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Writing the left's obituary

| Monday, May 28, 2012, 4:21 p.m.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., founder and editor-in-chief of The American Spectator magazine, has an amusing political language all his own.

It's used in his new book, "The Death of Liberalism" (Thomas Nelson), and in this Q&A. He writes that he capitalizes "Liberals" and "Liberalism" so as "to distinguish Liberalism from the ... classical liberals or 19th-century liberals -- for instance, me, and probably, you." The glossary below draws on the book for explanations of other "Tyrrell-isms" below.

Q. Did someone kill Liberalism or was its death more of its own making?

A. It was from the Liberals' own excess. ... Liberals always tended to overreach. And they vastly overreached. They started overreaching in the '90s, but they were hemmed in by the Republicans and by (then-House Speaker) Newt Gingrich's majority. Then with (Democrat Nancy) Pelosi (as House speaker), they really blew out a tremendous budgetary deficit, and they've continued to blow out that deficit until they aren't Liberals anymore -- they are socialists. ObamaCare's takeover of health care is an indication of that. So that's the big problem. But it's also the big opportunity for the conservatives and the independents.

Q. In the book, you said Obama "probably" would lose but the GOP "will" retake the Senate. Do you want to update those forecasts?

A. I think things have gotten much worse for the Democrats. The Kultursmog tends to chloroform all of us into thinking whatever the Kultursmog thinks, or at least thinking it's plausible, but it's totally implausible. In the swing states throughout the Midwest, Pennsylvania for instance, I think that Obama ... and the Democrats are going to be routed. I am foursquare sticking my chin out and saying, "Remember me in the fall," because I'm telling you, it's going to be as bad for Obama as it was for Carter, and it's going to catch the world as much by surprise, perhaps, as it caught the world in 1980, because the Kultursmog is still pretty pervasive.

Q. What do you think of Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee?

A. I think Romney's going to surprise a lot of people. I think Romney is a properly conservative guy and his wife is a properly conservative woman. It's up to Paul Ryan and people like that to instill fire in his policies because he is so conservative, but I think Paul Ryan will instill fire in his policies.

Q. As dire as things are politically, economically, financially, how do you retain your sense of humor?

A. (Laughter) Well, I have a lot of easily amused or strongly amused people around me and the audience of The American Spectator is full of fun, and that's how we do it, and we'll continue to do it because it really is funny out there. I mean, I thought a funny section of the book was whenever I talked about the Infantile Leftists, and those people have provided me with laughter for as long as I've been an adult, and even before that. They were my cohorts in college. They were the Coat-and-Tie Radicals, and then they became the Infantile Leftists, and they're hysterically funny, with their Jean-Francois Kerry and his windsurfing ... . Maybe he was bungee-jumping too. He might well have been.

Q. Thoughts on John Edwards at the moment?

A. It hasn't happened until recently that the Chappaquiddick Dispensation no longer saves these rogues from removal from public life. However, with the downfall of John Edwards, and the most ridiculous of all, the downfall of Anthony Weiner, they continued to try to lie and brazen it out, but they failed ... . I think today even Teddy Kennedy wouldn't have gotten away with what he got away with at Chappaquiddick.

'Tyrrell-isms': A brief glossary

• Stealth socialists: They "laid low until very recently, and even now they are not very candid, adopting a pose of 'Read my deeds' rather than 'Read my lips.'"

• Kultursmog: "(T)he pollution of our culture by politics, almost exclusively Liberal politics."

• Coat-and-Tie Radicals: 1960s student "politicians" who "applied themselves to the drudgery of promoting themselves with the increasingly exhausted university administrations. ... (T)hey shared some of the radicalism of the fringe left while wanting all the usufructs and privileges of the upper bourgeoisie."

• Infantile Leftists: What Coat-and-Tie Radicals grew up to become by the 1980s, talking of "global warming, some sort of government health care, and increasingly one world under one law ... . They did not talk of socialism, but doubtless if the wind came up and filled socialism's sails, they would gladly be swept along."

• Chappaquiddick Dispensation: What Liberals enjoyed when they "were suddenly capable of surviving what in any prior era would be a career-ending scandal."

Market, courts shape future

Battling on multiple fronts, not just publishers and booksellers but technology companies and federal regulators, too, are fighting over the future of e-books and e-readers. For readers fond of the free market and leery of government intervention, it's a real-world, real-time business case study -- with real billions of dollars at stake.

This month, the Association of American Publishers reported U.S. publishers' total 2011 net revenue from sales of e-books rose 332.6 percent over the 2010 figure. Print book sales revenue, by contrast, rose just 2.3 percent.

E-books no doubt are helping Apple sell iPads -- a lot of iPads. International Data Corp. reported this month that in 2012's first quarter, Apple's tablet-market share rose to 68 percent from 57.4 percent in the prior quarter -- "at the expense of Android-based tablets, most notably Amazon's Kindle Fire which appears to have seen its shipments collapse" -- despite first-quarter iPad shipments dropping more than 20 percent.

Amazon's Kindle Fire and Apple's iPads, of course, go beyond just e-reader functionality. But iPads' greater versatility seems to be stealing at least some of the thunder of the Fire's strong fourth-quarter 2011, Christmas-season debut.

Apple and Amazon can't rest on any laurels, though. Making headlines as April turned to May was Microsoft's $300 million investment in -- and commitment of another $305 million over the next five years to -- Barnes & Noble's Nook e-reader division.

The deal sent B&N stock up 52 percent to a 12-month high. The New York Times said Microsoft's investment should help ease the hits that B&N's bottom line has taken from big capital investments in its Nook division. Expect a Nook app for Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 operating system to result.

But it's not all freewheeling competition out there. Some publishers named last month in a federal antitrust lawsuit over alleged e-book price-fixing along with Apple -- which runs its own e-book store -- chose to settle. But Apple's determined to defend its "agency model" in court.

The MacRumors website sums things up: "(T)he agency model ... sees publishers set retail pricing and vendors receive a percentage ... . Apple had pushed for the agency model in an attempt to dilute Amazon's power in the book market ... . But the Department of Justice believes that the agency model as implemented by the publishers at Apple's behest amounts to collusion ... ."

Which side one takes may well depend as much on one's own interests in reading and publishing as it does on one's own economic and political outlook. With Apple trying to blunt Amazon's ability to use deep e-book discounts as "loss leaders" for sales of other items, this case could reshape legal notions of price-fixing, monopoly and collusion -- at least in electronic commerce.

Bringing things full circle this month was a Forbes report about Xerox's Espresso Book Machine, which brings "publishing on demand" to bricks-and-mortar bookstores.

Needing only about 4 minutes to print and bind as a paperback any of nearly 5 million titles, including out-of-print and Google Books titles in the public domain, an Espresso has helped produce double-digit month-by-month sales gains for new ownership at the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass.

Clearly, readers buying e-books are going to have more choices -- in terms of formats and retailers. Market forces and court rulings will determine just who's offering which choices -- and at what prices.

Title search

New and upcoming books of interest:

"The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas" by Jonah Goldberg (Sentinel) -- The author of the No. 1 New York Times best-seller "Liberal Fascism" takes on word games that liberals use to disguise radical ideas as reason-based, pragmatic wisdom.

"Mothers of Conservatism: Women and the Postwar Right" by Michelle M. Nickerson (Princeton University Press) -- An assistant professor of history at Loyola University in Chicago tells how "red-hunting homemakers" in 1950s Southern California "shaped the grassroots right," the publisher says.

"George Washington's Military Genius" by Dave R. Palmer (Regnery History, May 28) -- The author, a lieutenant general, combat veteran and former West Point superintendent, answers those who attribute Washington's Revolutionary War victories to luck in this update of his 1975 book "The Way of the Fox."

"The Dependency Agenda" by Kevin D. Williamson (Encounter Books, May 29) -- In this brief (43 digest-size pages) book from the "Encounter Broadside" series, a National Review editor argues dependency was LBJ's Great Society aim.

"Planning Reagan's War: Conservative Strategists and America's Cold War Victory" by Francis H. Marlo (Potomac Books, May 31) -- An assistant professor of strategic studies at the Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College explains the "intellectual pedigree" of Ronald Reagan's approach to the Soviets.

Talking books

"I actually read on all of them. I still prefer physical, to be honest. And I have a Kindle, a Nook and an iPad. ... We buy them and share them around the company. ... I read the Bible on the iPad, too."

-- Mark Schoenwald, Thomas Nelson CEO and president, in DigitalBookWorld.com's May 11 story "What Are You Reading and on What Platform?"

Ranking file

What titles of interest to conservative readers are selling best? A review of published best-seller lists that take into account both print and e-book sales suggests a "consensus" that these five books are moving fastest:

1. "Screwed!: How Foreign Countries Are Ripping America Off and Plundering Our Economy -- and How Our Leaders Help Them Do It" by Dick Morris and Eileen McGann (Broadside Books)

2. "Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard (Henry Holt and Co.)

3. "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad" by Peter Bergen (Crown)

4. "Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives" by Jose A. Rodriguez Jr. and Bill Harlow

5. "The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise" by Arthur C. Brooks (Basic Books)

Alan Wallace is a Trib editorial page writer. He writes and compiles A Page of Books, which appears the last Sunday of each month. Contact him at 412-320-7983 or awallace@tribweb.com

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