Hendrik Hertzberg (born 1943) is an American liberal[1] journalist, best known as the principal political commentator for The New Yorker magazine. He has also been a speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter and editor of The New Republic, and is the author of ¡Obámanos! The Rise of a New Political Era and Politics: Observations & Arguments. In 2009, Forbes named Hertzberg one of the "25 Most Influential Liberals in the U.S. Media," placing him at number seventeen.[2]

Background and education

Hertzberg was born in Manhattan, New York City, the son of Hazel Manross (née Whitman), a professor of history and education at Columbia University, and Sidney Hertzberg, a journalist and political activist.[3][4] His father was Jewish (and had become an atheist); his mother was a Quaker with a Congregationalist background, and of English descent.[5][6] Hertzberg was educated in the public schools of Rockland County, New York, and Harvard College, from which he graduated in 1965.[7]


Early years

Hertzberg graduated from Suffern High School in Suffern, New York, after a semester as an exchange student in Toulouse, France.[8]

He began his writing career at The Harvard Crimson and eventually served as managing editor including writing on local and national politics. In addition, he was president of the Liberal Union, had a jazz program on WHRB, and belonged to the Signet Society.[citation needed] Consumed by his Crimson duties, Hertzberg landed on academic probation for a semester, which required him to withdraw from all extracurricular activities. He managed to continue to write Crimson pieces anyway, under the pseudonym Sidney Hart.

William Shawn, the editor of the New Yorker, invited Hertzberg to talk about writing for the magazine. Shawn was familiar with Hertzberg's writing because his son—the actor Wallace Shawn—was a classmate of Hertzberg's at Harvard.[9][10] Hertzberg declined the invitation and after graduating from Harvard in 1965 he took a draft-deferred position as editorial director for the U.S. National Student Association. The following year he joined the San Francisco bureau of Newsweek as a reporter. Hertzberg covered the rise of the hippies, the emergence of rock groups such as the Grateful Dead, Ronald Reagan's successful campaign for governor of California, and The Beatles' last concert.[citation needed]

In 1967 he enlisted in the United States Navy and became an officer posted in New York City. By late 1968 due to his growing opposition to the Vietnam War he requested conscientious-objector status, which was denied. He was discharged at the end of his commitment in 1969.[citation needed] From 1969 to 1977 Hertzberg was a staff writer for the New Yorker;[11] Spy magazine characterized him during this period of his career as a "lothario." [12]


During the 1976 election, Hertzberg wrote speeches for Governor Hugh Carey of New York. After the election, he was recruited to join Carter's speech writing team by James Fallows. After Fallows departed in 1979, Hertzberg became Carter's chief speechwriter. Hertzberg was an author of President Jimmy Carter's July 15, 1979, speech on energy conservation, widely known as the "Malaise Speech"[13] and critiqued as one of the most ineffective pieces of political rhetoric in American history.[14][15] The reaction by some Americans, who were suffering from high unemployment and an American industrial economy in severe recession,[16] was that President Carter blamed them for the economic problems they were facing when they believed that Carter himself was ineffective in alleviating the recession.[17][18] Others, however, point out that calls and letters to the White House were overwhelmingly positive, and that Carter's approval rating in polls climbed 11 points.[17] Vice President Walter Mondale predicted that the speech would not be well received.[19] Hertzberg's personal favorite speech is Carter's farewell address of January 14, 1981.[20] It opens with Carter declaring that he leaves the White House "to take up once more the only title in our democracy superior to that of President, the title of citizen."[21]

As a liberal author,[1] he also expostulates on the necessity of humanism and secularism in democratic societies and critiques the Conservative Revolution. Hertzberg believes that America’s system of winner-take-all elections, federalism, and separation of powers is out of date and damaging to political responsibility and democratic accountability.

Hertzberg is a frequent guest on television programs, such as Democracy Now!.[22] In 2004, Hertzberg contributed $2,000 to John Kerry.[23]

Later career

Hertzberg was twice editor of The New Republic, from 1981 to 1985 and then from 1989 to 1992, alternating in that job with Michael Kinsley. In between his stints as editor he wrote for that and other magazines and was a fellow at two institutes at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government: the Institute of Politics and the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy. Under his editorship The New Republic twice won the National Magazine Award for General Excellence, the magazine world’s highest honor.[citation needed]

In 1992, when Tina Brown became editor of The New Yorker, she recruited Hertzberg as her executive editor, and he helped her redesign and revitalize the magazine. Under Brown's successor, David Remnick, Hertzberg is a senior editor and staff writer and is a main contributor to "Comment," the weekly essay on politics and society in "The Talk of the Town." In 2006, his articles won The New Yorker a National Magazine Award for Columns and Commentary.[citation needed] Since 1995, has been a board member of FairVote, an electoral reform organization.[24]



  • Hertzberg, Hendrik (2004). Politics : observations and arguments, 1966-2004. New York: Penguin Press. 
  • — (2009). ¡Obámanos! : the birth of a new political era. New York: Penguin Press. 


Personal life

Hertzberg is married to Virginia Cannon, a former Vanity Fair editor and a current New Yorker editor. They have a son, Wolf.


  1. ^ a b Granick, Jennifer and Sprigman, Christopher (2013-06-27) The Criminal N.S.A., The New York Times
  2. ^ Tunku Varadarajan; Elisabeth Eaves; Hana R. Alberts (January 22, 2009). "25 Most Influential Liberals in the U.S. Media". Forbes. Retrieved August 18, 2009. 
  3. ^ "Hazel Hertzberg, 70, Professor and Author". The New York Times. 21 October 1988. 
  4. ^ "HAZEL WHITMAN WED TO SIDNEY HERTZBERG; Has 3 Attendants at Flatbnsh Congregational Church". The New York Times. 26 August 1941. 
  5. ^ New, The. "Ask the Author Live: Hendrik Hertzberg". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2014-06-20. 
  6. ^ New, The. "Ask the Author Live: Hendrik Hertzberg on Obama and Israel". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2014-06-20. 
  7. ^ "Hendrik Hertzberg '65: From Crimson Managing Editor to New Yorker Journalist". The Harvard Crimson. 24 May 2015. 
  8. ^ "Pullquote: Hertzberg of the New Yorker Harvard Magazine Jan-Feb 2003". Pullquote.com. Retrieved 2014-06-20. 
  9. ^ "Politics: Observations and Arguments, 1966-2004". Booknotes. 2004-10-10. Retrieved 2014-06-20. 
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ New Yorker bio of Hendrik Hertzberg
  12. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=MBsraeHJRB4C&pg=PA112&dq=hertzberg+lothario&hl=en&sa=X&ei=7PGcVbuhLYzh-QHW4qjABQ&ved=0CBQQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=hertzberg%20lothario&f=false
  13. ^ Zakaria, Fareed (January 18, 2009). "What Will Obama Say in Inaugural Address?; Obama's Plan for U.S. Economy (transcript)". Fareed Zakaria GPS. CNN. Retrieved 2014-07-11. 
  14. ^ Daniel Dale. "The worst speech of all time," TheStar.com "This is a speech I consider one of the worst speeches in the history of the presidency," says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. "There are many pedestrian speeches. You can say, `Well, they're just bad speeches.' No, they're pedestrian speeches; they're not bad, they're just ordinary. This speech actually has serious inherent rhetorical failures. Usually speechwriters protect a president from that."
  15. ^ "Malaise or Maligned? Jimmy Carter’s Address to the Nation on July 15, 1979 " by Elvin T. Lim Department of Political Science University of Tulsa Prepared for delivery at the 2005 Meeting of the Western Political Science Association, March 16 – 19, Oakland, California. "President Jimmy Carter’s “Energy and National Goals Address to the Nation” on July 15, 1979, better known as infamous “malaise” speech
  16. ^ "FED UP: The Federal Reserve must lower interest rates now to avoid a recession, rising unemployment". Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved 2014-06-20. 
  17. ^ a b Mattson, Kevin. "Why Jimmy Carter's Malaise Speech Is More Relevant than Ever". History News Network. Retrieved 2014-06-20. 
  18. ^ Tracinski, Robert (Jul 27, 2004). "34 Months vs. 444 Days: There Jimmy Carter Goes Again, Blaming America for His Failures". The Intellectual Activist. Retrieved 2014-07-11. 
  19. ^ "Carter's "Crisis of Confidence" Speech". American Experience. PBS. Retrieved 2014-06-20. Others in the administration, led by Vice President Walter Mondale, strongly disagreed. 'I argued that there were real problems in America that were not mysterious, that were not rooted in some kind of national psychosis or breakdown, that there were real gas lines, there was real inflation, that people were worried in their real lives about keeping their jobs' 
  20. ^ "Hertzberg of the New Yorker Harvard Magazine Jan-Feb 2003". Harvardmagazine.com. Retrieved 2014-06-20. 
  21. ^ President Jimmy Carter's Farewell Address, January 14, 1981
  22. ^ "As Two Leaders of the Jewish Defense League Are Arrested for Plotting to Bomb a Los Angelesmosque and An Arsonist Hits the Arab American Action Network, a Debate On Media Coverage of the Middle East". 2010-09-21. 
  23. ^ Dedman, Bill (15 July 2007). "The list: Journalists who wrote political checks". MSNBC. Retrieved 24 October 2010. 
  24. ^ FairVote bio of Hendrik Hertzberg

External links