The Corner

Culture

Ben Wattenberg, RIP

As Yuval notes below, Ben Wattenberg has passed away. Ben gave me my first job in Washington when he was a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. I worked for and with Ben for much of the 1990s. I was his research assistant  and later became a producer for the production company behind his weekly PBS series Think Tank and his various documentary projects. As Yuval suggests, Ben was hard to classify intellectually or ideologically. Though it was not always as difficult as it is today because the tribe he represented — variously described as Scoop Jackson Democrat, Democratic neoconservative, Reagan Democrat, New Democrat, democratic triumphalist etc — no longer much exists. Obviously, the key word there is “Democrat.” But while his devotion to the partisan label with a capital-D waned over the years (without ever vanishing), his devotion to democracy itself was undying and infectious.  I had my differences with Ben, ideologically, and at times personally, but I never lost my admiration for his undying optimism about the country’s future which was fueled by his unconquerable love for America as an exceptional and indispensable nation. I may write more about him in the days ahead, but for now suffice it to say we will never see another like him.  

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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