Reader Kiril pointed me to a great piece about Peretz from 1975. He was just as much of an asshole then as he is now:
Peretz gets angry when he hears the accusation that his Zionism was involved in Karnow’s resignation. Karnow is trying to give their squabble more substance than it had, Peretz says. He calls Karnow a “whiner,” “a perpetual malcontent,” and a “kvetch.” Karnow’s expensive habits were a main source of friction between them, Peretz says; Karnow had a predilection for dining in fancy, expensive French restaurants with news sources and charging it to Peretz. Peretz says he was also charged with Karnow’s long-distance phone calls to his friends.
Karnow in reply says that Peretz never raised any issues of expenses with him and that Peretz is trying to demean him in the easiest way. “He’s trying to drown the issues between us in that kind of trivia…his arguments on that subject merely reveal his pettiness,” he says. Karnow also says he has repaid Peretz for everything he owed him.
The next head to roll at The New Republic was the executive editor’s. Peretz was reading Time magazine in his office the week after Karnow quit, he recalls. An article on the events at The New Republic quoted some remarks by Walter Pincus, the executive editor, who specialized in articles on Watergate. (A “Watergate obsessive,” Peretz says.) Time reported that Pincus was disconsolate and would quit soon. Pincus told Time that Peretz was “a guy on an ego trip who doesn’t know where he wants to go.” That was enough for Peretz. As he recalls, he put down the magazine, walked into Pincus’s office and said: “Walter, I read in Time that you say I don’t know where I’m going. Well I know where you’re going–out!”[…..]
Peretz acknowledges that the editors who left the magazine charge him with unprofessionalism, but he bristles, “What the fuck do they know?”
A lot of the criticism of The New Republic these days focuses on its knee-jerk Likudism. But I’ve always found its glib contrarianism much more annoying. I always blamed this on the Michael Kinsley years (it can’t be a coincidence that Slate is exactly the same way). Of course, it was Peretz wanted things that way:
If Marty Peretz were writing an article on the changes The New Republic has undergone since he bought it he would say that he is trying to revive the old tradition of The New Republic or as the magazine said in 1914, “to create a little insurrection in men’s minds.” Peretz says The New Republic had developed a “knee jerk liberal” quality in recent years and that he would like it to be “less predictable without sacrificing its fundamental liberal commitment.”
It’s hard to overestimate the damage this dedication to not being “predictable” or “knee jerk liberal” has done to American public discourse. An enormous number of the “sure you think genocide is bad, but once you get past the conventional wisdom of our hippie overlords blah blah blah” style wankers came out of the Slate or TNR mill — Charles Lane, Kinsley himself, Kaus, Andrew Sullivan (who does this a lot less than he used to) — and that’s not even getting into the ones who took it so far they went completely insane (or were simply insane to begin with) — Barnes, Krauthammer, Kagan, Ledeen, Michael Kelly.
I’m not sure how damage Peretz has done on the issue of Israel. Everyone knows the magazine has been in the bag on that issue for the last 35 years and I don’t think anyone takes it seriously. But by raising a generation of smart-ass, crackpot commentators — who are inexplicably taken seriously in many quarters — he’s done incalculable harm to our society in many other areas.