May 2, 2005

LET'S SEE HIM EAT 50 HARD-BOILED EGGS:

OUR OWN COOL HAND LUKE (Charles Krauthammer, April 29, 2005, Washington Post)

On Monday, April 25, the Public Interest passed away at the ripe old age -- for a quarterly journal of public policy -- of 40. It was a peaceful death, almost serene. Irving Kristol, co-founder and co-editor throughout its life, presided at the interment, a small dinner of past contributors and friends of the magazine.

He presided the same way that he presided over the magazine's life: with self-deprecation, sobriety and no fanfare. Magazines are not meant to live forever, said Kristol. New generations bring new ideas, and besides, the very idea of a quarterly magazine may no longer have a place in a time of such ferociously fast information flow. It had been a good run.

Kristol was being characteristically modest. For 40 years the Public Interest has been perhaps the finest scholarly magazine in America and, in relation to its small and exclusive circulation, surely the most influential. Heavy on empirical data, short on polemics and always lively, it challenged conventional wisdom on all the great domestic issues of our time: welfare, crime, dependency, automation, poverty, inequality, pornography and more.

It gathered around it a remarkable constellation of writers. The cover of the first issue, reprinted in the current and last issue, features articles by Kristol, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Robert Solow (a future Nobel Prize winner in economics), Jacques Barzun, Daniel Bell and Nathan Glazer. By the third issue they had added Milton Friedman, James Q. Wilson and Peter Drucker. For 40 years, an all-star team of social thinkers tilted at windmills and, unlike most brainy journals, knocked them down. The magazine's increasingly neoconservative bent over the years quietly shaped, and then came to dominate, political discourse in America.

This was due to many people but above all to its guiding editor. Kristol's influence and intellect and importance to the political history of our time are well known. The most remarkable and least known thing about him, however, is his temperament. He is a man of unique equanimity. His preternaturally even temperament betrays not a hint of angst, bitterness or anguish. He is not a happy warrior, just a calm and confident one; not Hubert Humphrey, but Cool Hand Luke.


We're fans too, but the implicit comparison of Mr. Kristol to Christ seems excessive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 2, 2005 10:00 AM
Comments

I want to know who had the Joy Harmon role at The Public Interest...

Posted by: John at May 2, 2005 12:16 PM

too subtle for this Jewish Boy.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at May 2, 2005 1:25 PM

That Barzun mention reminds me that I haven't had my book sent from the Frenchman contest.

Come on oj, I know you left the house at passover.

Posted by: Matt C at May 2, 2005 2:06 PM

It's in the To Mail pile. I need to get the bubble mailing envelopes...

Posted by: oj at May 2, 2005 2:18 PM
« HEY YOU, STAY OUT OF MY REALITY | Main | THEY GAVE US THE BOOM, BUT WHAT ARE WE DOING WITH IT?: »