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Waiting for Greatness

According to John O’Sullivan’s version of recent history, in the fullness of time, three great conservative leaders—Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and Margaret Thatcher—came unexpectedly to occupy positions of power, to shatter post-World War II orthodoxies, to facilitate the collapse of the Soviet empire, and to make the overall revival of their institutions and societies possible.

In the preceding decade, according to the author, the three were “middle managers” in their respective establishments, disgruntled with the 1960’s consensus (détente, Vatican II, Keynesianism) that enabled liberals of different hues to dominate “debate and the general direction of policy even when they were out of power.”  While even political and religious traditionalists sought “subtle and ingenious leaders” who could divert modernist challenges into orthodox channels, Wojtyla, Thatcher, and Reagan “all embodied such fading virtues as faith, self-reliance, and patriotism—which the modern world seemed to be leaving behind.”

The manner in which the three succeeded in making it to the top against all odds and then “changing the world” is, in O’Sullivan’s rendering, a morality play wrapped in a quickie book.  There is Providence, saving them from assassination attempts.  There is harmony, prompting them to join forces...

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