Nepotistic tough guys and their coddling parents

Our nation's self-reliant neoconservative tough-guy warriors have their careers created for them by their moms and dads.

By Glenn Greenwald

Published October 16, 2007 7:55PM (EDT)

(updated below)

David Frum -- the neoconservative Guiliani foreign policy advisor -- today announced the exciting news that neoconservative genocide advocate and Giuliani supporter John Podhoretz was taking over Commentary Magazine, the pro-war neoconservative journal of Podhoertz's dad: neoconservative war supporter and Giuliani foreign policy advisor Norman Podhoretz. Andrew Sullivan noted the news and said:

Conservative Meritocracy Survives

JPod, son of NPod, to edit Commentary. Bill, son of Irving, edits The Weekly Standard. Jonah, son of Lucianne, got to edit NRO. Thank God we left the country-club Republicans behind.

Andrew neglected to mention the sprawling Kagan family -- whose neoconservative patriarch, Donald ("a beloved father figure of the ascendant neoconservative movement") has spawned warmonger Robert Kagan (PNAC co-founder with Bill Kristol), and Fred Kagan (Bill Kristol co-author, AEI "Scholar," Surge architect and co-writer of a war-mongering book with his dad). They're now joined by Fred's wife, war supporter Kimberly Kagan, frequently found in The Weekly Standard explaining how her husband's Surge strategy means We're Winning.

Bill Kristol's mom is Gertrude Himmelfarb, long-time neoconservative heroine for her brave advocacy of Victorian virtues. And John Podhoretz's mom, Midge Decter, previously worked at Podhoretz's Commentary and has written a whole slew of neoconservative screeds, including The New Chastity and Other Arguments Against Women's Liberation and the satire-proof Donald Rumsfeld: A Personal Portrait -- which, for oozing iconic worship, competes only with her son's Bush Country: How George W. Bush Became the First Great Leader of the 21st Century. And on and on and on.

I wrote about this topic once before in some detail and the reasons why it is so relevant to their war-mongering radicalism, so I won't repeat the arguments here, but it really is endlessly striking -- and revealing -- just how nepotistic the neoconservative tough-guy faction is. It's worth noting here again both because of its ultimate expression today -- the faithful son John taking over his dad's war-mongering magazine -- and also because this topic actually relates quite closely to the theme of this morning's post regarding the advocacy by the "conservative" National Review Editors of ever-increasing, unchecked power in the hands of the Federal Government.

Just as the NR Editors could not be any further away from their alleged "political principles" with what they actually advocate, so, too, are our neoconservative tough guys the very opposite of those virtues they claim to embody. Their whole movement is based on endless sermons about warrior virtues, self-reliance, toughness, courage and the like -- and yet a huge bulk of them, and virtually all of the most influential ones, never leave the safe and protective sides of their moms and dads.

They faithfully follow in their footprints without wavering -- not only having their careers built for them by their parents and their parents' friends but also never deviating even slightly from the extremist political views that their parents raised them to spout. They are coddled, protected, sheltered recipients of endless nepotistic, parental largesse who never tire of sermonizing to the world about the necessities of self-sufficiency and meritocracies and whose entire world-view is driven by the insatiable quest to send other people off to one war after the next -- all while they insist to the world how their war advocacy shows how tough, resolute, and willful they are, self-glorifying announcements they make from positions arranged for them by their moms and dads.

UPDATE: The Editor of Jonah Goldberg's allegedly forthcoming book, Liberal Fascism, is Doubleday's Adam Bellow, who has worked in the publishing industry his entire career as the son of accomplished author Saul Bellow. Several years ago, Adam himself wrote a book: In Praise of Nepotism: A History of Family Enterprise from King David to George W. Bush. In it, according to a New York Magazine review, he "sees the American meritocracy itself becoming increasingly nepotistic and inbred, a development he greets with --typically mild -- applause."

In 2005, Bellow wrote a defense of the virtues of nepotism and cronyism for National Review, and in it, he praised a similar defense of cronyism by Goldberg, who -- also in National Review --ventured that "someone needs to say something in defense of cronyism" and, appropriately enough, volunteered himself: "what we call cronyism is a fixture of the human condition and therefore a permanent feature of politics, which is not always bad."

Goldberg, of course, was foisted on the nation by his mom during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, when she milked the attention she received as Linda Tripp's cohort to push Jonah into the spotlight and into publishing, where he has remained ever since. At the time, Jonah, 29, was "vice-president" of his mom's company. But through his mom's hard work exploiting their joint dirt-mongering in that scandal, he quickly became a National Review Editor. As recorded by this superb and darkly amusing 1998 Salon profile, entitled "The Jester of Monicagate: How Lucianne Goldberg's son Jonah has turned his 15 minutes of fame into a full-time job":

Jonah, agent fatale Lucianne Goldberg's 29-year-old son, entered the national stage when he listened to the Linda Tripp tapes with his mom. . . . .

From an early age, his mother, who has acknowledged being an undercover Republican political operative during the McGovern campaign, exposed her son to feisty right-wing hi-jinks -- and instilled in him a strong sense of family loyalty and affection. Indeed, Goldberg says he first entered the media fray "to defend my mom" from those who deemed her the money-grubbing Wicked Witch of the Upper West Side.

National Review, like Jonah, hates "handouts," believes strongly in the glorious virtues of self-sufficiency and pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps (and, apparently, by one's unsevered umbilical cords); demands meritocratic policies; and is filled with spine-stiffening courage and toughness. They're the people who hate affirmative action because of how "unfair" and "un-meritocratic" it is, but who thrive on legacy admissions to college and have their moms and dads get them jobs and make their careers.

As the National Review essay -- cited in my prior post -- declared in identifying the defining attributes of the Right: this is a political movement filled with "rugged individualists who don't know their place: entrepreneurs who build mighty businesses out of nothing, settlers who move out West and, of course, the cowboy. There is a frontier spirit to the Right."

Glenn Greenwald

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