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If Not Us, Who?: William Rusher, National Review, and the Conservative Movement Hardcover – August 15, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


“Frisk’s deeply researched and well-written biography fills the gap. . . . Anyone interested in understanding [conservatism’s] rise should read Frisk’s highly informative study.” —New York Times Book Review

“Frisk gives a vivid account of the qualities that caused so many people to seek Rusher’s counsel and listen carefully to what he had to say. . . . Excellent.” —Wall Street Journal

 “As David B. Frisk shows us in this finely tuned and richly detailed biography, Rusher was one of the most respected figures in the American conservative movement. . . . Frisk’s fine book . . . [is] the best that has been written, and long needed.” —Washington Times

 Well-researched and enlightening . . . David Frisk captures the man with a keen eye. . . . Frisk’s biography gives us a full portrait not only of a good man at work, but also of an era that saw one of the most abrupt changes in governing philosophy in American history. . . . Invaluable reading for any student of the rise of American conservatism.” —American Conservative

 “Bill Rusher was the great unsung hero of the conservative movement. This fascinating, meticulously researched biography sheds new light not only on a remarkable man but also on the rise of conservatism in America.” —Mark Levin, best-selling author of Liberty and Tyranny, nationally syndicated radio host

 “It is something of a scandal that Rusher has not had a fully realized biography of his own. David Frisk has remedied that with this exhaustive but thoroughly engaging examination of Rusher’s monumental life and legacy.” —Jonah Goldberg, contributing editor of National Review and best-selling author of Liberal Fascism

 “There were in fact two ‘Bills’ at National Review—founding editor Bill Buckley and almost-founding publisher Bill Rusher. David Frisk’s illuminating biography brings alive the ‘other’ Bill—a formidable political strategist and debater who was as important as his better-known colleague to the American conservative movement. A must-read.” —Lee Edwards, author of William F. Buckley Jr.: The Maker of a Movement

“[Frisk] has done a superb job of chronicling the life and times of William A. Rusher. . . . A masterly job.”  National Review

 “In this carefully hued portrait of one of the most important leaders of modern conservatism, Frisk captures the intelligence and wit of William Rusher. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of conservatism and for people looking for what it means to be a consistent conservative.” —Donald T. Critchlow, author of The Conservative Ascendancy, professor of American politics at Arizona State University

“As the right arm of William F. Buckley and in a hundred other roles, Bill Rusher fought tirelessly for the values that defined the modern conservative movement. Every American trying to recapture that commitment ought to read David Frisk’s wonderful new biography of a man to whom the country owes much.” —Hugh Hewitt, nationally syndicated radio host

 “If not William Rusher, who? Rusher was the most consequential political strategist of the postwar conservative movement; a keen partisan; a lover of good wine, good food, and good poetry; and a great guy. David Frisk’s biography keeps his memory green.” —Richard Brookhiser, senior editor of National Review and author of James Madison

“William A. Rusher is one of the premier examples of the rare combination of thought and action, and David Frisk has performed an important service to history and the conservative movement in telling Rusher’s story so thoroughly and insightfully.” —Steven F. Hayward, author of The Age of Reagan

Book Description

“The great unsung hero of the conservative movement” —MARK LEVIN

If Not Us, Who? is both the story of an architect of the modern conservative movement and a colorful journey through a half century of high-level politics.

Best known as the longtime publisher of National Review, William Rusher (1923–2011) was more than just a crucial figure in the history of the Right’s leading magazine. He was a political intellectual, tactician, and strategist who helped shape the historic rise of conservatism.

To write If Not Us, Who?, David B. Frisk pored over Rusher’s voluminous papers at the Library of Congress and interviewed dozens of insiders, including National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr., in addition to Rusher himself. The result is a gripping biography, authorized yet independent, that shines new light on Rusher’s significance as an observer and an activist while bringing to life more than a generation’s worth of political hopes, fears, and controversies.

Frisk vividly captures the joys and struggles at National Review, including Rusher’s complex relationship with the legendary Buckley. Here we see the powerful blend of wit, erudition, dedication, shrewdness, and earnestness that made Rusher an influential figure at NR and an indispensable link between conservatism’s leading theorists and its political practitioners.

“If not us, who? If not now, when?”—a maxim often attributed to Ronald Reagan—could have been Rusher’s motto. In everything he did—publishing National Review, recruiting and advising political candidates, organizing cadres of young conservatives, taking on liberal advocates in a popular television debate program, writing a syndicated column—his objective was to build a movement. And he constantly exhorted his colleagues to step up as leaders of that movement. His tireless efforts proved essential to conservatism’s ascendancy, from the pivotal Goldwater campaign through the Reagan era.

Largely unexamined until now, Rusher’s career opens a new window onto the history of the conservative movement, its successes and failures. This comprehensive biography reintroduces readers to a remarkable man of thought and action.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Intercollegiate Studies Institute; 1 edition (August 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935191454
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935191452
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #347,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David B. Frisk, a former award-winning newspaper reporter, has a Ph.D. in political science -- American politics and political philosophy -- from Claremont Graduate University, completed in 2009. At some point, he would like to write another book on the history of American conservatism.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Eric Mayforth on July 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Virtually everyone who pays close attention to politics and the news knows that William F. Buckley was the founder and editor of the great conservative journal of opinion "National Review." But far fewer are familiar with William Rusher, publisher of the magazine for more than three decades and, as Buckley himself asserted in 1975, "every bit as vital to 'National Review' as I am."

David Frisk's "If Not Us, Who?" looks back at Rusher's life from his early years to his retirement in San Francisco. Frisk notes the risk that Rusher took in joining NR and describes his relationship with Buckley. Several debates within conservatism during those decades are looked back on by the author, as well as some of the battles the conservative movement fought. The Goldwater candidacy, the Cold War, Watergate, the Reagan candidacies and presidency, and many more events are remembered--in a way this volume reads as a history of the conservative movement, with Rusher playing in instrumental role in the happenings. Frisk also recalls Rusher's tenure as a debater and columnist.

Bill Rusher was vital to the conservative movement's successes, and all who wish to learn more about the history of American conservatism would greatly enjoy this biography.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jim Grodnik on April 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"If Not Us, Who" combines insightful personal anecdotes about William A. Rusher, a giant of American conservatism, with a behind-the-scenes look at Rusher's indefatigable efforts to promote and nurture the conservative e movement.

Author David Frisk really does his homework here, interviewing a collection of Rusher's colleagues that reads like who's-who of 20th Century American conservatism. The result is part biography, part history, and all essential reading for anyone interested in the nuts and bolts of American politics.

I had the privilege of knowing Mr. Rusher during his years in San Francisco, after he had retired from the National Review. He was one of a kind: fastidious, erudite, good-humored and, above all, conservative, and damned proud of it. Frisk's invaluable book captures both the man and the movement.

Jim Grodnik
Brevard, North Carolina
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jim Wells on January 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Bill Rusher is unfortunately ignored by the liberal press because he was an arch-conservative. However, he made a tremendous impact in the political arena from the 1960s through 2000. David Frisk did a great service in documenting the life of this remarkable man. The book is incredibly interesting although Frisk sometimes includes an overabundance of detail which occasionally can cause the narrative to drag. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in politics, and the history of the last half of the 20th century,

JR Wells
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Daune Robinson on November 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I will first confess that I don't read many biographies, so that may be part of the reason I wasn't impressed with this book. i wanted to like it, I really did. William Buckley, National Review, and by extension "the other Bill" brought me to Conservatism. But, this seemed more like a long list of "he did this, then he did that, then he did another thing" - on and on. There was some discussion of the conservative movement, but even that seemed flat, and more like a recital of facts than an historical event. The book simply left me flat - a shame, because the subject matter had a great deal of potential.
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