Or is it “invincible ignorance” that was described, in an article that appeared in the January 27, 2014 issue of The Weekly Standard, as a wonderful Catholic phrase which is used of individuals whom circumstances have made incapable of ever learning the truth.

Happy Holidays!

Leonard Rein

CNN Republican Debate Analysis – December 15, 2015

It was refreshing to see a debate on substantive issues and more importantly on foreign policy where there is a distinct difference between a Bush-neocon philosophy and a traditionalist Reagan, conservative policy. The winners were Cruz, Trump, Christie and the losers were Carson, Fiorina and Bush.

Bushism is a failed and discarded philosophy. Clearly, Reaganism is still the undiscovered country for the Establishment Republicans.

Responding to Bill O’Reilly’s Comments about The New York Times piece penned by Secretary George Shultz

Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State, Reagan’s Attorney General, Reagan’s chief speechwriter, Reagan’s political director, Reagan’s chief counsel, the leading conservative columnist in America today, a leading conservative talk show, the head of the Reagan Library and four Reagan historians have all weighed in against Bill O’Reilly’s deeply flawed “Killing Reagan.”

Have I forgotten anybody?

Responding to Dan Senor’s Claims Marco Rubio Embodies Ronald Reagan the Most

The 2016 race is anything but routine, but one thing that all the campaigns share is their claims to be just like Ronald Reagan. But what traits do the candidates actually share with the Gipper? Reagan Biographer & Presidential Historian Craig Shirley weighs in:

“I see parts of Reagan in most of the 2016 candidates, said Reagan Biographer & Presidential Historian Craig Shirley. “Rand Paul‘s intellectual libertarianism, Ted Cruz‘s principles, Chris Christie’s straightforward style.”