Podhoretz: Wilderness or White House?

Posted by Cutler on August 27, 2006
Isolationism, Lebanon, Right Zionists

In a previous post, I discussed a recent article by Norman Podhoretz entitled, “Is the Bush Doctrine Dead?

Podhoretz was responding to the complaints of many Right Zionists who have been howling in the wilderness, upset that the Cheney administration has betrayed their Revolution.

Podhoretz explained to his Right Zionist friends that the central explanation for the setbacks was not to be found in an ideological battle (say, with Right Arabists like Brent Scowcroft), but in a simpler domain: politics.

Its the election, stupid. If there is anyone to blame… blame Rove.

But don’t blame Rove, Podhoretz implied, because the Revolution will not be televised if the Republicans lose control of government.

One thing I failed to mention at the time of my previous post: Podhoretz might not have simply offering sage advice from movement elder who has done his own share of howling in the wilderness in years past.

Is it possible that Podhoretz was actually giving voice to the frustrations–and rationalizations–of those Right Zionists who continue to serve within the administration, including the White House?

I have in mind the “voice” of Elliott Abrams, deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for global democracy strategy at the White House National Security Council.


Because Abrams and Podhoretz are family. As Tom Barry notes in his recent Counterpunch article, “Gangster Diplomacy: Elliott Abrams in Jerusalem,”

Abrams, a proud self-declared “neoconservative and neo-Reaganite,” is the son-in-law of Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, an activist couple who played a leading role in establishing neoconservatism as an influential political tendency in the 1970s.

It would still be highly speculative to talk about a rift between any Right Zionists and Karl Rove. None have explicitly attacked him.

On the other hand, it would be all the more interesting if the Podhoretz commentary was intended to serve as a kind of note passed from White House insiders to “movement” outsiders: “the President has not betrayed our ideology; he is just trying to keep all of us in office.”

Here is the punch line, from my perspective: any rift with Rove has nothing to do with Rove as an ideologue. It has to do with Rove as a “political professional” who knows how to pander to the polls. According to such a scenario, Rove acts as something like an opportunistic–even entrepreneurial–“register of the popular will” within an administration otherwise dominated by committed foreign policy factions.

And the popular verdict, in the current context? Don’t even think about sending US troops to Lebanon.

Wouldn’t that represent an interesting dynamic?

2 Comments to Podhoretz: Wilderness or White House?

  • My favorite quote out of that piece had to be this gem:

    As a senior administration official told the New York Times: “The genius of Elliott Abrams is that he’s Elliott Abrams. How can he be accused of not sufficiently supporting Israel?”

    Its interesting that you brought up Abrams because as Barry’s article talks about he’s incredibly central to Bush’s middle east strategy. Within a 2003 Washington Post article I found these gems:
    nowhere is his influence more evident than on the Arab-Israeli peace process…Abrams has become a flash point for the debate on how much pressure the Bush administration is prepared to apply to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon…. Before joining the Bush administration, Abrams expressed skepticism about past U.S. peacemaking efforts in the region and praised Sharon for his “strength” and “firmness” toward the Palestinians in contrast to the “weakness” displayed by his predecessor, Ehud Barak. Abrams’s supporters emphasize his formidable bureaucratic skills, and say his pro-Sharon views will provide political cover for the administration in extracting concessions from a reluctant Israeli government.

    Normally I wouldn’t give too much credance to random WaPo “analysis,” but the sourcing to Abrams supporters in combination with recent posts/discussions on this blog struck me.

    So what then was Abrams role and position during the recent Lebanon conflict? In my mind it is pretty clear that he was instrumental in arranging and providing cover for the ceasefire that was ultimately signed (which the movement neocons are viewing as a loss). But what ends does he see himself in serving by doing this? Partisan republican ends (Rove’s agenda), neocon ends (which necessitate staying in power and accepting some of Rove’s agenda) or some other agenda?

  • Now that Norman Podhoretz, has the ear of the Republican frontrunner, Rudy Giuliani, there is a genuine possibility that neoconservatism will become a lasting reality in American politics. The perils of the ideology are numerous. But scant attention has yet been paid to its racial genealogy, which inflects our political circumstance today, and may dominate it tomorrow…


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