Former Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, a brainy and moderate Republican who lost his 2012 gubernatorial bid, leaving the state party in a bit of an identity crisis, sent out an email this weekend continuing to display his position as an old-school GOP nerd rather than a modern firebrand. McKenna's email—"What's on your summer reading list?"—IDs some of his favorite all-time books.
It's not hard to see why McKenna didn't excite his base—William F. Buckley (?!) hasn't been relevant since the early Reagan era.
However, it's certainly refreshing to see that McKenna isn't a puffed-up pseudointellectual; no 10th-grade conservative schmaltz here. Give the guy points for not having any Ayn Rand on his list.
Here's his email:
American conservatism has a proud intellectual tradition, one that was fostered and promoted by a truly remarkable individual, William F. Buckley Jr. His National Review magazine promoted authors old and new and delivered intellectual debates and treatises to American homes. Many conservative heroes, such as University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman gained a wider following because of National Review.
Recently I was thinking about what are the greatest books in the conservative canon. Friedman’s Free to Choose certainly belongs on the list; so do The Federalist Papers and Whitaker Chambers’ Witness.
I stumbled across a website, FiveBooks.com that runs interviews with authors and public figures about the five best books they recommend in a given area. It’s interesting to see people’s picks and read why they chose the books they did.
As conservatives, we should all find new opportunities to add to our knowledge of the philosophical and intellectual foundations of our movement. You might find a few new books you’ll want to add to your summer reading list.
Meanwhile, for those of you who are also history buffs, as I am, I highly recommend Robert Gates' new book, Duty, about his service as Secretary of Defense under two presidents. The book, like the man, is blunt, plain spoken, and highly insightful. Spoiler alert: he doesn't like Washington, DC, very much which explains why he now lives in eastern Skagit County.
A recent New York Times magazine piece, by the way, hyped the supposed new intellectuals of the GOP—a losing bunch, as one of their own, Rep. Eric Cantor, went down—which resonates off McKenna's intellectual odd-man-out status.
Which certainly raises the question: Who's next for the GOP?