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When Did Martin Peretz Become This Crazy?


The consensus is split between "well before 1969" and "when Bill Clinton defeated Al Gore in the 1992 Democratic primary"…

Today Martin Peretz denounces Whittaker Chambers fan Sam Tanenhaus as a left-wing nut job:

Martin Peretz: The New New Republic: Like many readers of the New Republic, I didn't at first recognize the most recent issue of the magazine…. Having read the cover story, I still don't recognize the magazine. "Original Sin," by Sam Tanenhaus, purported to explain "Why the GOP is and will continue to be the party of white people." The provocative theme would not have been unthinkable in the magazine's 99-year history, but the essay's reliance on insinuations of GOP racism ("the inimical 'they' were being targeted by a spurious campaign to pass voter-identification laws, a throwback to Jim Crow") and gross oversimplifications hardly reflected the intellectual traditions of a journal of ideas…

Sam Tanenhaus thus rises in my estimation--surprisingly, for somebody whose book on Whittaker Chambers struck me as significantly flawed in its willingness to give the right-wing icon infinite amounts of slack…

Tanenhaus thus joins the estimable company of, among others, George Soros:

Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002: "It's good to own the magazine": New Republic editor in chief Martin Peretz recently took to the pages of his magazine to accuse George Soros of being a "young cog in the Hitlerite wheel." As Soros points out (follow the link) this charge is false. Peretz, in his response to Soros' response, won't even admit what he accused Soros of doing much less concede that the allegation was false!

It seems to me that when a magazine falsely accuses someone of being a Nazi collaborator that a correction would be warranted.

And TNR never bothered to run a correction. Memo to Frank Foer: you need to. Badly.

And Sam Tanenhaus joins the company of Hilary Clinton:

Ezra Klein: I think it's fascinating that Marty Peretz doesn't understand why people don't like him after his magazine lies about them. [Hilary Rodham Clinton] didn't snub you, Marty. She treated you with precisely the lack of respect you deserved after that shameful debacle.

The context:

Ezra Klein: I'm genuinely curious if [ex-New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan's] recitation of Clinton's personal failings is some sort of barely submerged explanation for why Sullivan published and championed a dishonest, fearmongering article meant to sink the Clinton health care plan -- and it was recognized as such even at the time. Thanks to The Atlantic's open archives, you can read the fairest man in journalism, James Fallows, take it apart in a feature article called "A Triumph of Misinformation." McCaughey's article, which Sullivan commissioned, published, and praised, was, Fallows said, "simply false." Yet Sullivan still touts it in his biography...


Marty Peretz: When Hillary Snubbed Me: Hillary is known to snub people all the time. In fact, she even snubbed me once at a reception at the White House.  I was talking to someone in the Rose Garden, and she came over to greet the someone with whom I was already chatting.  That someone, in turn, introduced me, saying, "Of course, you know Marty Peretz," which actually she did not.  I had never been in a room with Hillary that didn't also contain a thousand other people.  That didn't phase her at all.  And she responded, "Indeed, I do," and turned on her heel and left. I don't have an explanation.  Except that The New Republic was not especially enamored of her health plan which, in retrospect, has impeded health reform for a decade and a half.  As it happens, we had published a devastating analysis of the proposal by Elizabeth McCaughey; and somehow, in the mysteries of Washington, this became the vivid center of the debate.  The White House actually put out what I recall as a nine page rebuttal to the TNR critique, another tactical mistake in the genius presidency.  Anyway, it is to this article that her snub to me may be attributed. But it could be something even more petty.

And, of course, there is so much more…

Marty Peretz, September 4, 2010:

Frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims. And among those Muslims led by the Imam Rauf there is hardly one who has raised a fuss about the routine and random bloodshed that defines their brotherhood. So, yes, I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse...

Marty Peretz, October 9, 2011:

I have a grudge against Kristof. Last year about this time he wrote a column attacking me for what he deemed racist words about Muslims. I apologized for one stupid, really stupid and perhaps also prejudiced remark…. But I am not so sure that my main point that Muslim societies and Arab societies tolerate mass violence with greater equanimity is wrong. Just think of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, even Egypt. And Libya where the rebels are said to have triumphed over the tragic-comic personalist killer-fascism of Qaddafi. But in that liberated Libya there is an epidemic of revenge. Anyway, Kristof wrote and a mob of thugs, following him, so to speak, tried to chase me across Harvard Yard, shouting, “Peretz is a racist pig.” Big triumph for Kristof and his sensitive sensibility…

The rest of us who were there know that it went down quite differently--and the transcripts and tapes back us up.

What I said on the subject:

Brad DeLong : The Barrington Moore Problematic and Its Discontents: Call this problematic presented by the history of the world from 1914 to 1945… the "Barrington Moore problematic"… to understand the historical and social origins of dictatorship and democracy, of slavery and freedom, of ideology and rationality, of poverty and prosperity. Humanity had moved from societies of illiterate farmers producing little more than subsistence dominated by thugs with strong arms and sharp spears to urban, literate, industrial ones. That produced Abraham Lincoln but also Vladimir Lenin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt but also Mao Zedong, Konrad Adenauer but also Augusto Pinochet. And Adolf Hitler…. The Barrington Moore problematic provided the spine of the Social Studies major…. Can the Barrington Moore problematic serve a role similar in the next generation to the one it has served in the past two?

Echoing Seyla [Benhabib], I would say not. For one thing, the era of modern history that the BMP was created to grapple with has indeed come to its end. For another thing, the Enlightenment preconditions for the BMP have not yet been secured. First, Adolf Hitler is now sixty-five years in his grave. Societies in transition to urban-market-mass political-economic modernity and how to keep more Lenins and Hitlers from arising in them does not seem to be the globe's most urgent problem any more. Second, our most recent modern monsters seem of a different and perhaps older kind: Saddam Hussein always reminded me more of the Caliph Uthman or of Mehmet II than of Hitler. Hamas, Al Qaeda, and Hezbollah seem more like updated versions of the Assassins of Syria plus plastic explosives rather than of the Comintern. Rwanda seems more like the Sicilian Vespers with radios than like the terror-famine of the Great Leap Forward.

Third, the Barrington Moore problematic assumes that we have consensus… that the hard-won victories of the Enlightenment are the bedrock…. Freedom from want…. Freedom from fear…. Freedom of speech and expression…. And, of course, there is the first of Roosevelt's four freedoms, the oldest of the Enlightenment freedoms, perhaps the most hard-won in the seventeenth century and the pattern for the others, John Locke's toleration, freedom of religion--freedom to peaceably assemble with one's fellow believers to worship one's own conception of God. You cannot even start thinking in the Barrington Moore problematic unless you start with consensus that the Enlightenment freedoms are the bedrock of what we want to protect and advance.

It is at this point in my argument that I found that I could not not notice Martin Peretz:

Do I have to pretend

he asked:

that I think Muslims are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment, which they are so likely to abuse?

That is a speech act that not only asserts that people called "Muslims" don't "deserve" the "privilege" of Lockean toleration, but also that Peretz will be pretending if he ever in the future asserts that they do deserve toleration. Any statement by him that Muslims are to be tolerated is--he tells even those of us who are disinclined to Straussian esoteric reasoning--simply a bow to the opinions of the gentlebeings rather than a statement of what he believes.

To this the only appropriate response is: "What the fracking frack?"

And the reappearance of Peretz leads me to have some further thoughts on Ezra Klein and company:

It would not be going too far to say that nearly all of those of us who have followed Ezra Klein's career were substantially disappointed in Julia Ioffe's profile. From our perspective, the interesting thing is that Ezra Klein and his peers at the Washington Post Wonkblog are conducting a master class in how to inform citizens about their government while the rest of the Fred Hiatt-Len Downie-Marty Baron Post is reheating leftovers and saying: "The deficit is really big and stuff!"

Julia Ioffe's Klein, by contrast, is (a) engaged in some sort of lifelong rivalry with Matthew Yglesias, (b) an operator who is always looking up and plotting the next careerist move in his rise, and (c ) somebody who faces down editors with his four million monthly pages of "f#@* you traffic".

But, people tell me, this is not her fault. She was assigned a profile. And a Washington Profile in the early twenty-first century is as rigid and hieratic a form as the eight-legged-essay of the bureaucracy of Imperial China: There must be Conflict! Struggle! Humans striving for Mastery, Dominance, and Power!

But then there is one sentence in Ioffe's profile:

Ezra Klein: The Wise Boy: David Weigel, Klein’s friend and fellow member of what came to be known as the Juicebox Mafia…

And then she moves on. If you want struggle and conflict--well, this really ought to have made it into Julia Ioffe's The New New Republic profile: then New Republic editor Martin Peretz on Matthew Yglesia, Spencer Ackerman, Ezra Klein, Dana Goldstein, David Weigel, and the rest of the "Juicebox Mafia":

From The New Republic in January 2009: Its then-editor-in-chief Martin Peretz writes:

The "juicebox Mafia" On Gaza: I pity them their hatred of their inheritance. Actually of both their inheritances, Jewish and American. They are pip-squeaks, and I do not much read them. But when any one of them writes a real doozey it is likely to come to my attention.

I have known one of them, Spencer Ackerman, a smart young man but, alas, not as smart as he thinks and certainly not as smart as he needs to be. He worked at The New Republic for maybe two years or even three for which I apologize; you can look up his trash by yourself.

They were brought to mind in a short piece by Noah Pollak who, although he writes for Commentary’s “Contentions” blog, is about as free of conservative cant as are Niall Ferguson, who writes occasionally (too occasionally) for us, and Christopher Caldwell, a Saturday regular at the FT.

“Juicebox mafia,” the tag-line for the Matthew Yglesias, Ezra Klein and Ackerman trio, was provided by a regular contributor to TNR. An excerpt from Pollak:

Matthew Yglesias writes something dumb enough that it needs no elaboration:

But already the number of Israelis killed by Hamas rockets has increased (from a baseline of zero) since the retaliatory attack that was supposed to prevent such killings.

Pollak is correct about Yglesias’ flippant allusion to the killing of two Israelis by rocketry in the heat of ongoing battle, although other Israelis were sent to their deaths during the six-month “cease-fire.” Some cease-fire. The point is that civil society is impossible with 50 missiles a day raining on your head. And it is a civil society that is at stake here. Whether the Gaza Palestinians can ever have a truly civil society is another question, the answer to which — given the Arab societies that surround them — is probably “no.” Sorry to disappoint you.

That's the full context.

John Judis worked up the nerve to make a small, polite protest:

I want to take issue with Martin Peretz’s description of my former colleague Spencer Ackerman’s articles as “trash.” Maybe I am sensitive because Spencer co-authored several with me, including a piece of the Bush administration’s deception about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (“The First Casualty”), which Marty praised at the time. Spencer also co-authored a terrific profile of Dick Cheney with current editor Frank Foer (“What Dick Cheney Really Believes,” November 20, 2003). But Spencer wrote much on his own, including regular commentary on the Iraq war for The New Republic’s website, during which he changed, like others at the magazine, from a supporter to opponent of the decision to go to war. I particularly remember an outstanding cover story Spencer wrote on American Muslims. I would like to link to it, but the links to our archives are broken. It was called “Religious Protection: Why American Muslims haven’t turned to Terrorism,” and appeared Dec. 12, 2005.


“To The Ovens” On Christmas Eve, my long-time colleague John Judis urged us all to read Karl Marx to understand the financial crisis of 2008. Das Kapital, no less, but leaving volumes 2 and 3 on the shelf.  Only volume 1, thank God, almost 880 pages before the bibliography which starts roughly with Aristotle and ends with Xenophon.  My favorite and perhaps most illuminating passage in volume 1 is this:

One half, or 60/125 of the industrial labour categories investigated, had absolutely no beer, 28% no milk. The weekly average of the liquid means of nourishment in the families varied from seven ounces in the needle-women to 24 3/4 ounces in the stocking makers. The majority of those who did not obtain milk were needle-women in London. The quantity of bread-stuffs consumed weekly varied from 7 3/4 lbs. for the needle-women to 11-1/2  lbs for the shoemakers, and gave a total average of 9.9. lbs. per adult weekly…

Frankly, I find the chapter in volume 3 of Capital, “On the Realm of Necessity and the Realm of Freedom,” much more provocative than all of volume 1.  No matter.  The collapse of Lehman Brothers will not revive Karl Marx.  Nor will it revive Monopoly Capital by Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy, names I’d never expected to read again though Judis honors them as the font of his education in economics.  Perhaps they can be his excuse for why he doesn’t understand the contemporary world.  Fair enough. I was a student of Herbert Marcuse and I allowed him to twist my mind for quite awhile.

But they can’t be Judis’ pretext for why he fails utterly to grasp the reality of the Islamic jihad which, textually obliged in the Koran, is now again exploding throughout the world. On December 30, Judis wrote essentially to assert, approving of an article I had inferentially criticized, that there was no jihad and no jihadists in America.  Oh, my. Doesn’t he read the newspapers? Ever since September 11, there has been a substantial record built in our courts of pockets of Muslim immigrants around the country conspiring to commit terrorist acts.

As late as last week, on December 22, according to an article by John von Zielbauer in the New York Times, for example, a jury in the federal district court in Camden, New Jersey found five Muslim immigrants (three of them brothers, all illegals) guilty of jihad, that is, conspiring to attack the U.S. army base in Fort Dix, New Jersey.  In this, perhaps, they were trying to fulfill the ambition of Bill Ayers and his comrades (frustrated by a deadly explosion in a Greenwich Village mansion) also to bomb a Fort Dix dance and kill new recruits and their girlfriends.

As it happens, jihadism has less deadly manifestations than murder.  As the Ku Klux Klan had less deadly manifestations than lynching. This morning I watched a frightening episode in the public life of America.  It was a demonstration by, say, 200 Muslim immigrants in Fort Lauderdale against the Israeli air strikes over Gaza.  Now, the first amendment protects such demos, and I would not for a moment want to curb them.  But I ask each of you to pay attention to the details of what was being shouted.  Especially by the young women screaming, “Jews to the ovens.” No jihad in America, huh? Do we want such immigrants in our country?  Well, John, do we?

Bonus from "Call of the Mild":

Martin Peretz: The tragicomedy of Caroline Kennedy that she wanted to have David Paterson make her succeed in taking over Hillary Clinton’s United States Senate from New York. I was Chuck Schumer’s teacher in Gov.1 and my first thought was: why won’t anyone permit him to make him the natural succession to his state’s senior senatorial seat…. Caroline made a mess of everything… of talking, thinking, reasoning, cajoling, a mess of even being a demure upper East Side housewife. Which is actually what she was. She ate at “eat” and bought her meat at that cute Madison Avenue butcher shop. Oh, yes, a demure upper East Side housewife, with altogether non-conventional charities, of whom there were plenty. Which, if you want to sum it up, is a mess even of her conventionalities, like dining with Al Sharpton at some noisy Harlem eatery.  And that is how John-John would have collapsed his own ambitions if he had them….

I have no idea what that paragraph says. And I haven’t taken it out of context or anything. This man is in charge of a magazine? Tremble, fellow young would-be journalists, when you reflect that this is your desired vocation…. Peretz… who once claimed to have been friends with Martin Luther King… isn’t the only pundit with some views about Sylvia’s, the “noisy Harlem eatery” in question. As a matter of fact, Al Sharpton took Bill O’Reilly there as well. Here’s what O’Reilly had to say:

I couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patronship . . . There wasn’t one person in Sylvia’s who was screaming, ‘M-Fer, I want more iced tea.’ You know, I mean, everybody was — it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn’t any kind of craziness at all.

And one more from "Call of the Mild":

Obsession, by Peretz. « Call of the Mild: The Rosenbergs: So I’m in a TNR-bashing rut, but it’s easier to just keep running forward than climb out. Marty Peretz….

There is a whole culture in America that has believed the innocence of the Rosenbergs as doctrine and dogma. The texts of this culture are not scrupulous histories… E.L. Doctorow’s The Book of Daniel… Tony Kushner’s phantasmagoric "Angels in America", which won the Pulitzer Prize and features Ethel haunting the last days of Roy Cohn, who had been on the legal team prosecuting the Rosenbergs…. The position of these literary works tells you something about the culture in which they still shine…. Morton Sobell, a co-defendant of the Rosenbergs who… had maintained his innocence. Suddenly, he admits the great lie of his life. He is guilty, he concedes. And so was Julius. There are still doubts about what exactly Ethel did or did not do. Richard Nixon apparently told a confidante in 1983 that this was, in fact, the case and that, had President Eisenhower known about the vagaries in her situation, he would have commuted the sentence on the grounds of “tainted evidence”…

Peretz doesn’t actually bother to address the content of Sobell’s confession about the role of the Rosenbergs. That is, he wants to use the story to connect “a whole culture in America” to “100 million” deaths, without actually addressing what story was told. And what story was that? That Ethel, one of the “Rosenbergs” Peretz so casually suggests is morally complicit in mass murder, was innocent:

Mr. Sobell also concurred in what has become a consensus among historians: that Ethel Rosenberg, who was executed with her husband, was aware of Julius’s espionage, but did not actively participate. “She knew what he was doing,” he said, “but what was she guilty of? Of being Julius’s wife.”

Further, Peretz dances right past the consensus that Julius Rosenberg, while guilty, passed information “of little value to the Soviets”…. All of this doesn’t mean [the Rosenbergs] were guilty of no crime, but it does mean that they probably weren’t guilty of a capital offense, and certainly not of the vast nuclear conspiracy for which they were executed. It seems to me, then, that the notion that theirs was a political execution is quite apt.