In a blog post yesterday, New Yorker writer and editor Hendrik Hertzberg, who admits to knowing me for decades, starts by saying that I am “disliked by many on the left,” which is putting it mildly. But it is nice to know that despite all of my numerous heresies, Hertzbgerg still retains a “persistent soft spot” for me. The feeling is mutual.
For his readers’ benefit, he goes through my checkered past, noting my stint as a Communist in my high school and college years (anyone interested can buy my memoir, Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left, and the Leftover Left, and read my own account) through my sojourn as a social-democrat and my current stance, which I prefer to say is that of an independent conservative centrist, who calls things as I see them without worrying about labels. I’ll leave that to other people. And yes, Hertzberg writes, “It would not be entirely wrong to call him a neoconservative.” I take that as a compliment.
He continues to praise me for not being “an off-the-shelf right-winger.” That too is accurate; I haven’t been shy about criticizing many on the political right when I think they are wrong. It is also true that I acknowledge the difference between European social democracies and the advocates of totalitarian socialism and believe that the United States can cooperate in foreign affairs with moderate social democracies. But in terms of social policy, I argue that what Hertzberg ignores are the serious shortcomings of these states, whose inflated budgets are collapsing all through Europe and leading their governments into bankruptcy. The promise of social democracy as an alternative has fallen on hard times.
But Hertzberg goes on to say I have “undeniably fallen into bad company,” that being primarily PJ Media and also my evident sin of writing for the Weekly Standard and Commentary. Somehow, Hertzberg neglects the flagship conservative magazine, National Review, for which I have written many articles and reviews. I don’t know if he would consider the Wall Street Journal “bad company” since I’ve written for them too. I am proud of all of my articles and reviews, and would not change a word of what I have written for any of these publications.
If I have fallen into this bad company, it is because other outlets in the so-called MSM somehow refuse to publish my articles and reviews. I do not think these articles are so far out that a credible open-minded magazine would not be able to run them, but somehow, that is not how their editors feel. I wish Hertzberg would look over some of these pieces. Even if it turns out he agrees with any of them, would he have let them into the New Yorker? To ask that question is to answer it.
What he leaves out is important. He praises me for knowing that “Joseph McCarthy was a liar and a scoundrel.” Indeed, that is my view. But he does not tell his readers that the most recent article I wrote reiterating that argument appeared in … National Review, the very magazine that at the time of Joe McCarthy’s influence supported him wholeheartedly! Writing soon after in the New York Times Book Review, David Oshinsky called my review of M. Stanton Evans’ recent book on McCarthy “devastating.”