Of course I fundamentally disagree with basically everything the man stood for, but Irving Kristol's influence on the Republican Party and in turn the neocon movement that he helped to shape over the last two decades cannot be underestimated. Certainly from Poppy Bush through George W. Bush, Kristol's ideas defined the Republican Party and the foreign policies of both parties.
Kristol was the husband of critic-historian Gertrude Himmelfarb and father of neoconservative editor and commentator William Kristol, an editor of The Weekly Standard.
A Trotskyist in the 1930s, Kristol would soon sour on socialism, break from liberalism after the rise of the New Left in the 1960s and in the 1970s commit the unthinkable — support the Republican Party, once as "foreign to me as attending a Catholic Mass."
He was a New York intellectual who left home, first politically, then physically, moving to Washington in 1988. He was a liberal "mugged by reality," his turn to the right joined by countless others, including such future GOP Cabinet officials as Jeane Kirkpatrick and William Bennett and another neoconservative founder, Norman Podhoretz.
"The influence of Irving Kristol's ideas has been one of the most important factors in reshaping the American climate of opinion over the past 40 years," Podhoretz said.
He was a flagship in the network of think tanks, media outlets and corporations that helped make conservatism a reigning ideology for at least two decades, the "vast right-wing conspiracy" that Hillary Rodham Clinton would claim was out to get her husband.
"More than anyone alive, perhaps, Irving Kristol can take the credit for reversing the direction of American political culture," liberal commentator Eric Alterman wrote in 1999.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney was a longtime admirer and former President George W. Bush, whose administration was heavily populated by neoconservatives, awarded Kristol a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002, praising him as "a wide-ranging thinker whose writings have helped transform America's political landscape."
Having said that, it will take decades to undo the damage of the direct application of Kristol's ideals by the last three Presidents, and yes that includes Clinton. Obama's policies certainly aren't free of Kristol's influence either, but at least the reversal against them has begun.