In the war against the institutional Left, Andrew Breitbart was the Right’s Achilles; the bravest of all the warriors, now fallen on the plain. There was no combat in which he would not engage, no battle — however small — he would not join with glee, and no outcome acceptable except total victory. His unexpected death last night at the young age of 43 is not the end of his crusade, but its beginning.
No figure on our side was more despised in the whited sepulchers of the media/academic/political Left, and Breitbart wore their loathing as a daily badge of honor. His refusal to grant even a glimmer of moral absolution constantly enraged them, and his very existence was an affront to their carefully constructed — to use one of Andrew’s favorite words — “narrative” of moral superiority. Naturally, they are already dancing on his grave, with the manic joy of being suddenly and miraculously delivered from one of their most potent enemies.
Breitbart’s death is a tragedy, not only for those who delighted in following him into battle but for those who cheered him on as well. Andrew was larger than life, a charismatic natural leader, a big man in every way — physically, spiritually, and intellectually. He would meet a total stranger and immediately try to enlist him or her into his army, railing against the Left’s mendacity and misdeeds. He would practically pick you up by the lapels and shake you in order to make you understand the furious, urgent necessity of his fight.
Confrontation was his métier, and he routinely and gleefully waded into groups of lefties to challenge them face to face. Puckish humor was his stock-in-trade, and he would often disarm opponents with his boyish, goofy side. He was a virtuoso of the Twitterverse, a master of multi-tasking, and would think nothing of having a meeting with colleagues in his Westwood home while talking on the phone to someone else and working his Twitter feed. He joked that he had ADD, but what he really had was an outsized heart, fueled by courage and passion and, as the title of his recent book had it, by Righteous Indignation.
That indignation came to Breitbart in mid-life. A bluff Irishman who had been adopted as a baby by a Jewish couple in Brentwood (one of L.A.’s tonier neighborhoods), he moved to the right in college, at Tulane University in New Orleans, and crossed over completely with the Clarence Thomas hearings, which fueled his rage against the Left for their hypocritical treatment of American blacks. I can personally attest that no cause fired his righteous indignation more than the Left’s plantation attitude toward African-Americans.
Breitbart first made his mark on politics as Matt Drudge’s assistant on the influential Drudge Report, then honed his internet savvy by helping set up the Huffington Post — his impersonation of Arianna Huffington was uncannily spot-on — and, finally, created his collection of “Big” sites: Big Hollywood, Big Government, Big Journalism, and Big Peace. More “Bigs” were in the works.
I first met Andrew at a monthly social group here in Los Angeles and, within five minutes, he was laying out his warrior ethos. A couple of months later, although we barely knew each other, he asked me to found and edit Big Journalism, which we launched in January 2010. In all, we spent about a year working together, but even after I left that post we spoke and saw each other frequently. The last time I saw him was on Valentine’s Day at a restaurant in Westwood where Hollywood conservatives gather; he was with his oldest son (he and his wife Susie have four children) and seemed uncharacteristically subdued.
Recently, he’d hired Joel Pollak to be editor-in-chief of all the Big sites; Pollak had quixotically run for Congress against Chicago’s Jan Schakowsky, which endeared him immediately to Breitbart. But that didn’t mean Andrew was slowing down. His company, Breitbart.com, had set up shop in Washington to cover the elections, and so he was constantly traveling between the coasts and stopping in between, giving speeches, picking fights, and never letting the Left forget that it had a mortal enemy. If you ever wanted to know where Breitbart was, the safest answer was: on a plane.
We don’t know the cause of death yet — he collapsed while taking a walk late last night — but he did suffer from heart trouble, and told me he had spent some time at UCLA Medical Center in the past year for treatment. As a heart patient myself, I often urged him to slow down and take care of his family — even Achilles had to spend time in his tent.
It was advice he could not heed. It was not in his DNA ever to leave the field. He was the kind of leader the Right needs more of — not a go-along, get-along time-serving functionary but a tactical commander on the battlefield, ever ready to take the bridge, fire the village, and move on to the next objective. If he had a flaw, it lay in not distinguishing between tactics and strategy, and in fighting with targets (Media Matters and a host of other blogosphere hacks and nonentities) who were beneath him.
He did not live to make General, which is the Left’s gain and our loss. But his example lives on. Those of us who were his friends, colleagues, and allies remain standing, in the fight to the end. It is the very least we can do for him.
— Michael Walsh is a journalist and screenwriter. He is the author of Rules for Radical Conservatives: Beating the Left at Its Own Game to Take Back America.