NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Kristol Deserves Medal of Freedom

June 26, 2002

Last week, President Bush announced the first recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom during his presidency. The award was inaugurated by President Kennedy to honor civilians who have served their country in the arts, literature, sport, politics and other endeavors.

One was a conservative who is less well known than many others, but who, according to Bruce Bartlett, has done more than anyone except Ronald Reagan to push America to the right over the last 30 years: Irving Kristol.

  • Kristol understood more than anyone the importance of intellectuals in the political process.
  • He took it upon himself to provide the Republican Party and the conservative movement with a cadre of likeminded individuals who came to be called neoconservative -- people who were essential to Reagan's election.
  • As with so many of the conservative movement's most sophisticated postwar thinkers, Kristol came to the right from the far left -- when he came of age the left worshipped intellectuals and most of them worshipped Marx.
  • But many in Kristol's era, the 1960s, reacted to the excesses of the New Left and the growing wave of anti-Americanism among conventional liberals.

In a small journal called the Public Interest, Kristol created a solid foundation for things like supply side economics, welfare and education reform, and other conservative policies that have been enacted into law.

Kristol helped wean the Republican Party away from its instinctive anti-intellectualism and make conservative views semi-respectable in academia and the press.

This critical foundation, which Kristol put together in the 1970s, all came together with the Reagan campaign in 1980. The people and the policies Kristol had nurtured for a decade behind the scenes became Reagan's advisers.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, senior fellow, National Center for Policy Analysis, June 26, 2002.


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