Werner J. Dannhauser, 1929-2014- One Of a Kind: John Podhoretz

Werner J. Dannhauser, who worked for COMMENTARY as an editor fifty years ago before moving into academia as a celebrated teacher of political philosophy, was an American original—and of a type of which there are, sadly, fewer and fewer as the years pass. He was a deeply serious intellectual—and a bit of a reprobate. He was a highly responsible bourgeois who tragically found himself a widower at a very young age with two very young children—and a party animal who liked to gamble and drink. (He once prevailed upon his legendary teacher, Leo Strauss, for a loan when he got himself in over his head in a professional poker game and needed some scratch to keep his legs from getting broken out from under him.) He had the beard of a 19th Century Swedenborgian clergyman—and told a Jewish joke like nobody’s business. He taught moral and political philosophy with great gravity—and got into hot water for talking dirty in a Cornell classroom. He was a genuinely delightful man and, when he could free himself from the writer’s block that oddly afflicts so many Straussians, a prose stylist of true grace and wit.

Here he is, in 1975, in an article called “On Teaching Politics Today” which is so politically incorrect in its discussion of, among other things, his students’s “bosoms” that no one, not even he, would write it now:

Like everybody else around me I learned Shaw’s not-so-bon mot early: Those who can, do, those who can’t, teach. I wanted to be the third baseman for the Cleveland Indians when I grew up, or a jazz trumpeter, or a movie star, but never a teacher. I drifted into teaching just as I drifted into everything else, both wonderful and dreadful, in my life. Graduate students need money—a student, according to Balzac, is somebody who can afford only luxuries—so I began to do a little teaching on the side. It became more than a sideline because it was a stage of sorts and I was not too bad as an actor on it. To watch a classroom full of people taking down what I said was heady, especially when there were admiring girls among them. So I kept teaching.

Then came a time when I began to realize I had grown too old to be a third baseman and I suddenly got the dreadful feeling that real life was somewhere else. So I left teaching and looked for real life as a social worker, a truck dispatcher, an editor, a researcher for a labor union. In the ivory tower the university struck me as, well, an ivory tower; but out of it, it seemed to be the place where the action was. In I went and out I went, and now I’m back in, having learned, as Milton Friedman puts it, that there is no such thing as a free lunch. One pays a price for being a teacher. One’s wit becomes donnish; one’s arguments pedantic; one grows slower without growing calmer. Continued association with those younger than oneself may hasten the coming of senility. Faculty parties are immeasurably more boring than Village parties or family parties. But real life is not out there either. It’s inside somewhere, hard to find, and teachers have a better chance of finding it than most. One has to learn to trust oneself, to trust the great stupidity one is (Nietzsche). I have not learned much about who I am, but I have learned I am a teacher.

A Tour and Census of Palestine Year 1695: No Sign of Arabian Names or Palestinians…Translation by Nurit Greenger

by Avi Goldreich

(Translated from the Hebrew by Nurit Greenger.)

The time machine is a sensation that nests in me when I am visiting Mr. Hobber old books store in Budapest, Hungary. Hobber learned to know my quirks and after the initial greeting and the glass of mineral water (Mr. Hobber is a vegan) he leads me down the stairs to the huge basement, to the Jewish “section.”

The Jewish section is a room full of antiquity books on subjects that Mr. Hobber sees to be Jewish. Among the books there are some that are not even worthy their leather binding. However, sometime, one can find there real culture treasure. Many of the books are Holy Books that may have been stolen from synagogues’ archives: Talmud, Bible, Mishnah, old Ashkenazi style Siddur, and others. Customarily, I open them to see who the proprietor is; who was the Bar Mitzvah boy who received the book two hundred years ago and to whom did he pass the book at the end of his days. It is simply curiosity.

Many of the books are written in the German language. They are books of Jewish rumination written by Christians or assimilating Jews. Sometime one can find a hand written Talmud volume that is very expensive; thousands of Euros, set in the specially aired cabinet. Hobber knows their value. Sometime one can find a bargain such as the book Palestina by Hadriani Relandi — its original professional name Palaestina, ex monumentis veteribus illustrata, published by Trajecti Batavorum: Ex Libraria G. Brodelet, 1714. One can find such original books in only few places in the world, also in Haifa University.


Odd how Rev. Jeremiah Wright got away with being racist for years, isn’t it?
A racist catch makes everybody feel good and right now we all feel terrific, all across the land. Donald Sterling, a billionaire who owns most of Beverly Hills and the Los Angeles Clippers pro basketball team, is our Racist Catch of the Day. He made some terrible remarks about African Americans and he merits our disapproval.

President Obama was quick to register his disgust against Sterling.
Years ago, however, Obama was not so quick to condemn his pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright for Wright’s repeated anti-Semitic slurs from the pulpit. Obama sat there for some 20 years listening to all that trash-talk and most in the Liberal press also agreed that Wright did not warrant much coverage…certainly not enough to tarnish Obama.

Only the Conservative press, Fox News, tried and failed to make it a big deal.

But finally here is something we can all agree on – Liberals, Conservatives and Independents. We are all in the same boat. Yippee. We got our man.

We hate that guy Donald Sterling for allegedly warning his mistress (or former mistress) to quit taking pictures with African Americans, and to quit bringing them to the games, even though most of his team is made up of African Americans. So this comment of Sterling’s is not just reprehensible but confusing.

If you’re looking for a mostly white sport, try tennis or cricket.


Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day fell this year on yesterday evening and today. Yom HaShoah (literally “Day the-Holocaust” in Hebrew) was declared a national memorial day in Israel in 1953, five years after the state’s establishment, and is now observed throughout the Jewish world.

Unlike much older Jewish holidays, Yom HaShoah has had to be improvised. By now, in Israel (where I’ve been living for almost 30 years), the day has a structure and contents that rather effectively convey somberness and an intense identification with the Holocaust’s victims.

Yom HaShoah begins in Israel (at sundown) with a ceremony in a square beside Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. I’ve been watching it on TV now for years and generally find it tactful, authentic, and moving. It includes speeches by the prime minister and the president before an honor guard, the lighting of six torches (symbolizing six million victims) by Holocaust survivors, musical presentations, and most of all the heart-wrenching singing of the prayer “El Malei Rahamim” by the chief army cantor.

Yom HaShoah is a regular workday, but with places of entertainment closed and all TV and radio programs devoted to Holocaust-related themes. At 11 a.m. sirens blare throughout the country and all traffic and motion stops. Drivers exit their cars and, like the surrounding pedestrians, stand for the two-minute duration of the siren in silent commemoration. These are moments of eerie, slightly frightening power.

The Holocaust is central to the Israeli ethos but it is not—as often claimed by Arab propaganda—the raison d’être or historical antecedent of the state. Zionist settlement in the Land of Israel began about six decades before World War II broke out. By that time, the Yishuv (prestate Jewish community) numbered hundreds of thousands and was called a “state in the making”; the effect of the Holocaust was to rob this community, and world Jewry in general, of immense riches of human life.


Big lies don’t always start out big. They don’t even always start out as lies. They only grow big in the cover-up when the truth has to be beaten off with a stick made out of even bigger lies.

A brief read of the daily newspapers, a quick flick through the cable news networks and an ear cocked to the drive time news minute might give you the idea that Israel is isolated and besieged. Israel is indeed a small country. It’s always been isolated in a Muslim region that is willing to kill even fellow Arab Christians and fellow Arab Shiites over differences of religion.

But contrary to the Peace Lobby sloganeering, Israel isn’t morally bankrupt, the intellectual premises of Zionism aren’t shattered and it’s not a failed state on the verge of destruction.

It’s the Peace Lobby that is frantically struggling to keep its big lie together. Its attacks on Israel are not a show of strength, but a desperate cover-up. From the high chambers where John Kerry suggests Israel is going to be an Apartheid State to the low chambers of failed boycotts against academics and soda companies, the purveyors of the big lie are coming apart at the seams.

The big peace lie started out small. Both sides would shake hands and make peace. And white doves would fly from Jerusalem to Ramallah. To some it wasn’t even a lie; just blind idealism and wishful thinking. It was only when the lie was tried and failed that it truly became a lie and then there were no more idealists, only desperate liars covering up one lie with another.

The entire peace process rested on the lie that the PLO wanted to make peace. Israel had successfully reached peace agreements, including territorial compromises, with its enemies. Its credibility was never in question. The PLO’s credibility was the big question mark and when its willingness to make peace was put to the test and it failed, again and again, the big lie began.

Israel can’t do anything right in the peace process and the PLO can’t do anything wrong. When Abbas blatantly violated his agreements by going to the UN, Secretary of State John Kerry took a seat in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and blamed Israel.

Then Abbas made a unity deal with Hamas, which is committed to destroying Israel, and Kerry told the Trilateral Commission that Israel was on the path to becoming an Apartheid state.

Kerry may be notorious for his terrorist sympathies, but he was following the grand tradition of his predecessors and of the entire Peace Lobby by blaming the peace partner with the most credibility instead of the one with the least credibility because the credibility of the peace process depends on its weakest link. And that is the Palestinian Authority’s Abbas and his PLO terrorists.

If you were trying to negotiate the sale of a home from a seller acting in good faith to a buyer acting in bad faith, you would blame the seller because once you admit that the buyer is acting in bad faith, the credibility of the sale vanishes into thin air. The smart thing for the seller to do is to walk away, but unfortunately Israeli leaders are convinced that they can prove their good faith by eagerly showing up to negotiate.

What they don’t understand is that blaming Israel is a structural part of the peace process.



Leonard Steinman has run for Jefferson City mayor, Cole County Western District commissioner, Missouri governor and the U.S. House of Representatives.
But he’s never campaigned against his wife, Velma Steinman, before. In fact, it’s quite possibly the first time in Missouri’s history a husband and wife have competed against one another for a congressional seat.
With his white beard, gadfly persona and penchant for eccentric costumes, Leonard, 62, cuts a well-known figure in Jefferson City. Velma, 53, isn’t as familiar as her spouse, but has roots in Cole County just as deep as her husband’s.
Asked why the two would run against each other for the same job, Velma replied: “People think we’re doing this as a lark. They think it’s funny. But I think it shows that husbands and wives can have separate views and still work together. Congress can do the same.”

Leonard said: “One way or another, we’re going to get into Congress and open people’s eyes up.”
Last week, as filing opened for the Aug. 5 primary election, both Velma and Leonard stepped forward to compete for the 3rd U.S. Congressional District, a seat occupied by Blaine Luetkemeyer now.
Velma is currently the only Democratic candidate listed on the ballot. On the Republican ticket, Leonard is listed first, followed by Luetkemeyer and a St. Peters man named John Morris.
Luetkemeyer’s office declined to answer specific questions about the pair of opponents. A spokesman said: “The congressman is focused on his own campaign and representing the people of the 3rd District. We have no further comment.”
Leonard said he has not always been encouraged by party leaders to participate on their tickets. “They tell you politely up front: ‘You have no recognition,’” he said.
But Leonard feels he’s just as well known as others who’ve tried to run for office. “If you come to the Capitol with me,” he said, “People from both the House and the Senate will say, ‘Hi, Leonard!’”
Traditionally Leonard has filed as a Democrat, but this time he’s a Republican.
“I was asked to change parties by some Republicans,” he said.

Both of the Steinmans were born and raised in Jefferson City.


Congress has been out of session, and he isn’t up for reelection this year, but Utah senator Mike Lee is a busy man. He was out campaigning last week, traveling from Texas to Oklahoma to Nebraska to stump for Republican candidates engaged in competitive primary battles.

From his office in Washington, D.C., he is operating what a senior aide describes as a “shadow party,” lending support to insurgent Republican candidates and churning out a series of policy proposals intended to put the GOP in a better position to win in 2016 and beyond. The proposals, which together Lee calls a “conservative reform agenda,” are intended to serve as inspiration for the party’s presidential candidates.

On Thursday, Lee, Republican colleague Ted Cruz, and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin were in Tulsa headlining a “Liberty Rally” for Senate candidate T. W. Shannon, the former state-house speaker who is locked in a primary battle with representative James Lankford, a member of the Republican House leadership. From there, they jetted to southwestern Nebraska to raise money for Senate candidate Ben Sasse, a college president battling former state treasurer and Navy pilot Shane Osborn for the party’s nomination in May.

At a time when some of his closest allies and other tea-party favorites, such as Rand Paul and Florida senator Marco Rubio, are focused on building their fundraising networks and campaign operations in advance of potential presidential bids in 2016, Lee’s attention is elsewhere.

“I’m encouraging my fellow Republicans, incumbents and candidates alike, to take note of the fact that we do much better when we promote our agenda,” the senator says. “We can’t always just be the party that’s about being against what we don’t like in Washington. We need also to be the party that’s for things we want to have happen in Washington.”

Lee’s work to articulate a vision of conservative governance is reminiscent of the conservative reform movements that arose in the 1970s, when groups such as the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, and the Republican Study Committee were founded. The policy proposals and ideological fervor that emanated from them helped to sustain the dozen years of Republican governance that followed, first under Ronald Reagan and then under George H. W. Bush. Reagan famously distributed the Heritage Foundation’s Mandate for Leadership, which contained thousands of policy proposals, at the first meeting of his cabinet, and his administration proceeded to implement many of them. “I think there are some important similarities,” Lee says.

Foreign Policy: From Bad to None By Victor Davis Hanson

Barack Obama had a foreign policy for about five years, and now he has none.Our enemies are gloating, and our allies are grimly deciding where to go from here.

The first-term foreign policy’s assumptions went something like this. Obama was to assure the world that he was not George W. Bush. Whatever the latter was for, Obama was mostly against. Given that Bush had left office with polls similar to Harry Truman’s final numbers, this seemed to Obama a wise political approach.

If Bush wanted garrison troops left in Iraq to secure the victory of the surge, Obama would pull them out. If Bush had opened Guantanamo, used drones, relied on renditions, reestablished military tribunals, and approved preventive detention, Obama would profess to dismantle that war on terror — even to the point where the Bush-era use of the word “terrorism” and any associations between it and radical Islam would disappear.

If Bush had contemplated establishing an anti-missile system in concert with the Poles and Czechs, then it must have been unwise and unnecessary. If Bush had unabashedly supported Israel and become estranged from Turkey, Obama would predictably reverse both courses.

Second, policy per se would be secondary to Obama’s personal narrative and iconic status. Obama, by virtue of his nontraditional name, his mixed-race ancestry, and his unmistakably leftist politics, would win over America’s critics to the point where most disagreements — themselves largely provoked by prior traditional and blinkered administrations — would dissipate. Rhetoric and symbolism would trump Obama’s complete absence of foreign-policy experience.

Many apparently shared Obama’s view that disagreements abroad were not so much over substantive issues as they were caused by race, class, or gender fissures, or were the fallout from the prior insensitivity of Europe and the United States — as evidenced by a Nobel Prize awarded to Obama on the basis of his stated good intentions.

Third, Obama had a clever recipe for concocting a new disengagement. He would mesh the increasing American weariness with intervention abroad and fears over a shaky economy with his own worldview about the dubious past role of the United States. The result might be that both libertarians and liberals, for differing reasons, would agree that we should stay out of problems abroad, that a struggling lower class and middle class would agree that money spent overseas was money that could be better spent at home, and that critiques of America’s past would seem not so much effusions of leftist ideology as practical reasons why the United States should disengage abroad.

Finally, to the degree that any problems still persisted, Obama could either contextualize them (given his legal training and community-organizing experience), or talk loudly and threaten. For example, by referencing past American sins, by an occasional ceremonial bow or apology, by a bit of psychoanalysis about “macho shtick” or the schoolboy Putin cutting up in the back of the room, an exalted Obama would show the world that he understood anti-social behavior and could ameliorate it as a counselor does with his emotional client. The world in turn would appreciate his patience and understanding with lesser folk, and react accordingly. Again, in place of policy would be the towering personality of Barack Obama. And if all that did not work, a peeved Obama could issue deadlines, red lines, and step-over lines to aggressors — and reissue them when they were ignored.

Jimmy Carter, John Kerry and Their Best Friends: Raymond Learsy

When it comes to opining on Israel and the ongoing tensions and deliberations between Israelis and Palestinians, the views of the likes of President Jimmy Carter (his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid) and Secretary of State Kerry among other dignitaries and pundits are not far apart. Their host of scribbles and public posturing serve to fortify each other: that the Israelis are intransigent, unbending and worst of all, by bandying those freighted words ‘colonizers’ added to Carter’s and now John Kerry’s ‘apartheid’, serving to portray Israel’s presence in the West Bank as both an occupation and worse, imbuing it with the trappings of a colonial subjugation thereby helping to rationalize and validate any and all attempts at Israel’s delegitimization.

What is routinely overlooked by these pundits, is that Israel’s presence on the West Bank is the consequence of the massive mobilization of Arab armies on Israel’s borders poised to attack Israel, thereby sparking the onset of hostilities in 1967. Israel’s presence on the West Bank is referred to misguidedly and simply as “won by Israel in the 1967 war..” (Please see Thomas Friedman’s New York Times Op-ed “Sheldon: Iran’s Best Friend”) with no mention that the genesis of the 1967 war was to defend the integrity of the Israeli state against a brace of Arab armies intent not only on eliminating Israel, but one could surmise — given the myriad examples of Arab intolerance between Shia and Sunni in contemporary Syria and Iraq, the ongoing slaughter in Syria, given the teachings of Wahhabi scripture, Salafist indoctrination or the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Jew hatred taught in Arab madrassas or the vile bile emanating from Hamas Palestinians as well as from Hezbollah among others — that a successful invasion by Arab States over Israel might well have resulted not only in the elimination of the Jewish State but also in the murderous destruction of its Jewish citizenry.

Far fetched you say? One needs understand in the deep consciousness of virtually every Jew is the reality of history, namely the profound perversity of Deutschland’s Auschwitz.


Populist political leaders disparage the few in order to win over the many. It is a “divide to conquer” strategy that relies on emotional appeal, rather than rational debate. Such leaders surround themselves with sycophants, rather than a “team of rivals.” They make promises without regard as to how they might be fulfilled, and blatantly lie about their opponents. While they claim to speak for the masses, their concern is for themselves. They are interested in the here and now. The past and the future have no relevance.

Populists are always the most dangerous politicians. In giving things rather than in guiding legislation, they insinuate themselves into the hearts and minds of susceptible voters. Every dictator, whether from the Left or the Right, has had his or her roots in populism. We can look at Lenin and Stalin who strove for equality, in a classless society, but on the way killed or murdered perhaps 40 million people. We can consider Hitler who, in the name of creating a perfect society, murdered six million Jews. Mao Tse-tung did the same thing in China. A few bankers may be greedy and some corporate leaders may be corrupt, but every major campaign against human life has been led by government and almost always under the pretense of fairness and equality.

Inequality has become the banner for today’s populists and “fairness” is their goal. Gillian Tett, writing in last weekend’s Financial Times, noted that media reference to inequality is six times higher this month than in 2005 or 2010. The term “inequality” is expressed simplistically, with little thought as to its causes, or to history. It is generally thought of in terms of financial outcomes. Too little attention is paid to the far more important issue of opportunities. Outcomes are a function of intelligence, diligence, hard work, aspiration and luck. No matter how we measure it, life is not fair, nor can it ever be. Why did my sister die of cancer at the age of 58 and not me? Why have some of my friends become enormously wealthy and not me? Why have my children proved such a blessing, yet those of some my friends been such a burden? Why was I born in this great country when billions of less fortunate were born impoverished in places like Somalia, Haiti or Afghanistan? Innumerable questions, such as these, can be asked with no satisfactory answers.

Yet, the fact that there are no good answers does not mean the questions should not be asked. Like Stuart Little, the quest is important. We should always seek ways, individually, of improving our lives, as well as helping those around us. But we should not be blinded with the expectation that Nirvana will be found. It is the promise of Utopia that drives the Populist, even as we know from history that Utopia is likely to become Dystopia. Ask those who lived in Hitler’s Germany, in Eastern Europe before the Wall came down, in China during the Cultural Revolution, or lovers of freedom today in North Korea, Cuba, Syria, or myriad other countries.