National Review’s Jim Geraghty is a writer with a deft touch; he has a way of keeping heavy subjects light, and often he will surprise a reader with a disarming quip or clever turn of phrase, where they least expect it.
That deft touch is apparent, and appreciated, throughout his new book, Voting to Kill; How 9/11 Launched the Era of Republican Leadership, which takes a look at the US political landscape pre-and-post 9/11 and finds that the Democrats are digging themselves a security hole from which they may not dig out for decades.
Eight weeks before an election, the timing of the book’s release couldn’t be more appropriate or advantageous, but Voting to Kill is not destined to be left in the bargain bin by Christmas – rather, it’s going to stand the test of time as perhaps the most comprehensive analysis of how America has become so polarized, and how security – whether the polls reflect it or not – will be the issue to trump all others for the foreseeable future. This is no seething polemic, and it has nothing at all in common with the mouth-foaming, unhinged “us good, them bad” rants currently overwhelming political publishing. Voting to Kill is blessedly balanced, thoughtful and almost conversational in tone. Pleasantly, so. Geraghty’s prose does not flick and stab – it informs and thinks and invites the reader to think along by respectfully assuming that his readers can, in fact, think.
And I must admit, I am predisposed to like any book that begins with a quote by the late, and much missed, Michael Kelly.
Geraghty reasons well and he makes a convincing case for his thesis. As we watch the Democrats daily personify a line in Voting to Kill, (“We supported establishing a democracy in the heart of the Middle East until it got hard,”) it is easy to believe his conclusions about the fate of the Democrats in upcoming elections.
But then again, watching the GOP sometimes appear to throw away their majority and every advantage with both hands, one can never feel too cocky about anything. The truth is, with the help of a press largely registered “Democrat,” all the other side has to do is find a photogenic and credible candidate who can project enough sincerity on the issue of security, and the press will hoist that person upon their shoulders and propel him or her forward and up. Geraghty admits that the unlikely consistant security hawk within that party has been Hillary Clinton, who appears to be the only Democrat who knows that “if you hate Halliburton more than Osama bin Laden, you cannot win”…although (and this is my observation, not Geraghty’s) she lately can seem buffetted by prevailing winds and tempted to prevarication, particularly if her audience is encouraging the leftward step.
Writes Geraghty: A great nation deserves great debates about great challenges. At this moment, on of our two great national parties has risen to the moment and offered a vision of great strengh and great idealism. The policies and ideas of the Republican Party are not without their flaws, but they directly and squarely face the fundamental challenge of our time. Their friends on the other side of the aisle are a bit muddled. They have not risen to the moment, yet; but that does not mean they cannot in the future.
You’re going to like this book. It is terrific September or October reading that may help us all to understand whatever happens in November. But it’s not just for this election cycle. Voting to Kill is going to become the invaluable and readable resource for analysts and pundits, historians, students, scholars, and standard-issue political junkies for a very long time.
UPDATED: In case you don’t quite trust me, Betsy Newmark also gave the book a rave, and as you know, she is both smarter and more discerning than I am, so you should take her word for it. This is a book you’ll want.