I don’t know what to say. When I first came to Washington I worked at the American Enterprise Institute, where Irving was considered royalty. His impact on me and my thinking was, simply, enormous. During that whole time, when I was voraciously consuming everything I could about conservatism — and a great deal else — Irving’s writings and talks changed my worldview more than anyone else’s. This is not to say I always agreed with him then, or now, but he changed forever the way I think about politics, culture and, for want of a better word, the craft. There was always something about him that reminded me of my father, even though they weren’t entirely similar. But they shared a way of grasping the ageless debates and tensions lurking in modern questions and crystallizing them with both wisdom and wit. For me personally, it made him quite simply lovable.
Kristol was, of course, a titan. There will be comparisons to William F. Buckley coming down the pike, I’m sure. I’m not sure I will agree with all of them. But there’s at least one respect in which they are very similar. We tend to discuss the public men, the men of letters who wrote and said brilliant things, coined pithy phrases. But what is often left out is the inside game behind the scenes. Kristol, like Buckley, helped legions of people find not just jobs, but a path in life. Like Buckley, he created lasting institutions that carried his ideas forward. He was a great and honorable man, slightly out of sync with the times which made him all the more astute at understanding them. My condolences go out to his entire family as well as to his extended intellectual and professional family and, well, to the country.