Norman Podhoretz (/pɒdˈhɔːrɪts/; born January 16, 1930) is an American neoconservative pundit and writer for Commentary magazine.[1][2]

Early life

The son of Julius and Helen (Woliner) Podhoretz,[3] Jewish immigrants[4] from the Central European region of Galicia (then part of Poland, now Ukraine),[5] Podhoretz was born and raised in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Podhoretz's family was leftist, with his elder sister joining a socialist youth movement. He skipped two grades and attended the prestigious Boys High School in the borough's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, ultimately graduating third in his class in 1946; his classmates included the prominent Assyriologist William W. Hallo and advertising executive Carl Spielvogel. Following his admission to Harvard University and New York University with partial tuition scholarships, Podhoretz ultimately elected to attend Columbia University when he was granted a full Pulitzer Scholarship.[6]

In 1950, Podhoretz received his BA degree in English literature from Columbia, where he was mentored by Lionel Trilling. He concurrently earned a second bachelor's degree in Hebrew literature from the nearby Jewish Theological Seminary of America; although Podhoretz never intended to enter the rabbinate, his father (who only attended synagogue on the High Holidays) wanted to ensure that his son was nonetheless conversant in "the intellectual tradition of his people",[6] as "a nonobservant New World Jew who ... treasured the Hebraic tradition".[7]

After being awarded the Kellett Fellowship from Columbia and a Fulbright Scholarship, he later received a second BA in literature with first-class honors and an Oxbridge MA from Clare College, Cambridge, where he briefly pursued doctoral studies after rejecting a graduate fellowship from Harvard. He also served in the United States Army from 1953 to 1955 as a draftee assigned to the Army Security Agency.[8]


Podhoretz served as Commentary magazine's Editor-in-Chief from 1960 (when he replaced Elliot E. Cohen) until his retirement in 1995. Podhoretz remains Commentary's Editor-at-Large. In 1963, he wrote the essay "My Negro Problem – And Ours", in which he described the oppression he felt from African-Americans as a child, and concluded by calling for a color-blind society, and advocated "the wholesale merging of the two races [as] the most desirable alternative for everyone concerned."[9]

From 1981 to 1987, Podhoretz was an adviser to the U.S. Information Agency. From 1995 to 2003, he was a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush in 2004. The award recognized Podhoretz's intellectual contributions as editor-in-chief of Commentary magazine and as a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.[10]

Podhoretz is married to author Midge Decter,[11] and is the father of syndicated columnist and current Commentary editor-in-chief John Podhoretz. He is the stepfather of Ruthie Blum-Leibowitz and the late Rachel Abrams (née Decter, Elliott Abrams' wife).

Norman Podhoretz was one of the original signatories of the "Statement of Principles" of the Project for the New American Century founded in 1997.[12] That organization sent a letter to President Clinton in 1998 advocating the removal by force of Saddam Husein in Iraq.

Podhoretz received the Guardian of Zion Award from Bar-Ilan University on May 24, 2007.

He served as a senior foreign policy advisor to Rudy Giuliani in his 2008 presidential campaign.[13] The same year, he publicly advocated an American attack on Iran.[14]

Podhoretz's 2009 book Why Are Jews Liberals? questions why American Jews for decades have been dependable Democrats, often supporting the party by margins of better than two-to-one, even in years of Republican landslides.[15]

Political views

Initially a staunch liberal, Podhoretz moved Commentary to the left editorially when he took over the magazine. However, he became increasingly critical of the New Left and gradually moved rightward as the 1960s wore on. By the 1970s, he was a leading member of the neoconservative movement.

American history

Podhoretz has downplayed the importance of American history to his political beliefs. When Gore Vidal was writing his play On the March to the Sea, based on General William Tecumseh Sherman's March to the Sea during the U.S. Civil War, Podhoretz asked him:

"Why are you writing a play about, of all things, the Civil War?" When Vidal explained that this was/is "the great, single tragic event that gives resonance to our Republic", Podhoretz replied, "To me, the Civil War is as remote and irrelevant as the War of the Roses".[16]


In the leadup to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Podhoretz argued strongly for military intervention, claiming that Saddam Hussein posed a direct threat to the United States.[17] After the 9/11 attack and more than a year before the start of the War in Iraq, Podhoretz wrote in February 2002 that "There is no doubt that Saddam already possesses large stores of chemical and biological weapons, and may ... be 'on the precipice of nuclear power.' ... Some urge that we ... concentrate on easier targets first. Others contend that the longer we wait, the more dangerous Saddam will grow. Yet whether or not Iraq becomes the second front in the war against terrorism, one thing is certain: there can be no victory in this war if it ends with Saddam Hussein still in power."[18]


In 2007, Podhoretz argued that the United States should attack Iranian nuclear facilities. According to The Sunday Times, Podhoretz believes that "Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran are merely different fronts of the same long war."[19] Podhoretz describes diplomatic efforts with Iran as similar to appeasement of Nazi Germany prior to World War II. He also contends that the War on Terror is a war against Islamofascism, and constitutes World War IV (World War III having been the Cold War), and advocates the bombing of Iran to preempt Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons.[20] His book on that subject, entitled World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, was published by Doubleday on September 11, 2007.

In a more recent article, Podhoretz explicitly stated his view that Iran should be attacked: "In short, the plain and brutal truth is that if Iran is to be prevented from developing a nuclear arsenal, there is no alternative to the actual use of military force."[21] He then went on to consider the consequences of bombing Iran:

The opponents of bombing – not just the usual suspects but many ... who have no illusions about the nature and intentions and potential capabilities of the Iranian regime – disagree that it might end in the overthrow of the mullahcracy. On the contrary, they are certain that all Iranians, even the democratic dissidents, would be impelled to rally around the flag. And this is only one of the worst-case scenarios they envisage. To wit: Iran would retaliate by increasing the trouble it is already making for us in Iraq. It would attack Israel with missiles armed with non-nuclear warheads but possibly containing biological and/or chemical weapons. There would be a vast increase in the price of oil, with catastrophic consequences for every economy in the world, very much including our own. The worldwide outcry against the inevitable civilian casualties would make the anti-Americanism of today look like a love-fest.

I readily admit that it would be foolish to discount any or all of these scenarios. Each of them is, alas, only too plausible. Nevertheless, there is a good response to them, and it is the one given by John McCain. The only thing worse than bombing Iran, McCain has declared, is allowing Iran to get the bomb.[21]


In an editorial to The Wall Street Journal on the sixth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Podhoretz contends that the retreat from Iraq should not be similar to the retreat from Vietnam. He argues that when the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam, it sacrificed its national honor.[22]

In 1982, James Fallows wrote a review of Podhoretz's book, Why We Were in Vietnam, for The New York Times, in which he accuses Podhoretz of "changing his views" and "self-righteousness" on the subject of Vietnam, noting that in 1971 Podhoretz wrote that he would "prefer just such an American defeat to a 'Vietnamization' of the war."[23]

A larger quote from Why We Were in Vietnam which was included in the review is as follows:

As one who has never believed that anything good would ever come for us or for the world from an unambiguous American defeat, I now find myself – and here is the main source of my own embarrassment in writing about Vietnam – unhappily moving to the side of those who would prefer just such an American defeat to a 'Vietnamization' of the war which calls for the indefinite and unlimited bombardment by American pilots in American planes of every country in that already devastated region.

Soviet Union

In the early 1980s, Podhoretz was extremely sceptical that fundamental reform was possible in the USSR, and sharply criticized those who argued that U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union should be one of détente. In his 1980 book The Present Danger, Podhoretz predicted that the United States was in danger of losing the Cold War and falling behind the Soviet Union as a global power.[24] Later he would express anger with President Ronald Reagan for "not establishing sufficiently strong policies toward the Soviets."[25]

George W. Bush

Podhoretz has praised Bush, calling him "a man who knows evil when he sees it and who has demonstrated an unfailingly courageous willingness to endure vilification and contumely in setting his face against it." He calls Bush the president who was "battered more mercilessly and with less justification than any other in living memory."[17][21]

Sarah Palin

In a 2010 Wall Street Journal editorial titled "In Defense of Sarah Palin," Podhoretz wrote, "I hereby declare that I would rather be ruled by the Tea Party than by the Democratic Party, and I would rather have Sarah Palin sitting in the Oval Office than Barack Obama."[26]


  • 1963: Hannah Arendt on Eichmann: a study in the perversity of brilliance New York: American Jewish Committee
  • 1963: My Negro problem and ours New York: American Jewish Committee
  • 1964: Doings and Undoings; the fifties and after in American writing. New York, Farrar, Straus (collection of essays)
  • 1966: The Commentary reader; two decades of articles and stories, New York, Atheneum editor (collection of essays).
  • 1967: Making It New York, Random House (autobiography) ISBN 0-394-43449-8
  • 1967: Jewishness & the younger intellectuals; a symposium reprinted from Commentary, a journal of significant thought and opinion on Jewish affairs and contemporary issues New York: American Jewish Committee (introduction)
  • 1979: Breaking Ranks: A Political Memoir New York: Harper & Row,
  • 1980: The Present Danger: "Do We Have the Will to Reverse the Decline of American Power?" New York: Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0-671-41395-3
  • 1981: The new defenders of capitalism Washington, D.C. : Ethics and Public Policy Center
  • 1982: Why We Were in Vietnam New York : Simon & Schuster, (history and argument) ISBN 0-671-44578-2
  • 1982: Congressional policy: a guide to American foreign policy and national defense Washington, D.C. : National Center for Legislative Research
  • 1983: The present and future danger: thoughts on Soviet/American foreign policy Washington, D.C.: National Center for Legislative Research
  • 1984: State of world Jewry address, 1983 New York : 92nd Street Y,
  • 1986: Terrorism – Reagan's response Coral Gables, Florida : North-South Center, University of Miami, Working Paper, Soviet and East European Studies Program (transcript of a debate with William Maynes, Jiri Valenta)
  • 1986: The Bloody Crossroads: Where Literature and Politics Meet New York : Simon & Schuster, (collection of essays) ISBN 0-671-61891-1
  • 1989: Israel, a lamentation from the future Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec; Dawn Pub. Co.,
  • 1999: Ex-Friends: Falling Out With Allen Ginsberg, Lionel & Diana Trilling, Lillian Hellman, Hannah Arendt, and Norman Mailer New York,: Free Press, (memoir) ISBN 1-893554-17-1
  • 2000: My Love Affair With America: The Cautionary Tale of a Cheerful Conservative New York: Free Press, (autobiography) ISBN 1-893554-41-4
  • 2002: The Prophets: Who They Were, What They Are New York: Free Press, (about the classical Hebrew prophets) ISBN 0-7432-1927-9
  • 2003: The Norman Podhoretz Reader: A Selection of His Writings from the 1950s through the 1990s, New York: Free Press, edited by Thomas L. Jeffers; foreword by Paul Johnson ISBN 0-7432-3661-0
  • 2005: The Bush doctrine: what the President said and what it means Washington, D.C.: The Heritage Foundation
  • 2007: World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism New York: Doubleday, ISBN 0-385-52221-5
  • 2009: Why Are Jews Liberals? New York: Doubleday, ISBN 0-385-52919-8

See also

DodgerBlue flag waving.svg Conservatism portal


  1. ^ Commentary Magazine
  2. ^ Independent.co.uk
  3. ^ Norman Podhoretz – NNDB
  4. ^ Contemporary Literary Criticism Norman Podhoretz
  5. ^ Jeffers, Thomas L. (2004). "Editor's note". The Norman Podhoretz Reader: A Selection of His Writings from the 1950s through the 1990s. By Norman Podhoretz. Thomas L. Jeffers, ed. Free Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0743236614. 
  6. ^ a b Jeffers, Thomas L. (2010). Norman Podhoretz: A Biography. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521198141. p. 5-6.
  7. ^ Jeffers (2010), p. 13.
  8. ^ "Podhoretz, Norman" (profile). Section, "Résumé". Right Web. rightweb.irc-online.org. Retrieved March 31, 2018.
  9. ^ http://www.lukeford.net/Images/photos/out.pdf
  10. ^ White House Personnel Announcement, Office of the Press Secretary, June 18, 2004.
  11. ^ Heritage.org
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ Giuliani's War Cabinet The American Prospect, September 25, 2007
  14. ^ "His Toughness Problem – and Ours", by Ian Buruma
  15. ^ Norman Podhoretz, Jewish conservative, asks, 'Why are Jews liberals?'
  16. ^ Pettifer, Ann (December 14, 2002) Zionism Unbound, CounterPunch
  17. ^ a b Podhoretz N., "In Praise of the Bush Doctrine," Commentary Magazine, Sept. 2002
  18. ^ Podhoretz N., "How to Win World War IV,", Commentary Magazine, February 2002
  19. ^ Baxter, Sarah. "Neocon godfather Normal Podhoretz tells Bush: bomb Iran." The Sunday Times. September 30, 2007
  20. ^ Podhoretz N., "The Case for Bombing Iran," The Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2007. Accessed May 30, 2007.
  21. ^ a b c "The Case for Bombing Iran", Commentary Magazine, last accessed November 26, 2007
  22. ^ Podhoretz N., "America the Ugly" The Wall Street Journal, September 11, 2007. Accessed September 11, 2007.
  23. ^ Fallows, James "In Defense of an Offensive War" The New York Times, March 28, 1982. Accessed January 3, 2008.
  24. ^ Norman Podhoretz, The Present Danger, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1980.
  25. ^ "The Rise of Neoconservatism", The Virginia Quarterly Review, Spring, 1996
  26. ^ Podhoretz, Norman (March 30, 2010) "In Defense of Sarah Palin." The Wall Street Journal.

Further reading

  • Abrams, Nathan. Norman Podhoretz and Commentary magazine: The rise and fall of the neocons, Continuum, 2010.
  • Balint, Benjamin. Running Commentary: The Contentious Magazine That Transformed the Jewish Left Into the Neoconservative Right (PublicAffairs; 2010)
  • Bloom, Alexander. Prodigal Sons: The New York Intellectuals & Their World, Oxford University Press, 1986. ISBN 978-0-19-505177-3
  • Jeffers, Thomas L. Norman Podhoretz: A Biography (Cambridge University Press; 2010) 393 pages
  • Menand, Louis (May 1, 2017). "Op de stez : Norman Podhoretz's classic success story". The Critics. Books. The New Yorker. 93 (11): 63–69. [1]
  • Winchell, Mark Royden. Neoconservative criticism: Norman Podhoretz, Kenneth S. Lynn, and Joseph Epstein, Twayne Publishers, 1991. Twayne's United States authors series

Primary sources

  • "Norman Podhoretz" New York: American Jewish Committee, Oral History Library, Transcript of an interview conducted by Jill Levine, December 2, 1980 and Jan 8, July 22, 1981.

External links

  1. ^ Online version is titled "The book that scandalized the New York intellectuals".