jimsleeper.com » Barry Gewen: Not-so-closeted neo-con?

Barry Gewen: Not-so-closeted neo-con?

Talking Points Memo Cafe 

Neo-cons, Rising Again? 

By Jim Sleeper – February 18, 2009, 9:50AM 

Blogging at the New York Times under the title “Neoconservatism Lives!”, Times Book Review deputy editor Barry Gewen touts Times regular reviewer Jacob Heilbrunn’s latest suggestion — this time in The American Conservative magazine — that neo-cons are rising again.  

Gewen isn’t only being provocative, although, Lord knows, he tries. He actually likes the idea: “The Iraq war was never a partisan affair,” he explains, adding that “Many prominent Democrats and liberals like Christopher Hitchens, Paul Berman and George Packer supported it.” Gewen neglects to mention that he supported it, too, along with his boss Sam Tanenhaus and most of the political reviews they published, as I showed here and in The Nation.  

And how are Times Book Review readers responding? Click here and enjoy the storm of anger and derision that Gewen wound up provoking.  

Readers aren’t impressed by his claim that, just like neo-cons, Hitchens, Berman, Packer and others “wanted to promote democracy in the Middle East.” Nobody’s impressed by Gewen’s unsubtle hint that we should all be together on the Iraq venture because he once asked David Brooks and Paul Berman “what difference there was in their positions on Iraq” and “they agreed that there wasn’t any.”  

Gewen is sanguine about Heilbrunn’s suggestion that neo-cons may insinuate themselves back into power thanks to a recent report on possible American responses to genocide — co-authored by Hillary Clinton’s friend and predecessor Madeline Albright — that Heilbrunn calls “essentially a stalking horse for liberal intervention. It would create a permanent bureaucracy with a vested interest in insisting upon armed interventionism whenever and wherever the U.S. pleases….”  

The American Conservative magazine published Heilbrunn’s warning, not to cheer what he’d written but to alert readers to the threat coming from neo-cons, whom many conservatives would like to defeat, for good reasons like those I sketched recently here and in openDemocracy. American Conservative editor Scott McConnell actually endorsed John Kerry in 2004, warning that four more years of George W. Bush would leave the conservative movement exactly where those four years have left it. In 2008, McConnell, horrified by neo-cons’ battening onto John McCain’s campaign, actually canvassed for the Obama in Virginia. 

The New York Times Book Review was and is far less horrified than The American Conservative, as Gewen reminds us by spinning Heilbrunn’s warning as far as possible from its author’s actual intent and from McConnell’s brave responses as an editor and citizen. But now Gewen’s own commenters are reminding us what neo-cons are worth to many of his and the Book Review’s long-suffering readers. Really, you’ve got to click on to the piece and scroll down to the comments.  

And when more people become acquainted with Barry Gewen’s long campaign, which he’s been conducting in the Times and the World Affairs Journal, to get readers to join him and Alan Dershowitz in thinking the unthinkable about torture, his influence — not on rigorous and necessary thinking, but on the selection and assignment of political books at the Book Review — will come into more chilling focus.