Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

Midge Decter, the godmother of the neocons, dies at 94.

Somebody must have thrown some water on her.
“Unlike many of her fellow neoconservatives, she had never had a Marxist phase. “The only grand posturing of my teens,” she once recalled, “had been a declared intention to die on the barricades in Palestine.”
If only she had gotten her wish.

By Tevi Troy City-Journal

A skilled writer, editor, and political activist, Midge Decter was a key figure in the movement of neoconservative, anti-Communist liberals away from the Democratic Party in the 1970s and 1980s.

Born in St. Paul in 1927, Decter attended multiple universities—the University of Minnesota, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and New York University—but did not receive a degree from any of them. In 1950, she began working at Commentary, then a liberal magazine published under the auspices of the American Jewish Committee. She left shortly afterward but returned in 1953, remaining for three more years, after which she left again for other professional pursuits. Even after that second departure, though, she never really left: she wrote 69 pieces for Commentary over 55 years. She also married Norman Podhoretz, who would become the magazine’s editor, and one of their children, John, would later become editor as well, as he remains today.

Commentary was part of Decter’s family, but it was also a key magazine of The Family, a collection of mostly Jewish New York liberal anti-Communist intellectuals of the 1950s and 1960s. Decter and Podhoretz were important figures in this group, and their apartment became a hub of activity and social events. In 1964, they hosted a party for Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of the recently assassinated president. (Philip Roth referred to her as “the shiksa.”) Former attorney general William Barr’s father was in the Family milieu as well, and Barr recalled in his recent memoir attending “birthday parties at the home of power couple Norman Podhoretz, editor in chief of Commentary magazine, and Midge Decter, a prominent journalist and author.” Decter also wrote for magazines like Harper’s, where she served as executive editor from 1969 to 1971.

It was a charmed life, or so it seemed. But things changed in the 1960s with the growth of the New Left. This Left, with its rejection of tradition and authority, made her uncomfortable. As she wrote in Commentary in 1982, “The refusal to be bound by rules, any rules, turned children against their elders, impelled them to don rags and roam the country simulating poverty, destroy their brains with drugs, burn books, and rage against the very idea of responsibility, social, intellectual, or personal.”


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