The Last Conservative

In the wake of Irving Kristol's death, columnists wax nostalgic for the intellectual conservatism he championed

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Last week, Irving Kristol, the "godfather of neoconservatism," died at the age of 89. Now, a few columnists are wondering if intellectual conservatism — which lies at the opposite pole from Glenn Beck's right-wing diatribes — went to the grave with him. "Three cheers" for Irving Kristol, the "irreplaceable," man of ideas.

  • Irving Kristol, Renaissance Man. At The New York Times, David Brooks says Kristol was a clear and critical thinker in the "fanatical century" in which he lived. "He would champion certain causes. He could arrive at surprising and radical conclusions. He was unabashedly neoconservative. But he also stood apart, and directed his skeptical gaze even on his own positions, and even on the things to which he was most loyal." He calls Kristol, "the most influential contemporary writer in my life."
  • Where Have All the True Conservatives Gone? Michael Lind asks wistfully at Salon. Lind says that in 1965, reading Kristol's magazine, The Public Interest, was heaven on earth. "If you were interested in the scintillant collision of philosophy, politics and policy, bliss was it in that dawn to be alive." He says today's neoconservative hawks are a poor substitute for the thoughtful conservatism of  Kristol's generation.
The sins of the sons should not be visited upon the fathers. I hope that, in the judgment of history, the "paleoliberal" neoconservatism of the 1970s will overshadow the crude, militaristic neoconservatism of the 1990s and 2000s. For two decades, between the Johnson years and the Reagan years, neoconservatism really was the vital center that Arthur Schlesinger had called for in the late 1940s. A robust new liberalism, if there is to be one in the aftermath of the opportunistic triangulations of Clinton and Obama, cannot leapfrog back to the Progressives or New Dealers, but must begin closer to home, with the early neoconservatives, who had learned from the failures and mistakes as well as the successes of the Progressive Era, the New Deal and the Great Society.
  • The Intellectual Who Cared Whether His Ideas Worked in the Real World, declares Monica Charen at The National Review. "Because he actually did care about ordinary people and their welfare, Kristol became one of capitalism's great apologists. Capitalism had eased more misery and engendered more comfort than any other system in world history, he pointed out (and he knew his world history)."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.