Correcting a point on John Podhoretz

Jeff Singer writes:

You misread John Podhoretz’s blog post on Michelle Obama. To wit, you say:

“He gives lots of things for which he says she ought to have been proud of America during her adult lifetime. All of them are liberal things. Podhoretz, like Mrs. Obama, can only conceive of America being good to the extent that it is liberal.”

But this is the point of his post, that even within Michelle’s liberal world-view (not whether or not this world-view is correct or good) there are “things” she should be proud of. Here is the sentences that provide the context:

“Can it really be there has not been a moment during that time when she felt proud of her country? Forget matters like the victory in the Cold War; how about only things that have made liberals proud—all the accomplishments of inclusion?”

He specifically says “have made liberals proud,” implying that he is not a liberal. And you were criticizing J-Pod for being a hack? People in glass houses…

LA replies:

You make a fair point that I missed when I read Podhoretz’s blog entry. Podhoretz mentioned a non-liberal thing that an American might be proud of, namely winning the Cold War, but deliberately restricted himself to orthodox liberal achievements which Michelle Obama ought to approve of, showing that Michelle by her own own admission is not proud even of orthodox liberal achievements.

At the same time, there is still something to my point. Podhoretz’s example of a non-liberal achievement is victory in the Cold War. But fighting the Cold War was largely a liberal cause. From the beginning of the Cold War in 1947 until the McGovern nominaton in 1972, mainstream liberal Democrats such as Harry Truman, Hubert Humphrey, and John F. Kennedy were Cold War liberals. When the Democratic Party after 1972 turned leftist and anti-American, Cold War liberal intellectuals, led by John Podhoretz’s father Norman Podhoretz and Irving Kristol, became neoconservatives and continued supporting the Cold War under that label. In the 1980s, in alliance with Ronald Reagan, the greatest intellectual organ in America leading the Cold War was Commentary magazine under Norman Podhoretz. And of course the neocons remained essentially liberals and are still liberals to this day (their main issue, spreading democracy to the whole world, is hyper liberal).

So John Podhoretz’s example of a non-liberal achievement is not only liberal, it’s one that is deeply connected to his own family. If Podhoretz had mentioned something like, say, the creation of America as an extension of British civilization, or the settling of the American West, or the creation of a Christian society on this nearly empty continent that had previously been inhabited by a couple of million merciless Indian savages (to use Thomas Jefferson’s description of them in the Declaration of Independence), those would have been clearly non-liberal achievements. Instead, Podhoretz’s example of a “non-liberal” achievement was winning the Cold War.

Thus, in the final analysis, it remains the case, as I put it, that “Podhoretz, like Mrs. Obama, can only conceive of America being good to the extent that it is liberal,” even though they may define liberalism somewhat differently.

Further, you claim that I was “criticizing J-Pod for being a hack.” I didn’t say any such thing. I said just what I said, that Podhoretz can only conceive of America’s being good to the extent that it is liberal.

I didn’t call J-Pod a hack. But you called me one. You should have made your point without insulting me. Presumably you enjoy writing to me, having done so several times. Yet you’ve just ended your ability to do so, since your insult has gotten you permanently excluded from further correspondence with me. Who, then, between us two, is the one who has stepped in it?

And, by the way, do hacks admit their mistakes and correct them?

- end of initial entry -

Alan Levine writes:

Re your point, in the comment on John Podhoretz, that the Cold War was a liberal cause, I doubt that that is true without VERY severe qualifications. In the first place, most liberals, outside the Truman Administration, were slow to get on board containment until 1948. Their enthusiasm for it, such as it was, clearly ebbed after the 1950s and in my opinion they were already softening in the late 1950s, although, at that point, there were many individual exceptions. After the 1960s, they were clearly not on the side of a strong stance, or perhaps any, in the Cold War. To the extent the neocons were simply liberals, they were, after all refugees driven out of a Democratic party dominated by the newer type of liberals and leftists. I also think they should not be given excessive credit for the Reagan era successes. They were on the right side, to be sure, but that administration was dominated by standard-issue Republicans, not neocons.

Am also surprised that you would cite the Kennedys as liberal anti-Communists. In the 1950s, they were not liberals, but rather conservative for northern Democrats. The father was a notorious isolationist fanatic who had advocated abandoning most of the world to Stalin in 1950. JFK’s policies as President were rather weaker than Ike’s; and Bobby wound up comparing American actions in Vietnam to the Nazi treatment of Jews, With “anti-Communists” like that, the Communists hardly needed friends,

LA replies:

In fact, your summary is not different from the view I outlined. You say that liberals did not get on board containment until 1948; well, my gosh, Alan, the Cold War only began in 1947. Then you say that after the 1960s the liberals were not on the side of a strong stance; but that’s what I said too. So I don’t see what you’re disagreeing with me about.

As for the Kennedys, don’t you know that JFK rejected his father’s isolationism and believed in strong engagement? JFK’s main intellectual influence was Churchill, not Joseph Kennedy. I’m surprised that you would not know that. Joseph Kennedy was also anti-Semitic. JFK was of a different generation and rejected all that.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 19, 2008 09:39 PM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):