The Godfather Of Rovism

George Packer remembers Irving Kristol's contribution to the GOP:

As the years go by, Kristol’s prose becomes less supple, less complex, more combative, and less persuasive. His animus against the “new class”essentially, do-gooding liberal IrvingKristol “elites”grows so malignant that it overwhelms his sense of proportion, as if the greatest force for evil in America is a seventh-grade social-studies teacher. A philosophical inquiry into the role of values in modern, liberal society gradually turns into a culture war, a crusade against liberals themselvesthe true, internal “enemy” in what he calls “my cold war,” “the real cold war.” The successes of the Reagan revolution only intensify this narrowing and hardening of thought into ideology. Kristol converts to supply-side economics, turns against governmental reform altogether, and forgets the lessons of his close friend and colleague Daniel Bell’s great book “The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism”: that the most destructive threat to bourgeois morality is bourgeois capitalism. By the nineteen-nineties, Kristol’s neoconservatism has settled into ordinary conservatism, which allows no room for contradictions, cultural or otherwise.

Eventually, Kristol’s quest for a source of transcendent values in modern society leads him to  champion the Christian right, which he calls “the very core of an emerging American conservatism,” and talk-radio populism, which he calls “the ‘last, best hope’ of contemporary conservatism.” If this is a strange destination for an intellectually distinguished Jewish alumnus of Alcove No. 1, it shows what can happen when a brilliant mind settles on merely partisan political answers to philosophical questions. It suggests that political victory can be just as debilitating as political defeat. And it brings to its present end the story of how intellectual conservatism rose and fell.