Hendrik Hertzberg

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hendrik Hertzberg
Hertzberg at Pen America/Free Expression Literature, May 2014
Born (1943-07-23) July 23, 1943 (age 80)
EducationHarvard University
Occupation(s)Journalist, columnist
SpouseVirginia Cannon (m. 1998)

Hendrik Hertzberg (born July 23, 1943) is an American journalist, best known as the principal political commentator for The New Yorker magazine. He has also been a speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter and editor of The New Republic, and is the author of ¡Obámanos! The Rise of a New Political Era and Politics: Observations & Arguments. In 2009, Forbes named Hertzberg one of the "25 Most Influential Liberals in the U.S. Media," placing him at number seventeen.[1]

Background and education[edit]

Hertzberg was born in Manhattan, New York City, the son of Hazel Manross Whitman, a professor of history and education at Columbia University, and Sidney Hertzberg, a journalist and political activist.[2][3] His father was Jewish (and had become an atheist); his mother was a Quaker with a Congregationalist background and of English descent,[4][5] also a great-grandniece of Walt Whitman.[6] Hertzberg was educated in the public schools of Rockland County, New York, and Harvard College, from which he graduated in 1965.[7]


Early years[edit]

Hertzberg graduated from Suffern High School in Suffern, New York, after a semester as an exchange student in Toulouse, France.[8]

He began his writing career at The Harvard Crimson and eventually served as managing editor including writing on local and national politics. In addition, he was president of the Liberal Union, had a jazz program on WHRB, and belonged to the Signet Society. Consumed by his Crimson duties, Hertzberg landed on academic probation for a semester, which required him to withdraw from all extracurricular activities. He managed to continue to write Crimson pieces anyway, under the pseudonym Sidney Hart.[6]

William Shawn, the editor of the New Yorker, invited Hertzberg to talk about writing for the magazine. Shawn was familiar with Hertzberg's writing because his son—the actor Wallace Shawn—was a classmate of Hertzberg's at Harvard.[6][9] Hertzberg declined the invitation and after graduating from Harvard in 1965 he took a draft-deferred position as editorial director for the U.S. National Student Association. The following year he joined the San Francisco bureau of Newsweek as a reporter. Hertzberg covered the rise of the hippies, the emergence of rock groups such as the Grateful Dead, Ronald Reagan's successful campaign for governor of California, and The Beatles' last concert.[6]

In 1967 he enlisted in the United States Navy and became an officer posted in New York City. By late 1968 due to his growing opposition to the Vietnam War he requested conscientious-objector status, which was denied.[6] He was discharged at the end of his commitment in 1969. From 1969 to 1977 Hertzberg was a staff writer for the New Yorker;[10] Spy magazine characterized him during this period of his career as a "lothario."[11]


During the 1976 election, Hertzberg wrote speeches for Governor Hugh Carey of New York. After the election, he was recruited to join Carter's speech writing team by James Fallows. After Fallows departed in 1979, Hertzberg became Carter's chief speechwriter. Hertzberg was an author of President Jimmy Carter's July 15, 1979, speech on energy conservation, widely known as the "Malaise Speech"[12] and critiqued as one of the most ineffective pieces of political rhetoric in American history.[13][14] The reaction by some Americans, who were suffering from high unemployment and an American industrial economy in severe recession,[15] was that President Carter blamed them for the economic problems they were facing when they believed that Carter himself was ineffective in alleviating the recession.[16][17] Others, however, point out that calls and letters to the White House were overwhelmingly positive, and that Carter's approval rating in polls climbed 11 points.[16] Vice President Walter Mondale predicted that the speech would not be well received.[18] Hertzberg's personal favorite speech is Carter's farewell address of January 14, 1981.[6] It opens with Carter declaring that he leaves the White House "to take up once more the only title in our democracy superior to that of President, the title of citizen."[19]

As a liberal author,[20] he also expostulates on the necessity of humanism and secularism in democratic societies and critiques the Conservative Revolution. Hertzberg believes that America’s system of winner-take-all elections, federalism, and separation of powers is out of date and damaging to political responsibility and democratic accountability.

Hertzberg is a frequent guest on television programs, such as Democracy Now!.[21] In 2004, Hertzberg contributed $2,000 to John Kerry.[22]

Later career[edit]

Hertzberg was twice editor of The New Republic, from 1981 to 1985 and then from 1989 to 1992, alternating in that job with Michael Kinsley. In between his stints as editor he wrote for that and other magazines and was a fellow at two institutes at Harvard Kennedy School, the Institute of Politics and the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy.[6][10] Under his editorship The New Republic twice won the National Magazine Award for General Excellence, the magazine world’s highest honor.[6][23]

In 1992, when Tina Brown became editor of The New Yorker, she recruited Hertzberg as her executive editor, and he helped her redesign and revitalize the magazine. Under Brown's successor, David Remnick, Hertzberg was a senior editor and staff writer and was a main contributor to "Comment," the weekly essay on politics and society in "The Talk of the Town" and continued until early 2014. In 2006, his articles won The New Yorker a National Magazine Award for Columns and Commentary, and in five other years (2003, -4, -8, -9 and -11) earned the magazine a Finalist ranking in the awards.[24] From 1995 to 2018, Hertzberg was a board member of FairVote, an electoral reform organization, and continues on its advisory committee.[25]



External videos
video icon Booknotes interview with Hertzberg on Politics: Observations and Arguments, 1966-2004, October 10, 2004, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Hertzberg on Politics, July 28, 2005, C-SPAN
video icon Interview with Hertzberg on Politics, March 25, 2006, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Hertzberg on ¡Obámanos!, November 9, 2009, C-SPAN
  • Hertzberg, Hendrik (1970). One million. New York: Simon and Schuster.[a]
  • — (2004). Politics : observations and arguments, 1966-2004. New York: Penguin Press.
  • — (2009). ¡Obámanos! : the birth of a new political era. New York: Penguin Press.



  1. ^ "One Million by Hendrik Hertzberg", goodreads.com. Retrieved 2019-06-29.
  2. ^ a b Available on website only.
  3. ^ Originally published in the January 8, 1972 issue.
  4. ^ Online version is titled "John and Yoko take Manhattan".

Personal life[edit]

Hertzberg is married to Virginia Cannon, a former Vanity Fair editor and a current New Yorker editor. They have a son, Wolf.[6]


  1. ^ Tunku Varadarajan; Elisabeth Eaves; Hana R. Alberts (January 22, 2009). "25 Most Influential Liberals in the U.S. Media". Forbes. Retrieved August 18, 2009.
  2. ^ "Hazel Hertzberg, 70, Professor and Author". The New York Times. 21 October 1988.
  3. ^ "Hazel Whitman wed to Sidney Hertzberg; Has 3 Attendants at Flatbnsh Congregational Church". The New York Times. 26 August 1941.
  4. ^ "Ask the Author Live: Hendrik Hertzberg". The New Yorker. April 9, 2010. Retrieved 2014-06-20.
  5. ^ "Ask the Author Live: Hendrik Hertzberg on Obama and Israel". The New Yorker. May 27, 2011. Retrieved 2014-06-20.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Lambert, Craig (Jan–Feb 2003). "Hertzberg of the New Yorker". Harvardmagazine.com. Retrieved 2014-06-20.
  7. ^ "Hendrik Hertzberg '65: From Crimson Managing Editor to New Yorker Journalist". The Harvard Crimson. 24 May 2015.
  8. ^ "Pullquote: Hertzberg of the New Yorker | Harvard Magazine Jan-Feb 2003". Pullquote.com. Retrieved 2014-06-20.
  9. ^ "Politics: Observations and Arguments, 1966-2004". Booknotes. 2004-10-10. Archived from the original on 2014-05-06. Retrieved 2014-06-20.
  10. ^ a b "Hendrik Hertzberg". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on 2023-05-16.
  11. ^ "Spy". September 1989.
  12. ^ Zakaria, Fareed (January 18, 2009). "What Will Obama Say in Inaugural Address?; Obama's Plan for U.S. Economy (transcript)". Fareed Zakaria GPS. CNN. Retrieved 2014-07-11.
  13. ^ Daniel Dale. "The worst speech of all time," TheStar.com "This is a speech I consider one of the worst speeches in the history of the presidency," says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. "There are many pedestrian speeches. You can say, `Well, they're just bad speeches.' No, they're pedestrian speeches; they're not bad, they're just ordinary. This speech actually has serious inherent rhetorical failures. Usually speechwriters protect a president from that."
  14. ^ "Malaise or Maligned? Jimmy Carter’s Address to the Nation on July 15, 1979 " by Elvin T. Lim Department of Political Science University of Tulsa Prepared for delivery at the 2005 Meeting of the Western Political Science Association, March 16 – 19, Oakland, California. "President Jimmy Carter’s “Energy and National Goals Address to the Nation” on July 15, 1979, better known as infamous “malaise” speech
  15. ^ "FED UP: The Federal Reserve must lower interest rates now to avoid a recession, rising unemployment". Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved 2014-06-20.
  16. ^ a b Mattson, Kevin. "Why Jimmy Carter's Malaise Speech Is More Relevant than Ever". History News Network. Retrieved 2014-06-20.
  17. ^ Tracinski, Robert (Jul 27, 2004). "34 Months vs. 444 Days: There Jimmy Carter Goes Again, Blaming America for His Failures". The Intellectual Activist. Retrieved 2014-07-11.
  18. ^ "Carter's "Crisis of Confidence" Speech". American Experience. PBS. Retrieved 2014-06-20. Others in the administration, led by Vice President Walter Mondale, strongly disagreed. 'I argued that there were real problems in America that were not mysterious, that were not rooted in some kind of national psychosis or breakdown, that there were real gas lines, there was real inflation, that people were worried in their real lives about keeping their jobs'
  19. ^ President Jimmy Carter's Farewell Address, January 14, 1981
  20. ^ Granick, Jennifer and Sprigman, Christopher (2013-06-27) The Criminal N.S.A., The New York Times
  21. ^ "As Two Leaders of the Jewish Defense League Are Arrested for Plotting to Bomb a Los Angelesmosque and An Arsonist Hits the Arab American Action Network, a Debate On Media Coverage of the Middle East". Democracy Now!. 2010-09-21.
  22. ^ Dedman, Bill (15 July 2007). "The list: Journalists who wrote political checks". NBC News. Retrieved 24 October 2010.
  23. ^ "Winners and Finalists Database" (search for 'General Excellence' under 'Category' and 'new republic' under 'Title'), American Society of Magazine Editors' website. The database shows four wins for the magazine in 1987, 1990, 1991 and 1992. Retrieved 2019-06-29.
  24. ^ "Winners and Finalists Database" (search for 'hertzberg' under 'Article(s) and Author(s)'), American Society of Magazine Editors' website. Retrieved 2019-06-29.
  25. ^ "About Us > Advisory Committees", fairvote.org. Retrieved 2019-06-29.

External links[edit]