Taki Taki

High Life | 26 September 2009

Political hoaxes

New York

Irving Kristol, who died last week, was generally seen as the father of neoconservatism, a non-existent concept in Europe where we’re steeped in more traditional and less opportunistic politics. I once sat with him at a dinner in honour of William Buckley given by Drue Heinz in her east side townhouse. We were four: Kristol and his wife, Teresa Manners, as she was back then, and yours truly. Kristol was pleasant and fun to talk to. He was particularly intrigued by the fact that Lady Teresa’s old man was a duke and that Belvoir Castle was pronounced Beaver. One thing I noticed was that the old boy did not know how to eat properly. I found that interesting. Perhaps Kristol wished to retain a certain proletarian connection with his Trotskyite past. Never mind. He was civil when Teresa asked him what he thought of a certain rock band.

Kristol believed that neoconservatism reached out beyond the traditional political base, thus making the idea of conservatism more acceptable to voters. In this I beg to differ. Neoconservatism is a hoax, like being just a little bit pregnant. Its heroes include FDR, a major criminal in my book, and exclude Calvin Coolidge and Dwight Eisenhower, the models of what a president should be, unobtrusive, distant and non-meddling.

Kristol was one of those eagle-eyed types who recognised political trends while the rest of us were out whistling Dixie. They saw the curves before we did. And shifted their allegiance accordingly. Nothing wrong with that, as there’s nothing wrong with opportunism, either, except that it lacks originality.

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