Sunday, September 30, 2007

Lunch with Commentary Magazine

Today, I had a delicious octopus and pork belly courtesy of my friends at the Modern, the restaurant at the MoMa. Sitting to my left was a writer for Commentary magazine,who shall remain nameless, because I am scared of him. But I will tell you he was a graduate of Yale, and a well-connected member of Skull and Bones. The debate ensued before our dishes arrived, but not before I had already downed two glasses of Austrian White Wine and a Rogue.

With a slight slur in my speech, I roughly asked the delicate intellectual, "So what do you think of Norman Podoheretz?" A typical conversation starter in my opinion. He smiled and corrected my pronunciation: "Podhoretz. Why do you ask me that?", "Because the rumor is you work for him." He became intrigued, "Well, what do you think about him?"

I told him I didn't know much about Norman and knew only about the origins of the political movement he supports, often labeled neoconservatism. "Tell me what you know." I talked about the McGovern crossroads that turned the liberal hawks into full fledged neocons and the eventual coalescing around Scoop Jackson, who he told me was asked to be Kennedy's running mate initially before Lyndon Johnson was forced upon Kennedy(he also told me Kennedy hated Johnson more than anything and of the famed photograph of Johnson wringing a senator's neck). Nixon also tapped 'Scoop' to be Secretary of Defense, but Scoop declined. Told him about Leo Strauss, etc.

I asked, "What post did Norman have in the government?", "Well, Norman never had a post in the federal government, he remained in academia, but he has a lot of friends there." He then went on to describe Norman's familial ties to the neoconservative movement. He said Podhoretz's daugher is married to Elliot Abrams, former #3 in the Pentagon(responsible for the postwar planning of Iraq) and currently Bush's Deputy National Security Advisor. He then told me most of the neoconservatives are all closely related.

The fireworks began when he said Ahjamajhad should have been arrested at Columbia. "Why?" I got the usual line about threatening Israel. I said who cares about Israel. He said, "Don't you have the biological imperative?" I didn't know what it was. "It's when you support people who are like you and try to kill others that aren't like you."

Me:"Maybe I'm not meant to reproduce"
Him:"You feel no kinship with your brethern in Israel?"
Me:"None, and I do not make my strategic decisions on irrational kinships, I would care about the destruction of Israel only in geopolitical and historical terms."
Him: "The biological imperative is not rational, its in all human beings"
Me: "And I don't think the biological imperative is a guiding principle to international relations, I believe in notions of international justice."
Him:"There is no international justice, there can not be justice in international relations." He gave a long-winded explanation about why not but I was so drunk by then I didn't listen.
Me: "Israel is a religious state"
Him:"What makes it a religious state?"
Me:"It has secular political mechanics but I went there on Birthright and they told me there would never be an Arab who could be elected to any real office in the...."
Him: "Kinneset."
Him: "There are actually 10 members of the Kinneset who are Arab."
Me: "But it was founded for Jewish people, it was founded for people who subscribe to a religion, the state was founded on a religion."
Him:"I think your confusing Jewish culture and Jewish religion, it is a safe haven for all Jews, cultural or religious, and you will find that a large portion of Israel does not practice Judiasm, it was founded for the culture, not the religion, a culture that was in peril at the time."

We started eating. I drank another beer and someone from Lehman Brothers told the waitress to fill only half my glass which pissed me off and I looked at him and her, asked her if she was Irish, which somehow got her attracted to me, and we sent each other kisses with our eyes all afternoon.

It didn't matter, because next was the question that shut the whole table up:

"Under what conditions would you not support Israel?"

No response for minutes.

"I would not support Israel if it became a military dictatorship."

There's more. We started desert around this time and I was becaming uninhibited. I blurted out, "Anyone who is Republican right now is psychotic." "You are psychotic."

Him: "Why?"
Me: "You believe in an ideology of self-interest as the guiding principle of human behavior. How can you believe that? How can you want that, to live in that world?"
Him: "What? You want to waste your time trying to figure out how to help someone else? Meanwhile someone eats your lunch."
Him: "That is liberal guilt, to feel guilty for not helping others."
Guy Across Table: "Hey what do you think about the fact that the left is constantly supporting the Palestinians and not giving any leeway to Israel
Him:"It's the antisemitic disease that runs through the American left, which again can be traced back to reorientation after the McGovern campaign."
Me: "How can you feel OK with just living in a selfish, dog eat dog, hobbesian world, I personally do not feel it is necessary or a goal we should strive for. There should be a balance"

Him: "How do I feel OK? Regan rode in on his shinning glowing horse and proclaimed it OK."
Me: "He actually said that? To act selfish?"
Him: "No, he didn't actually verbalize. But that is what he did. He rode in on his shining white horse and proclaimed it OK in America. He made it so Americans don't feel guilty anymore for exercising our selfishness, and changed the course."

I gave him my card and said if he ever wanted to "talk shop" more to call me. I hope he does.


Blogger Robot said...

I really hope a lot of that was fabricated, but I don't doubt it wasn't. The worst is this bullshit interpellation going on, biological imperatives, etc. I would have given him the Stone Cold Stunner.

10:37 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

All that while you were eating octopus and pork belly...? Please tell me that at least the wine was kosher

8:55 AM  
Blogger John Liberty said...

i dont lie

12:26 PM  
Blogger The Sheriff said...

Oh robot, always dropping incapacitating wrestling moves on academics... you...

1:27 PM  
Blogger dchan said...

I'm currently reading "Sleepwalking Through History;" it's a really good account of the turn to neoconservatism and how religious fundamentalism was involved in the Reagan presidency...Also some great stuff about the secret wars and Iran-Contra.

6:32 AM  

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