Later, Not Better

The work of a longtime author on social problems, on the deteriorating relations between blacks and Jews, and on Philadelphia civic life who also served as a Reagan appointee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, Murray Friedman’s history of the neoconservative ascent to power is neither scholarly nor balanced.  Nor is it a book I enjoyed reading, or one that reveals its author in a flattering light.  Friedman died within weeks of its publication, and soon after his last meeting with this reviewer—at a scholarly gathering of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia that we both attended each month.  This last of his many books stands in contradiction to the man I recall, who was gracious in conversation and must have had a better understanding of his subject than this dismal volume suggests.

The Neoconservative Revolution is little more than a boasting brief,  puffed out with defamation and exaggeration, for the transformation of the American right by neoconservatism.  Although the neoconservatives—including, presumably, Friedman himself—“barely disguised their contempt for older-style conservatives, whom they viewed as philistines,” and while Commentary’s one-time music authority, Samuel Lippman, once observed that “traditional conservatives placed their emphasis on national elections, battling communism, and running business, leaving...

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