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Scooter Libby and the Neocons’ Social Universe

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Neocon Scooter Libby has lots of friends, and many wrote letters to his judge, alas to little effect. (Pat Buchanan believes the huge sentence to be "punitive." I agree.)

A couple things interest me about the letters. Paul Wolfowitz says that Libby is one of "the least partisan individuals" you will find in D.C. Libby’s wife is a Democrat, and prior to going to work for Wolfie in the State Department in 1981, Libby had worked on two political campaigns: Gov. Michael Dukakis of MA and Sen. Abraham Ribicoff of CT–two Dems. Mary Matalin notes that Libby’s wife’s politics are close to her own husband’s, James Carville’s. Leonard Garment says that Libby worked with him on the Marc Rich case, the fugitive financier who is dedicated to Israel, and was pardoned by Clinton. Wolfowitz notes that Libby had many friends who held senior position in the Clinton Administration. Natan Sharansky, Israeli extremist, says that he met with Libby "numerous times," officially and in private. Leon Wieseltier of TNR speaks movingly of Libby’s great generosity to him in a legal matter some years back, but notes that he doesn’t share Libby’s politics. "I am in no sense a neoconservative, as many of my neoconservative adversaries will attest," Wieseltier says (as if the judge would care). "I am, to the contrary, the kind of liberal whom many neoconservatives like to despise (This is fine with me)."

The letters are interesting because they touch on the social world of the neoconservatives, which is as important as their intellectual universe. The success of the neocons turned not just on the force of their ideas, but their membership in a new Jewish segment of the establishment that entered high political life in the Clinton Administration, which David Frum justly called the most "philosemitic" administration in history. Though he obviously has many non-Jewish friends, Libby’s social connections have a Jewish flavor; and defy easy ideological pigeonholing.

Those connections help to explain the fact that connected Jewish liberals have, by and large, failed thus far to dissociate themselves forcefully from neocon ideas on Iraq, because they are friends with some of those neocons, or share some of their ideas.Wieseltier attempts a dissociation here; but I would ask Wieseltier (a close friend of the late neocon Eric Breindel, and a particularist Jew in his own right), "Why do the neocons hate you? Where is the evidence?" I don’t believe they do. I believe the attitudes of a Lewis Libby shade subtly into those of liberals like Alan Dershowitz, Stephen Pinker, and Wieseltier. A fascinating world, which hasn’t been explored…

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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