The Not-So-New Republic

The New Republic has a new editor, one who — in the words of Jack Shafer — “knows more about Russell Kirk and Albert Jay Nock than the combined Weekly Standard and National Review mastheads.” John J. Miller tried to dispute that in the NRO playpen, but quickly proved Shafer right by getting Nock’s name wrong. Here, by the way, is what Foer thinks of Nock:

Two years after publishing his Memoirs to great acclaim, Nock died a natural death. Nearly sixty years later, for better and for worse, it’s hard to find much of his spirit in contemporary heirs of Buckley’s movement. Nock’s crude elitism has given way to crude populism. His rebelliousness has given way to a movement that treasures message discipline. Conservatives have largely wrapped themselves in the economism that he abhorred. In the grave, he has become a truly superfluous man.

Foer is right that modern conservatism is about as far removed from Albert Jay Nock as it’s possible to get, though the only thing crude about Nock here is Foer’s characterization of him. That’s a subject for another time; Foer deserves credit for having at least some knowledge of the Old Right, whatever his opinions.

So how is his first issue as editor of TNR? About as bland as any number from the Peter Beinart era. There’s a great review by David Quint of two new translations of Vergil’s Georgics, which could just about justify the cover price by itself — but that’s down to literary editor Leon Wieseltier, who also supplies one of the other more interesting pieces in this issue.

The words “pot,” “kettle,” and “black” come to mind reading Noam Scheiber’s attack on John Tierney, “The Times‘ Boring Libertarian,” as the headline calls him. Tierney is boring, there’s little disputing that, but at least he’s boring in a way that’s different from the other Times columnists. That as much as anything seems to be what irritates TNR: “The politicians of Tierney’s columns are invariably corrupt, duplicitious, craven, and dim-witted–or, as he puts it, forever ‘hectoring us with bogus arguments,” ‘doling out subsidies,” ‘promis[ing] a cure for any problem in the news’ …” Quelle horreur! Scheiber doesn’t provide a scintilla of evidence to suggest that Tierney is actually wrong, of course. But then what do you expect of a magazine as thoroughly entrenched in the political establihsment as The New Republic? Even the New York Times is more hospitable to a bit of anti-statism.

Bravo for the Times, by the way, for not replacing William Safire with another Republican hack. Or, worse, another David Brooks. One is already too many.

You can mix-n-match old issues of The New Republic to come up with the rest of the issue’s contents. Peter Beinart wants Hillary Clinton to be more hawkish. The editors call for more state invention in health care and wring their hands over the condition of liberalism. And an ex-Mossad man writes about the Middle East — there may be a new editor, but Marty Peretz is still the boss.


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