In Conservatives Without Conscience, Dean not only highlights specific right-wing-driven GOP policies but also probes the conservative mind-set, identifying recurring qualities such as the unbridled viciousness toward those daring to disagree with them, as well as the big business favoritism that costs taxpayers billions. Dean identifies specific examples of how court packing is seeking to form a judiciary that is activist by its very nature, how religious piety is producing politics run amok, and how concealed indifference to the founding principles of liberty and equality is pushing America further and further from its constitutional foundations.
By the end, Dean paints a vivid picture of what's happening at the top levels of the Republican Party, a noble political party corrupted by its current leaders who cloak their actions in moral superiority while packaging their programs as blatant propaganda. Dean, certainly no alarmist, finds disturbing signs that current right-wing authoritarian thinking, when conflated with the dominating personalities of the conservative leadership could take the United States toward its own version of fascism.
©2006 John W. Dean; (P)2006 Penguin Audio
"Readers of all political perspectives will find this book riveting." (Booklist)
John Dean has put together not only a very well written factual history of the rise of authoritarian conservatism in American but he pulls from excellent phychological profiling to add another demension to this book. As someone who had personally had substanial political contact with some of the players at the forefront of this movement mentioned in the book, as well as those who have opposed it, I can say that when my personal knowledge overlaps with Dean's commentary and factual assertions, they are 100% accurate. I couldn't put the book down and found myself continually replaying certain sections because of the wealth of knowledge Dean present.
Something about myself...happy now?
Say what you will, but if Barry Goldwater had a problem with the current strain of Conservatism then something is terribly wrong.
Dean found himself the target of slander campaign run by his old Watergate friends including born-again Christian, Chuck Colson. He started this book, along with Goldwater, to find out why Conservativism has taken on take-no-prisoners approach capable of blinding its adherents to, if not morality, then simple consistency of thought. How do Conservatives let Bill Bennett of the hook for a gambling problem or give Rush Limbaugh a pass on his drug abuse while dragging Max Clealand's patriotism through the mud?
Dean's a wonderful writer and Robertson Dean reads wonderfully. I've found myself sitting in driveways and parking lots far too frequently while listening to this. It might even get me back to the gym.
John Dean does a great job of exposing why Presidents (and other leaders) do not and can not LISTEN! By far, the best explaination of authoritarianism I have ever read. He really lays it out and he should know, after working for Nixon. Great read, especially if you wonder why Presidents of countries, corporations, etc. have a zero ability to listen and learn. They are watching mouths move, but nothing will ever sink in because of their authoritarian mental structure. I highly recommend it. Very well written.
John Dean, as a former Goldwater Republican, cannot be easily dismissed as a "loon" or "Republican hating". What he describes in this interesting, well written and researched book is the far right wing of conservatism that has taken over most of the power of all branches of the United States government at this time. These people are not "conservatives" as they have been known in the past.
Dean's book also explains how in a democracy a tiny minority can amass enormous power one would expect would arise from a super majority of the people. Dean alerts the reader to the true danger that lurks in the current regime's psychological and philosophical makeup. Nothing less than Constitutional Democracy is at stake.
Dean's thesis is that many of the Republicans currently in power are authoritarian personalities with a lust for power. The former concept needs some explanation; an authoritarian personality (Adorno, et. al. 1950) is one who is enamored with convention and the authority, questioning neither and relying on punitive controls during times of crisis. Authoritarians reject the unusual and believe that difficult times support the suspension of rights. They are especially susceptible to rigid thinking in their concern with appearing powerful.
Dean pretty much gets it, spot on. He argues convincingly that Bush's great flaw is his personality characterized by a rigid world view and unthinking hubris leads him to impulsive decisions. More compelling than his analysis of Bush is his critique of Cheney's influence and how he would rather direct events from behind the scenes because this secrecy is instrumental in maintaining power. Such intellectual rigidity, sold to the public as necessities during a time of fear-sustaining national crisis, has lead the Cheney/Bush team to such intellectually bankrupt positions as threatening a veto of a defense appropriations measure because it carried McCain's anti-torture resolution, an action that would have denied the Defense Department without the funds needed for the war in Afghanistan. For Bush/Cheney, winning is more important that defending the laws of the United States, a conclusion well-supported by the 800 or so signing statements that collectively declare “We reserve the right to disregard legislative intent.”
Rest assured, this is a frightening read for those who are concerned about the direction the United States' executive branch, aided by a complicit Congress, has gone the past six years. Dean's book should stir those on the left and right to wrest back their government from those for whom power is more critical than principle or conscience. Highly recommended.
John Dean's very fine book on the authoritarian conservative tradition is, despite its title, an excellent primer on contemporary American politics in general. Other writers, whose books are available from Audible, have noted that, at one time or another, both Democrats and Republicans have been the bad boys of Congress. LBJ stole, among other things, the 1948 Texas Senate election from Coke Stevenson (LBJ: Master of the Senate by Robert Caro). JFK was a randy, immoral, secretive executive willing to use the Mafia to topple Fidel Castro (Robert Kennedy: His Life by Evan Thomas). Nixon used the CIA to oust Salvador Allende from his elected presidency of Chile (Nixon and Kissinger by Robert Dallek) . It goes on and on. Amoral authoritarian behavior is not just Republican. It's the core of a life of political power.
how the White House is hijacked by right wing conservative Christian fundamentalists with the smug conviction that their attitudes and beliefs are all that matter. Hijacked? Maybe not, maybe the correct idea is that the president as sold the executive branch to this movement. I used to think this president was just a dope, but now I think maybe he's just an astute salesman- he knew he could not prevail by right of his own (lack of) accomplishments, so he figured out how to pander to this smarmy bunch who could deliver him votes.
Very thorough, and very clear. I only wish he would do an updated version since the advent of the Tea Party during the Obama years.
I was hopng for a little more insider story than was provided. the book was kind of a truthful dig on conservatives, but I didn't learn anything new and it left some to be desired. kinda like this review!
John Dean is uniquely qualified to write this book. The first chapter really says it all as he describes how the his own party came after him well after he had retired from politics. It is really on the strength of this chapter, or more to the point Dean's inside knowledge, that I can give this book 4 stars. Beyond this the insights of the book are an attempt to explain the character of the those individuals that came after him as well as many more in the current GOP leadership. Deans leans heavily on Bob Altemeyer's research on RWA and SDO personalities described in his book "Authoritarians", to provide a basis to explain the behavior of the present GOP.
I have read so many books regarding the present republican party ("Twilight of the Elites" by Christopher Hayes, "It's Even Worse Than it Looks" Norman Ornstein, "Authoritarians" by Bob Altemeyer, in addition to Dean's book), and including many written from their own perspectives (e.g., "The Visions of the Anointed" by Thomas Sowell, "The Road to Freedom" by Brooks, and the short lecture "What's the Matter with Kansas" by Thomas Frank). I long for the days when you could have a serious political discussion with your republican friends and walk away feeling like I both gained something. The feeling that you were both working from the same facts, just slightly different perhaps in the degree to which you could have faith in the free market to raise all boats. If you share this feeling, regardless of which side of the political spectrum, then you know the obsession with trying to understand what changed.
Dean's answer to what has changed is helpful, if not entirely original. He provides a perspective that is informed by his conservative roots and shares some personal discussions between Barry Goldwater and himself on the topic of the changes in the GOP.
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