Neocon saint Eric Breindel died of AIDS, reports Michael Wolff

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 23 Comments

Eric Breindel, a charismatic neoconservative of considerable influence as the editorial page editor of the New York Post, died in 1998 at age 42. His funeral at the Park Avenue Synagogue was mobbed by socialites and pols alike. Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, Bobby Kennedy Jr., Norman Podhoretz, Henry Kissinger, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Martin Peretz eulogized him. Podhoretz called Breindel a "very good Jew," Kennedy said he was the "smartest person" those who had met him ever knew and he should have been secretary of state, and Peretz said that Breindel was "obsessive and fierce."

The official version of Breindel's death was Hodgkin's disease or liver
failure. But I'd known Breindel in college, and a couple of my friends passed on the rumor that he had
died of AIDS, likely from dirty needles. Breindel was the child of Holocaust survivors and had a turbulent spirit–and a history of drug abuse, including a heroin
arrest in 1983. Then a month or so ago, Michael Wolff of Vanity Fair published a book on Rupert Murdoch, The Man Who Owns the News, that states flatly and without citing any sources that Breindel died of AIDS. Wikipedia has picked up the assertion in its listing.

One friend of mine greeted Wolff's statement with approval: It's about time that this was discussed. But it hasn't been discussed. I've seen no controversy over Wolff's assertion. I wonder where Breindel's neocon cohort is, to knock down this claim, or support it. Where are those public people who loved him, from Leon Wieseltier to Lally Weymouth? Where is the Washington Post or NEw York Post or Times? Heck, maybe Wolff knows what he's talking about; he got days with Murdoch.

This is newsworthy because Breindel is the subject of hagiography. Here's an annual $20,000 award for neoconservative journalism made in Eric Breindel's name. And $10,000 annually to a college journalist. A year or two after Breindel's death John Podhoretz, now the editorial director of Commentary, edited a book of Briendel's writings called "A Passion for Truth," filled with praise of Breindel's brilliance, and vague descriptions of the nature of his death. Peretz accurately described Breindel as a "counselor to men and women in high places… [with] a pivotal place among the opinion elites," and of course a fierce Zionist, with a "severe" worldview. Under the circumstances, a pivotal place in the elites, you'd expect more facts about the nature of his death. Journalists don't protect other public figures on this score.

Breindel was loved and despised. My wife adored him, I didn't. In fact, I tangled with him in college and so did friends of mine. I had the understanding then that he was charismatic and that his charisma arose from his demons. Part of my interest in seeing this matter discussed comes from the knowledge that Breindel was a Roy Cohn-like character, righteous in his public writings, not so righteous in his private life. The word "vicious" is sometimes used about his sharp manner– Peretz's "severe." Wolff accurately describes Breindel as a "social figure" who cultivated the powerful and who became a "virulent anti-Arab, anti-welfare, anti-Communist voice."

There has always been a vigorous public campaign on Breindel's behalf. He had an entourage in college, and when he was arrested in 1983–a scandal; he was on Moynihan's foreign policy staff–I got a call from a Breindel friend, telling me not to talk about his private life to reporters. I declined the advice, I was a reporter myself. And what did I know? In college he'd suffered a deathly illness, colitis, as I recall, and looked green and awful and told me he'd rather die than go through that again. It was rumored that he'd gotten hooked on painkillers. (John Podhoretz says as much in that festschrift). I always found his writing repellent and found him personally attractive, angular good looks, a trenchcoat, Camel non-filters. Peretz says that Breindel wanted to be in the Warsaw ghetto, to resist the Nazis. No wonder Breindel celebrated Menachem Begin and Ze'ev Jabotinsky and Jabotinsky's "vision of Jewish men and women unburdened by the stigma of exile."

This is the central intellectual contradiction of American Zionists, which Breindel (and Peretz and Wieseltier) failed to examine: they love exile. And so do I.

I like my wife's interpretation of Breindel's story. She always said that conservatives were more loyal than lefties. When Breindel fell down in '83, the neocons forgave him at once and picked him up and gave him one job after another. Leftwingers left their wounded on the side of the road, she said. That protection continues to this day.

(Phil Weiss)

23 Responses

  1. chris berel
    February 9, 2009, 9:01 am

    Let me know when you finish investigating Arafat's death. I understand that AIDS was a factor.

  2. sword of gideon
    February 9, 2009, 9:10 am

    This one is a new low, even for Phil Weiss.

  3. Grumpy Old Man
    February 9, 2009, 9:51 am

    I know nothing about the decedent, but if he managed to have a successful career (in worldly terms, anyway) while addicted to heroin, it just goes to show the follow of the "War on Drugs." The poor bastard was hooked; the evidence is that people can live with such an addiction for years. It's not praiseworthy, I'd say, but we have a 75-year-old moral panic on the subject.

    I realize Phil's obsession is Zionism, not our other follies, but I thought I'd point this out.

  4. Mohammad
    February 9, 2009, 10:01 am

    Yeah. Please, let's investigate and find out if SHARON really ordered Arafat's murder. Let's hear it for URI DAN

  5. BluePearl
    February 9, 2009, 10:05 am

    Uri Avnery not only disputes that Arafat died of AIDS but writes that he was poisoned.

    Uri Avnery's Article

  6. Mohammad
    February 9, 2009, 10:09 am
  7. Mohammad
    February 9, 2009, 10:12 am

    No on is more obsessed with Zionism than Zionists themselves. Phil However is obsessed with ending the tyranny of Zion. Phil is obsessed with seeing a world without Zionism. I'm sure he will still be passionate about other subjects, like those who brought Apartheid down in South Africa

  8. Scorpio
    February 9, 2009, 10:15 am

    how 'bout that Sandy Koufax?

  9. ASC
    February 9, 2009, 10:23 am

    What did Breindel write specifically about AIDS policy, the gay community, public health controversies like clean needle exchanges, etc.? If he indeed wrote insensitively or ideologically about any of these issues, then yes, there's a Roy Cohn aspect if indeed he died of AIDS. But you can't imply hypocrisy, on his part or his fans', without specifically discussing his views on these matters.

    And by suggesting his right-wing colleagues are "protecting" him, aren't you somehow endorsing the idea that AIDS is a stigma?

  10. Mohammad
    February 9, 2009, 10:57 am

    No. In fact Phil, in a way, is praising the right wing solidarity with him. He wishes that the left wing was also as supportive of its members.

  11. gill
    February 9, 2009, 12:13 pm

    Mohammed,what do you mean world without Zionism

  12. Chris Berel
    February 9, 2009, 12:24 pm

    In a backhanded way, of course.

    By all means, lets investigate Arafats death via AIDS and/or poisen. My understanding is that both were from Palestinian sources. At least it appears that that is the claim of those closest to him, notably his wife.

  13. Sword of Gideonthe point.
    February 9, 2009, 1:23 pm

    It's a well known fact that Arafat not only liked to suck cock but enjoyed taking it up the ass.

  14. chris berel
    February 9, 2009, 2:53 pm

    Please, it is easy enough to defeat the forces of islamic fascism without resorting to vulgarity.

  15. Ed
    February 9, 2009, 3:18 pm

    Zionism is about as vulgar as it gets, berel. Don't put on civilized affectations. SOG is like you, and you are like him. He just doesn't pretend to be what he's not for show.

    By the way, quit vandalizing this site by turning all the comment script to italics or bold, you idiot.

  16. MRW.
    February 9, 2009, 4:01 pm

    CHRIS BEREL, learn HTML. You cause this every time. You are too sloppy to participate here without instruction. Get some.

    Since you are always telling us how smart Jews are, how they sail over the rest of us, get some.

    HTML is the net's equivalent of 1 + 1 = 2. You can handle that, can't you?

  17. MRW.
    February 9, 2009, 4:04 pm


    No this is not a new low for Phil Weiss. He is a lone moral voice in the wilderness.

  18. Sword of Gideonthe point.
    February 9, 2009, 5:23 pm

    How about this one. I heard a rumor that Phil Weiss's grandmothers liked to get fucked by goats.

    Takes a lot of courage to shit on a guy who's been dead ten years.

  19. chris berel
    February 9, 2009, 5:46 pm

    I wonder what's Phil's real problem. He seems to have never met a Jew he didn't eventually hate. He even has to blame a Jew because he's screwed up his own site and can't handle the guilt.

  20. Scott
    February 9, 2009, 7:08 pm

    There are many ways to think about Eric's addiction and illness. One friend of mine described him as the most successful example of drug rehab ever. I became intrigued with him after the arrest–not just another high achieving Jewish guy,but with other things going on. His politics I would now find appalling, but when you see them up close, there are complexities (there always are). He maintained a long term correspondance with Mohammed Mehdi (i think that name is right) a man who was for a long time virtually the only public Palestinian advocate in America. He didn't have to–he was powerful and Mehdi was not. I could point to other examples.
    He also was full of rich gossipy and highly embarrassing stories about leading neocons, including some mentioned in this post.

  21. Ed
    February 9, 2009, 11:05 pm

    "He maintained a long term correspondance with Mohammed Mehdi (i think that name is right) a man who was for a long time virtually the only public Palestinian advocate in America. He didn't have to–he was powerful and Mehdi was not."

    He probably wanted to get him into bed. Isn't compensating for their queerdom at the heart what drives a lot of these diaspora Jewish Zionists who are too cowardly to make aliya?

  22. Julian
    February 10, 2009, 8:44 am

    Phil measured his life and career choices next to Breindel and came up very short.
    Breindel was a much better writer than Phil and people actually loved and cared about him. Phil on the other hand has a career that has gone steadily steadily downhill until he reached the point of making a living with a David Duke supported hate blog.

  23. Yisrael Medad
    February 11, 2009, 6:09 am

    You can't be a Zionist if you love the Galut/Exile and maybe that's why Jabotinsky and Begin turned out so great: they actually did something to alter the existence of an Exile (and why Philip can't stand them)

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