Irving Shrugged

At the end of my discussion of Claire Berlinski’s FrontPage interview on Europe and Islam, I mentioned how Irving Kristol at the 1994 National Review Conservative Summit had lightly said that our civilization was finished, but it was “going slowly. So enjoy it while you can.” This offhand dismissal of everything we are and everything we are supposedly fighting for received the laughter of the conservative audience. However, at least one person in the audience was disturbed by the contradiction between Kristol’s cheerful acceptance of the looming demise of our civilization, and a major article he had written just a year earlier in which he had issued a ringing call for conservatives to wage a 100-year-long culture war. Observe the way Kristol responds to this sincere conservative who was evidently hoping to find a measure of intellectual consistency and leadership:

Audience Member: I have a question for Mr. Kristol. You wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal about the coming 100 years of conservatism which was rather optimistic, and it seems to me what you said today is not really consistent with that. And what I’d like is for you to tell us why.

Irving Kristol: Did I write that?

Audience Member: You did.


It cheered me right up when I read it.

(Laughter and applause)

Irving Kristol: I’m sure I was right.


But —

Robert Bork: Both times.

Irving Kristol: But I don’t remember exactly what I said. It has to be looked at and interpreted in a certain way.


I’m sure if I read it again, I could figure out how to interpret it so that it’s consistent with everything I’ve said.


Robert Bork: This is neoconservative deconstruction.

(Laughter and Applause)

[National Review Institute, Conservative Summit, Washington, D.C., Sheraton Washington Hotel, March 5-6, 1994.]

It sure is great that they were having so much fun, isn’t it? I guess Kristol was simply following his own advice to “enjoy it while you can.”

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 09, 2006 05:03 PM | Send

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