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AND I QUOTE / What Political Books Are Saying : WHAT'S RIGHT: The New Conservative Majority and the Remaking of America, By David Frum (Basic Books: $23; 200pp)

June 16, 1996|John Balzar

"Devolution offers Republicans the chance to say, 'That's it! The national contribution to the relief of poverty is--pick a number--and not a dime more. It will be that same amount next year, or quite possibly less, but it will be a number set as the result of democratic choice, and not by some out-of-control budget mechanism.' What would that mean in practice? Picture a dog on a long chain that spots a cat across the road. It jumps upright and sprints at top speed across the lawn--until the chain snaps it backward."

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So you want to dive into the new Republican thinking? Careful here--too many dangerous shallows. Frum, a writer for the Weekly Standard, formerly with the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, is a formidable, if heavy-handed, free-marketeer--the kind to casually compare the poor to dogs. With this book he promises "to suggest how conservatives ought to think." But what he delivers is a vanity collection of pieces from the last five years, most of them way stale. It seems to me that serious conservatives "ought to think" where the movement goes next, not about Phil Gramm's 1996 presidential prospects or Canada's need for an A-bomb to stand up to the Soviets.

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