A reader points out that Tamar Jacoby, the leading spokesperson for the Cheap Labor lobby, married the legendary Eric Breindel in 1988, although the marriage famously didn’t last long. (Here’s the NYT’s article “Miss Jacoby Is Affianced” and here’s the wedding notice.)
Due to his personal magnetism, energy, and ambition, Breindel is an extremely important figure in the development of the neocon stranglehold on public debate in America, even though he’s little known today outside of the NYC-DC axis. His funeral after his death in 1998 at age 42 from non-Hodgkins lymphoma was attended by all the Great and Good of the New York media and political elites of all political persuasions.
A 1998 New York magazine article called “The Connection Man” by Craig Horowitz explains:
‘As a writer, Breindel was unexceptional, producing mostly the joyless prose of an ideologue. And as an ideologue, he was more effective working the back channels than he was at publicly taking issues and ideas into new territory. But Breindel understood power in a way few people do. He recognized early in his life that personality is more important than ideology. It’s all about proximity and access. If you have someone’s ear, you can make things happen.”
Breindel, among much else, was crucial to the election of Rudy Giuliani as mayor of NYC in 1993 by persuading Rupert Murdoch to have the New York Post back Rudy in its attack-dog style rather than the Conservative Party candidate.
Despite his soaring New York success, however, the last thing Breindel would have expected — given his unmistakable early promise — was that he’d have to settle for a career as an editorial writer for a tabloid newspaper. The defining moment of his life, the episode that gives his story its tragic-heroic arc, occurred when he was 27. In the early months of 1983, after receiving a high-level security clearance from the FBI, Breindel went to work as Senator Moynihan’s aide on the Senate Intelligence Committee. For someone interested in a career in government, it was a dream job. But on May 16, only eight weeks after he started, Breindel was arrested in the parking lot of a Washington, D.C., motel for buying five bags of heroin from an undercover cop. Two and a half grams for $150. The arrest report said he had tracks on his arms. He was a junkie.
It was, of course, a big story at the time. The coverage portrayed him as a “golden youth” — Harvard Phi Beta Kappa, Harvard Law School graduate, doctoral candidate at the London School of Economics — who had squandered his promise.
As Moynihan was vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Breindel had a heavyweight security clearance, so the revelation that he was consorting with heroin dealers was a much bigger deal than if he was an aide to the vice-chairman of Ways & Means. Breindel’s Harvard roommate was Bobby Kennedy’s son David, another druggie.
Breindel’s life was the sum of his obsessions, and chief among them — quite naturally, given his background [as the son of wealthy Holocaust survivors] — was the fate of the Jews. It was the locus from which all of his other political positions flowed. He believed that most of the world’s evil took place under totalitarian regimes, and from this came his obsession with communism. …
But there was also an upside, a positive view provided by this prism through which he saw the world: his lack of cynicism about America. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he was the child of immigrants. America was the country that saved his parents. “In a strange way, he was a throwback,” says the Observer‘s Peter Kaplan. “In his politics, in the quality of his thought, in the intensity of his passions and his delight in America. It was our parents’ experience, not ours. We were dulled by the success of America and everything that came along with it. But he was experiencing this country the way people who are now in their seventies did 40 or 50 years ago.” …
When Breindel got to Harvard, his obsessions served him well. They were the foundation on which he built what would turn out to be the seminal relationships of his adult life — those with Moynihan, Peretz, and Podhoretz.
After his arrest shattered his ambitions for high government office,
He continued to write the occasional piece, and he asked his friend Christopher Buckley to make contact for him at the New York Times. He’d written a piece about Whittaker Chambers that he wanted to get placed on the op-ed page.
Buckley hooked Breindel up with Tamar Jacoby, who was then the deputy editor of the Times‘s op-ed page. “As soon as we met, we knew there was something there,” says Jacoby, whose most recent book is Someone Else’s House, a look at race and the struggle to achieve integration in America. “He was smart, he was funny, and he cared about the same things I cared about. I knew he’d been through a lot, but that often makes someone stronger and more interesting. I fell in love with him, and his problems certainly didn’t get in the way.” …
With her help, and recommendations from Podhoretz, Peretz, and Moynihan, Breindel landed a job writing for the editorial page of the New York Daily News…
Breindel and Jacoby decided to marry at the beginning of 1988, four years into their relationship. The wedding was at the Harvard Club, and the guest list was, of course, eye-opening. “We both knew a lot of people, and we took some mischievous pleasure in Elliot Abrams having to shake hands with Anthony Lewis and Norman Podhoretz having to shake hands with Bob Silvers,” Jacoby says, laughing at the memory. “Eric and I joked about having to have different rooms to accommodate the various ideologies.”
The relationship, which had always been combative, deteriorated not long after the wedding, and their split yielded one of the most often told and heavily embellished breakup stories in the history of New York‘s chattering class. The tale begins when Breindel and Jacoby embark on a two-week trip to Europe with Breindel’s parents to visit the concentration camps. … They were, in fact, in Europe with his parents when they decided to split up. They were in Hungary, not Poland, and she had always planned to stay on in Europe — without Breindel — to visit her sister in London. When she got home, the apartment was not empty, and Breindel was staying with his parents. Jacoby was, according to people who know her, extremely bitter and angry after their split. Still, the funeral was difficult for her. “When I married Eric, I had all kinds of expectations and hopes about life. I’m a different person now, but at the funeral I spent a lot of time thinking about those two people.”
Even without the apocryphal rendering of the breakup, the cynical view is that Breindel chose women the same way he chose his friends — based on who could help him the most. Tamar Jacoby was the right woman for him at the right time, and when times changed, he found Lally Weymouth, [Washington Post owner] Katharine Graham’s daughter, far more useful.
A general lesson for our era is that cyberspace is far overrated as a way to influence events compared to personal contacts and behind the scenes machinations.
(Republished from iSteve
by permission of author or representative)