Podhoretz, John 1961–
Podhoretz, John 1961–
CAREER: Journalist and author. Speechwriter for U.S. President Ronald Reagan, 1988; special assistant to William Bennett, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Washington, DC, 1989; Weekly Standard, Washington, DC, cofounder and deputy director, 1995–97, contributing editor, 1997–; New York Post, New York, NY, associate editor, 1997–2000, columnist, 2000–; Fox News Channel, contributor, 1997–. White House Writers Group (corporate speechwriting and public relations firm), Washington, DC, cofounder; worked as a researcher and reporter for Time magazine; consultant to West Wing (television series); ReganBooks, consulting editor.
AWARDS, HONORS: Media fellow, Hoover Institution, 1997.
Hell of a Ride: Backstage at the White House Follies, 1989–1993, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1993.
(Editor) A Passion for Truth: The Selected Writings of Eric Breindel, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.
Bush Country: How Dubya Became a Great President while Driving Liberals Insane, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributing writer for Washington Times, Insight (television magazine), and U.S. News and World Report. National Review Online, columnist.
SIDELIGHTS: Journalist John Podhoretz has written for a number of publications as well as for political figures. His first book, Hell of a Ride: Backstage at the White House Follies, 1989–1993, is a study of the presidency of George H. W. Bush. James Fallows reviewed the publication for the Washington Monthly, calling it "a terrific book, which almost anyone interested in politics will enjoy reading. It clarifies aspects of the Bush years that had seemed to be inexplicable quirks, and it provides hilarious new il-lustrations for timeless truths of political and governmental life." Fallows noted that Podhoretz presents Bush as "a man so completely absorbed in his own drama of success, failure, and popularity that he could barely notice anything else," and added that "the book has barely a good word to say" about George H. W. Bush's term in office, "except of course for the successful coordination of the war against [then-Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein."
Mona Charen reviewed Hell of a Ride for National Review, noting that true Reaganites bristled at the phrase "Reagan-Bush Administrations" because "it was an article of faith among conservatives that the chasm between the policies of Presidents Reagan and Bush could hardly have been larger had Mr. Bush been a Democrat." Podhoretz "hammers this point home with wicked intensity," Charen added, concluding that "the Podhoretz retelling is sharp, insightful, and very funny. But for some of us, it is still too painful to laugh."
With startup money provided by telecommunications mogul Rupert Murdoch, Podhoretz launched the conservative journal of opinion, the Weekly Standard together with Fred Barnes and Republican commentator William Kristol. He remained for only two years, after which the editorship passed to Kristol. Podhoretz went on to become editorial page editor, then a columnist, for another Murdoch enterprise, the New York Post.
The young journalist was recommended for his position as editor of the New York Post editorial page by its previous editor, the legendary Eric Breindel. Breindel, who died suddenly in 1998, had served as editorial page editor for ten years, and his columns covered every aspect of politics and culture, including racism and Judaism. Podhoretz honored his mentor with A Passion for Truth: The Selected Writings of Eric Breindel. Ruth R. Wisse wrote in Commentary that "this book reminds us of the toughness behind [Breindel's] diffident bearing, the moral stamina behind the aura of fragility. He succumbed only to illness, never to weakness. The traditional phrase, may his memory be for a blessing, is fulfilled by this testament to his mind and heart."
The second Bush administration is the subject of Podhoretz's Bush Country: How Dubya Became a Great President while Driving Liberals Insane. He refutes such Bush critics as Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd, Michael Lind, Todd Gitlin, and others, and the "crazy liberal ideas" that George W. Bush is a "dictatorial moron," "liar," "cowboy," and "religious fanatic." Podhoretz argues that Bush is "the best presidential speaker" since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and that he is honest, intelligent, and principled.
A Publishers Weekly contributor called the book "polemical, written for a specific niche: conservative political junkies who relish cutthroat partisan politics. Considered in this light, the book is well done." However, Erich Eichman wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Bush Country is more than a defense of the president. "It is an attempt to turn the liberal critique of conservative 'stupidity' … against the liberals themselves, showing their judgments to be as crudely stupid as anything a right-wing radio host has ever uttered. And it aims to turn back the arguments of ertswhile Bush allies, who now blame [the president] … for betraying conservative principles for political gain."
Bush Country includes answers to liberal criticism that will be useful to Bush supporters faced with accusations that Bush has slashed funding of domestic programs, failed as a global citizen, or failed in his approach to terrorism. Commentary contributor Josh Chafetz wrote that Podhoretz "does a superb job—a much better job than the administration itself has done—explaining how Iraq fits into the broader war on terror. He sees clearly that we are faced with an enemy whose 'intent is to kill on an unimaginable scale, to tear at the heart of the country, to cripple us emotionally and scar us psychically in ways from which we could never recover.' And he understands that defeating this kind of enemy requires a new strategic doctrine and a new way of understanding our relationship with other nations."
"Bush Country is a fun read, filled with telling political observations," commented a Weekly Standard reviewer. "But Podhoretz is willing as well to shift away from politics and consider the broader, world-historical picture…. The combination of immediate political smarts and longer-term understanding studs Bush Country with moments of real insight into our current situation."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Spectator, January, 1994, Richard Brookhiser, review of Hell of a Ride: Backstage at the White House Follies, 1989–1993, p. 56.
Booklist, February 1, 2004, Gilbert Taylor, review of Bush Country: How Dubya Became a Great President while Driving Liberals Insane, p. 930.
Commentary, December, 1993, Suzanne Garment, review of Hell of a Ride, p. 54; May, 1999, Ruth R. Wisse, review of A Passion for Truth: The Selected Writings of Eric Breindel, p. 70; April, 2004, Josh Chafetz, review of Bush Country, p. 61.
National Review, December 27, 1993, Mona Charen, review of Hell of a Ride, p. 63.
New York Magazine, January 5, 1998, Hanna Rosin, "Oedipus and Podhoretz."
Publishers Weekly, February 16, 2004, review of Bush Country, p. 167.
Time, May 15, 1995, Margaret Carlson, "The Standard," p. 66.
Wall Street Journal, February 27, 2004, Erich Eichman, review of Bush Country, p. W9.
Washington Monthly, September, 1993, James Fallows, review of Hell of a Ride, p. 43.
Weekly Standard, February 23, 2004, review of Bush Country, p. 47.
Wilson Quarterly, winter, 1994, review of Hell of a Ride, p. 95.
Right Web, http://rightweb.ir-online.org/ (April 23, 2004), "John Podhoretz."