Magazine August 10, 2009, Issue

The Deepest Roots

A portrait of John C. Calhoun by George Peter Alexander Healy (1813–1894) (Wikimedia Commons)
The Conservatives: Ideas & Personalities Throughout American History, by Patrick Allitt (Yale, 336 pp., $35)

In numerous books over the years, conservatives have offered historical perspectives on conservatism, liberals on liberalism, and each on the other, crowding bestseller lists and remainder piles alike. The common denominator is usually a polemical zest that is a product of the sense that major issues are at stake in our politics right now. The past is chiefly a storehouse from which to select what’s useful to the debate at the moment.

Patrick Allitt is a professor of history at Emory University, and whatever political opinions he may hold, he keeps them to himself in The Conservatives. His wide-ranging, briskly written

Tod Lindberg — Mr. Lindberg is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and the editor of Policy Review. He is the author of The Political Teachings of Jesus.

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The Week

Of course Obama hasn’t read the health-care bill — he’s probably still working his way through the stimulus.

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