The intellectual and political life of the United States over the past 60 years was affected in so many important and enduring ways by Irving Kristol that it is difficult to capture in words the extent of his powerful and positive influence. Irving, who died today at the age of 89, was the rarest of creatures—a thoroughgoing intellectual who was also a man of action. He was a maker of things, a builder of institutions, a harvester and disseminator and progenitor of ideas and the means whereby those ideas were made flesh.
High praise indeed. And utterly true. Podhoretz:
The number of institutions with which he was affiliated, or started, or helped grow into major centers of learning and thinking is hard to count. There is this institution, COMMENTARY, where he began working after his release from the Army following the conclusion of the Second World War. There were two other magazines in the 1950s, The Reporter and Encounter, which he helped found and whose influence on civil discourse was profound and enduring, even legendary. There was The Public Interest, the quarterly he co-founded in 1965 with Daniel Bell and then ran with Nathan Glazer for more than 30 years, which was the wellspring of neoconservative thinking on domestic policy issues. He helped bring a sleepy Washington think tank called the American Enterprise Institute into the forefront. And he made Basic Books into a publishing powerhouse that was, for more than 20 years, at the red-hot center of every major debate in American life.
It was through his encouragement and lobbying efforts that several foundations began providing the kind of support to thinkers and academics on the Right that other foundations and most universities afforded thinkers and academics on the Left. Through his columns in the Wall Street Journal, he instructed American businessmen on the relation between what they did and the foundational ideas of capitalism as explicated by Adam Smith and changed many of them from sideline players in the battle over the direction of the American economy into frontline advocates.
Aside from William F. Buckley, Irving Kristol was arguably the most important intellectual figure on the American Right in the 20th Century. Lately the term "neocon" has become something of a slur in certain precincts of American life. Much of the venom comes from the backstory of neoconservatism, which was largely an intellectual movement of American Jews away from the increasingly radical leftism of the 1960s. Kristol, along with individuals such as Norman Podhoretz (John's father), David Horowitz and Ronald Radosh, were the prime movers in this movement. It took no uncertain courage for Kristol and his colleagues to make the move -- he and the others have been objects of derision and scorn on the Left for well over 40 years.
John Podhoretz's piece has a lot more and you should read it. But more importantly, I'd commend that you read some of Kristol's highly influential essays. Commentary has opened its archives and has made 45 of Kristol's available online. They are worth your time.