Commentary’s Transition

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The New York Sun

While the Republicans are arguing about the meaning of their party and their philosophy, one of the clearest-thinking journals in America, Commentary magazine, is signaling that its own transition will be true on matters of principle. It announced yesterday that its next editor will be John Podhoretz, who will take over the monthly in January 2009. Mr. Podhoretz will be only the fourth editor of Commentary in the magazine’s 61-year history, succeeding one of the finest editors in journalism, Neal Kozodoy, who has been with Commentary since 1966, served as editor since 1995, and made the magazine the gold standard of what has come to be called neo-conservative thinking — and a showcase of enterprising journalism, offering scoop after scoop on the beat of ideas.

Mr. Kozodoy was handed the reins of the magazine at a memorable dinner in New York, when the editor who had moved the magazine into the forefront of the conservative movement, Norman Podhoretz, retired. During his tenure the magazine published “Dictatorships and Double-Standards,” by an academic named Jeane Kirkpatrick. It caught the eye of Ronald Reagan, and the rest is history. Mrs. Kirkpatrick was the second person to become ambassador to the United Nations on the strength of an article in Commentary, the first being a Harvard professor, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who wrote “The United States in Opposition.” The magazine published, in 1976, “The Return of Islam” by Bernard Lewis, foreshadowing the current war.

When Mr. Kozodoy acceded, in 1995, one of his missions was to help redefine neo-conservativism and American foreign policy in the wake of the fall of Soviet communism. He did this brilliantly, cultivating such writers as Robert Kagan, Joshua Muravchik, Gabriel Schoenfeld, Victor Davis Hanson, Amir Taheri, and Andrew McCarthy, to name but a few. Mr. Kozodoy also guided the magazine to its independent ownership in a new not-for-profit corporation, leaving its long-time home in the American Jewish Committee. The magazine illuminated the movement that might be called “Jewish in-reach,” with writers like David Gelernter and Jack Wertheimer exemplifying the virtues of building a dedicated core of educated and committed Jews and Jewish intellectuals.

When we called Mr. Kozodoy last night, he was typically modest and reminded us that he’ll be there until January 2009. He likes to speak of bringing neo-conservative ideas to the Jews, a famously liberal community, and Jewish ideas to neo-conservatism. He has built one of the great platforms in journalism. In John Podhoretz, who has been writing a brilliant column for the New York Post, Commentary is turning to a leading voice of the younger generation at the same time that it continues its connection to the intellectual tradition that has brought so much to our city and country. It’s an inspiring transition for those of us who cover the battle of ideas, and who recognize the enormous impact that a relatively modest publication can have. It is something to think about for a Republican — or any — Party that is trying to find its footing in a turbulent time.

The New York Sun

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