The younger Mr. Podhoretz certainly has his supporters, and they are not shy about voicing their enthusiasm. The editors of The New York Sun published an editorial after the announcement was made calling him “a leading voice of the younger generation,” and his appointment at Commentary an “inspiring transition for those of us who cover the battle of ideas.” And Richard Lowry, editor of National Review, speaking to The Observer, praised his ability “to do high and low and in between.”
“I don’t think we’re going to see pieces about, I don’t know, Smallville—we’re not going to see that in Commentary,” Mr. Lowry said. “Just because he’s interested in pop culture doesn’t mean he can’t do the highbrow stuff extremely well.”
He may also offer other advantages: “The thing about Commentary is it seems to aim to influence three elections from now rather than the next one,” says Ramesh Ponnuru, a writer for National Review. “John Podhoretz’s writing has been much more immediate in its ambitions, so it’ll be interesting to see whether Commentary takes a little bit less of an above-the-fray sort of approach and spends a little bit less time to set the intellectual tone. … One thing about John Podhoretz is he certainly does like mixing it up. He likes being in what ever argument’s going on.”
Even Mr. Podhoretz’s detractors, like the longtime contributor quoted above, said he could make the magazine livelier and help bring in younger readers. That could be essential, as several prominent political journalists interviewed for this article said they’d stopped reading Commentary years ago because it had grown tedious and predictable. “Commentary was interesting because it was not fully an organ of the conservative movement,” said one conservative writer. “Some of the things they said were interesting not just on their own merits but because Commentary was saying them.”
In the past few years, several journalists said, the magazine that once published such adventurous writers as Clement Greenberg and Hannah Arendt has become little more than an official organ of the Republican party. “At a moment where there should have been a venue for the intelligent debate over various Bush administration policies,” one writer said, “they have enforced whatever the party line is. Commentary takes too seriously that its job is to define neoconservatism for the ages.”
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