REVIEWSrnThe Executioner’srnTalernby Paul GottfriedrnMy Love Affair With America:rnThe Cautionar)’ Tale of arnCheerful Conservativernhv Norman PodhoretzrnNew York: Free Press; 248 pp., $25.00rnThis “celebration” of his intense loernaffair with America will not likelyrnteach Norman Podhoretz’s devotees anythingrnnew. F’or the most part, it incorporatesrnmaterial that can be fonnd in earlierrnautobiographical writings and in Podhoretz’srnother published recollectionsrnabout life in New York litcran,- circles.rnMy Love Affair With America includesrnan extended description of AmericanrnJewish life among predominantly EasternrnEuropean Jewish immigrants andrntheir offspring in New York during andrnafter World War II. These people madernefforts to fit into what they understood asrnmainstream America, and if they wererneager to change that mainstream (whichrnthey helped to do over time), they alsorncultiated their own brand of Americanrnpatriotism. As defined by Podhoretz, itrnconsisted of a general admiration forrnwhat the Founding fathers had done, orrnwere imagined to have done, typiealh’rnunderstood through the prism of thernNew Deal. It also included idcnhfieationrnwith the Puritans as judaizing Chrishansrnand the creators of a non-antisemiticrnNew World. Podhoretz shows how thesernformatic elements came together in thernAmerican Jewish culture of the 40’s andrnearly SO’s and found expression in Co;?(-rnmentar)’, a magazine founded in 1945 byrnan archetypal Cold War liberal andrnstrongly self-idenhfied Jew, Elliot E. Cohen.rnAlthough Podhoretz initiallyrnpushed the same publicahon toward thernleft after a.ssuming its editorship in 1960,rnhe correctly identifies the orientationrnwith which it started. He believably as-rnTo Subscribern(800) 877-S4S9rnserts that the Jewish communitv to whichrnhe belonged showed little concern aboutrnantisemitism, which it assumed was waningrn—to the extent it ever existed —in thernUnited States and that the holocaust didrnnot rank high among postwar Jewish preoecupations,rnNeer did one encounter inrnthe conventional Jcvish discourse of therntime the ecntually ubiquitous charge,rnwhich found its way into Commentary onrnPodhoretz’s watch, that the Nazis wererndriven by Christian conviction intornslaughtering Jews. That was simph’ notrnthe kind of thing that even inveterate go’-rnbashers were likely to say in 195U.rnHaving made these points, Podhoretzrnnever explains —to my satisfaction atrnleast—how the Jewish culture of hisrnyouth morphed into one he now deplores.rnHe is right that communists andrncommunist fellow travelers constitutedrnonly a minorit of American Jews, andrnthat after Jewish communists had embracedrnthe parh’ line during the ‘ears ofrnthe Soviet-Nazi pact, they all moralrnstatus among most of their fellow Jews.rnOne would also have been liard pressedrnin those years to find significant Jewishrnsupport for ga rights or for most of thernrest of the yuppie-left agenda now espoused,rnaccording to polls, by the vastrnmajoritv’of American Jews. The changesrnin mood tiiat Podhoretz is aw arc of canrnbe explained by looking at causes thatrnhis “cautionar’ tale” does not go into,rnfrom the self-dcstruchon of a once selfconfidentrnWASP society to the rapidlyrnchanged position of deeply ethnocentricrnand long socialK isolated Eastern EuropeanrnJewish communities in die UnitedrnStates. Unlike their Sephardic and CermanrnJewish predecessors, these groupsrnresisted assimilafion, bore continuing resentmentrnagainst Christians, and becamernincreasingly anxious about antisemitismrnthe higher the climbed on the socioeconomicrnladder. This status anxictv is apparentrnin Podhoretz’s own invectivesrnagainst alleged antisemites and in his preoccupationrnin this book and elsewherernwith who is, and who is not, on die rightrnside (in bodi senses) in matters that bearrnon Israel.rnThe most embarrassing illustrations ofrnhis obsessions are the remarks Podhoretzrndevotes to those he condemns as “cheerlessrnconserxatives.” Among these are thernNew England man of letters James RussellrnLowell, the historian Henry Adams,rnthe Southern .Agrarians, and “their intellectualrnand political descendants of thernlatter part of the centurx, the ‘paleoconservatives.”‘rnAldiough he tars all of thesernfigures with die same antisemitic brush,rnit is unclear that any of Hiis distinguishedrneompan’ wasted much time insultingrnJews. Lowell represented the kind ofrnProtestant Podhoretz should appreciate,rnand this Boston Brahmin associated withrnJews and praised tiieir “talent and versatilitv’.”rnNonetheless, Podhoretz tells us,rnLowell also made remarks, as vaguely intimatedrnby Edmund Wilson, suggestingrngrave concern that Jews threatenedrnhis social class. Henry Adams, tiioughrnthe rele’ant texts are never quoted,rncomplained portentoush’ about die effectsrnof die immigration of uncultivatedrnCatholics and ambitious Jews intornProtestant America. In an allegedly similarrnwa’, the paleos have committed thernsins of opposing Third World immigrationrnand disliking a development Podhoretzrnhas a proprietary interest in prescrrning, American imperialism. Onrnthese subjects, our cheerful eonsenativcrnis driven to distraction, rexealing not onlyrnan exceedingly thin skin but also a tastelessrnmean streak. Thus we learn that, aldioughrnpaleos resemble Southern Agrariansrn(particularly in tlieir vndemoustratcdrnantisemitismj, tiiese bigots are a “lesserrnbreed and could boast no adherent ofrneven remotely comparable stature.”rnAfter exerting himself to drive cheerlessrnconservatives out of the publicrnsquare, Podhoretz cannot be so dense asrnto fail to see that he and his friends liaernplayed a major role in preventing paleosrnfrom achieving the stature that earlierrngenerations of traditionalists were able tornattain. As in his earlier vritings aboutrnhimself, die subject of Podhoretz’s celebrationrneventually becomes his own putativernaehievements, among them a signalrnsuccess in marginalizing the “lesserrnbreed” on his right while helping tornshape tile political conversation in collaborationrnwith other certified “patriots.”rnPaul Gottfried, a professor of humanitiesrnat Elizahethtown College in EUzahethtown,rnPennsyh’ania, is the author, mostrnrecently, of After Liberalism: MassrnDeniocrae- in die Alanagerial Statern(Princeton).rn28/CHRONiCLESrnrnrn