It is not often that the stars bring together two of one’s favorite writers into a single package, but such is our good fortune in Steven F. Hayward’s M. Stanton Evans, Conservative Wit, Apostle of Freedom. Mr. Hayward is the author of two excellent books on Ronald Reagan
that always sit within reach of my desk and M. Stanton “Stan” Evans was one of the formative influences of my intellectual youth.
There was a time when M. Stanton Evans was a household name, and you certainly couldn’t go anywhere or do anything in conservative politics without running into Stan Evans. Evans was the principal author of the Sharon Statement, the founding document of Young Americans for Freedom. At age twenty-five he was the youngest editor of a major newspaper (the Indianapolis News) back when there were major newspapers that were conservative. His syndicated column, which defined the ideas, arguments and players of the budding movement ran in the Indiana newspaper with which my family was associated.
For many years it was as if Stan Evans was a guest at our dinner table. As the discussion between the adults ran the gamut of household life, the bulk of the conversation was about the newspaper – the pictures and articles, the ups and downs of the business and most importantly, the political news that filled the paper’s pages. And, in any debate over conservative politics or policy, it seemed the ultimate argument to authority was “Stan Evans said…”
Mr. Hayward has done an excellent job of documenting the role Stan Evans played in launching the modern conservative movement, and for those interested in the history of the movement Hayward’s book is must-read.
But what I enjoyed most about the book was the copious compendium of stories and anecdotes about Stan Evans and his wit and wisdom about journalism, the craft of writing, and what conservatism is and is not.
Hayward’s insightful discussion of Stan Evans’s principles of journalism, including his meticulous attention to detail and sourcing cleared-up once and for all why Stan Evans was the ultimate dinner table authority – Evans had the facts to back up his opinions.
Steven Hayward also cleared-up another puzzle for me – why, near the close of his career would he make his largest and longest book about Senator Joe McCarthy?
As Mr. Hayward documented, Evans and his father Medford, had an interest in the McCarthy story going back to at least 1960 and Stan had begun working out a serious defense of the late Senator whom he thought “was in the main correct.”
Blacklisted by History, was the result of Evans’ over-50-year interest and research on Joe McCarthy and his allegations of communist influence in the United States government of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. Mr. Hayward does an excellent job of documenting the hours of old-fashioned newspaper work Stan Evans put into the book, methodically going through the primary source documents, including the transcripts of the Venona decrypts and recently declassified McCarthy committee records.
By the way, tangential to the story of how Stan Evans came to write Blacklisted by History, which I think is his most consequential book, Mr. Hayward reveals that many many sources that might add further evidence to the case that Joe McCarthy “was in the main correct” have inexplicably disappeared and that those entrusted with preserving the narrative that McCarthy’s charges were without merit get very testy when confronted with facts proving McCarthy was in the main correct.
Of course, those who knew Stan Evans would expect that a biography of him would include many of his witticisms and bon mots and they will not be disappointed, here are a few to tease the novice and experienced student of Stan Evans alike:
Tax cuts are sort of like sex. When they are well done, they are great! When they are badly done, they are still pretty good.
Evans’s Law of Inadequate Paranoia: No matter how bad you think things are, if you look closer you’ll inevitably find it’s worse.
Give a man a carp, and you feed a man for a day. Teach a man to carp, and you’ve created a pain in the ass for life.
Finally, one of the small pleasures of Steven F. Hayward’s M. Stanton Evans, Conservative Wit, Apostle of Freedom was the revelation of the names of his many students and those he mentored through the National Journalism Center in Washington, DC and his college courses at Troy University in Alabama. Mr. Hayward himself falls among those lucky few, as do John Fund, Ann Coulter, Mark Tapscott, Bill McGurn, John Hood, Chris Warden, John Berlau, Michael Fumento, Greg Gutfeld, Rick Henderson, Lisa Schiffren, Susan Ferrechio and some 1,600 others through the NJC alone.
Stan Evans passed away in 2015 and didn’t see the war on Trump and the subsequent revelations about the conspiracies to derail his presidency and destroy him personally, but one of the dicta he applied to his research on Joe McCarthy holds true for the media narratives about Donald Trump: “everything you think you know is wrong.”
M. Stanton Evans biography
M. Stanton Evans, Conservative Wit, Apostle of Freedom
National Journalism Center in Washington