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With its merciless assault on environmentalists, feminists, peaceniks, and other do-gooders, American Spectator editor and syndicated columnist Tyrrell's lowbrow nastiness may break up some around the White House, but less dedicated readers will likely grow weary pretty early on. It might come with Tyrrell's characterization of Jimmy Carter as ""a scamp mountebank from jerkwater America whose knowledge of government and of history was somewhere between that of the washroom attendant at '21' and a modestly educated welfare queen."" Since Carter talked about human rights as a foreign policy, expanded the federal budget, and got a good pre-term review from Norman Mailer, Tyrrell feels justified in raking over Carter's catastrophic presidency as evidence of the catastrophe of liberalism's ideas. That administration made room for consumer advocates, former antiwar types such as Sam Brown, and Andrew Young, ""probably the most perfect specimen of an ass ever to serve as an American diplomat."" That assessment sums up Tyrrell's politics as well as his sense of American history. Silly quotations from groups supporting the liberation of herpes victims and other nonsense, together with stories about welfare cheats, black activists who got rich, and hypocritical Hollywood liberals, all serve as fodder for Tyrrell's cannon; but there's scarcely an idea in the whole caboodle. (Tyrrell makes fun of the media for paying attention to movement celebrities and then fixes his sights on the same celebrities.) This is all supposed to resemble Mencken, but Tyrren's targets are either too easy or strawmen, and his last-minute citation of the likes of Decter, Podhoretz, and Sowell as harbingers of a new age beyond the New Age Liberals shows another fatal flaw: his arrows go in only one direction. That's not a Menckenite; that's an ideologue.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1984
Publisher: Simon & Schuster