His longtime friend and co-editor, Nathan Glazer, once wrote a piece about Irving called ``A Man Without Footnotes.'' I call him a man without rancor. I can think of only one other conservative with such an exceptional temperament: Ronald Reagan. Reagan was truly that political oxymoron, a conservative optimist. But most critics thought he was an optimist because he just did not know better -- James Baker had not briefed him on just how bad things were. Kristol knows how bad things can be, but he never -- never -- descends into despair or recrimination. When everyone else is headed for the bunkers, he keeps his head, his good will and his humor.
The main difference from Reagan is that Kristol is not an optimist. He does not believe in the onward and upward ascent of the human spirit. But he does believe that there is enough good spirit in ordinary human nature to get us to where we have to go anyway, so long as the illusions and delusions of the intellectuals are plainly exposed and avoided.
That is what he did not only in his enormously influential essays on everything from the Cold War to censorship, from supply-side economics to religion, but also as founder and editor of The Public Interest and later its foreign policy counterpart, The National Interest. His magazines cultivated not only new ideas but an entire generation of editors, writers and scholars.
Which is why Kristol has earned, often from unfriendly sources, the title of godfather of neoconservatism. He has been compared to many people besides Don Corleone, but until Monday night never to Ted Williams. My contribution to the gathering was to note that Williams hit a home run in his last time at bat, then quietly walked off the playing field. Very few leave the arena at the top of their game.
That is what happened Monday night to The Public Interest -- with the equanimity and grace so characteristic of its longtime editor and founder.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
Be the first to read Krauthammer's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.