Norman Podhoretz Attacked as 'Embittered, Paranoid Crank' in Sunday Book Review

Conservative legend Norman Podhoretz's thoughts are the "intemperate rantings" of "an embittered, paranoid crank," according to Damon Linker, an unidentified liberal writer who was given two books on Podhoretz to review.

Reviewing two books on conservative icon and Commentary magazine founder Norman Podhoretz ("Norman Podhoretz: A Biography" and "Running Commentary") the Times stacked the deck by turning to Damon Linker, a former conservative, to unleash an extreme and unprofessionally personal and harsh attack on Podhoretz, who today's angry left can never forgive for being a "neocon" supporter of the war in Iraq.

Linker writes a blog for the liberal New Republic magazine and penned a book called "The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege." Yet the Times left out those impressive liberal credentials in favor of a blander bio under his contribution to the Times Sunday Book Review:

Damon Linker teaches writing at the University of Pennsylvania. His new book, 'The Religious Test: Why We Must Question the Beliefs of Our Leaders,' will be published in the fall."

Linker expected all sane people to be appalled by Podhoretz's call to be ready to attack countries hostile to the United States, and for thinking Sarah Palin would make a fine president.

By 2002, Podhoretz had moved so far right that he thought George W. Bush's bellicose response to the 9/11 attacks was merely a good start; in addition to attacking all three members of Bush's "axis of evil" (Iraq, Iran and North Korea), Podhoretz insisted that the United States needed to prepare for military assaults on Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Libya. Today he believes Sarah Palin would make a perfectly fine president.

How could a once thoughtful man spend the past 40 years transforming himself into a commissar? In his 1979 memoir, "Breaking Ranks," Podhoretz himself described his initial lurch to the right as a perfectly sensible reaction to the excesses of the counterculture, the rise of a black power movement tainted by anti-Semitism, the descent of the antiwar movement into nihilistic violence and the Democratic Party's embrace of left-wing isolationism in 1972.


Podhoretz wasn't wrong to sense a certain nobility in standing up for "one's own." Yet his self-defense, to the exclusion of other human values, be they moral, literary or intellectual, has come at a cost. Today Commentary regularly publishes essays that sound, in Balint's apt words, "like speeches intended to buck up the troops or self-congratulatory sermons to the faithful." As for Podhoretz himself, he has grown so intolerant of criticism and dissent, so terrified of impending doom at the hands of militant Muslims, and so furious with his fellow Jews that his intemperate rantings are dismissed by all but his neoconservative progeny. The Brownsville wunderkind has ended up an embittered, paranoid crank, standing by and for himself alone.

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