I was born in Irondequoit, a suburb of Rochester, New York, in 1955. I wrote my first article for National Review about anti-Vietnam War protests at my high school; it was published the day after my fifteenth birthday. When I graduated from college (Yale, ’77) I went to work for National Review, and have stayed ever since.
For twenty years (1987-2007) I wrote a column for the New York Observer. I have also free-lanced for a number of magazines including The New Yorker, Cosmopolitan, Commentary and Vanity Fair.
I wrote about Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, Iowa caucuses and national conventions, Philip Larkin and Bobby Short, the collapse of Communism and 9/11. Ronald Reagan laughed at one of my jokes; Margaret Thatcher repeated it. I shook Fidel Castro’s hand. I had a close, sometimes tumultuous relationship with William F. Buckley, Jr. (which is the subject of Right Time, Right Place).
Along the way I became a historian of the founding period. After writing about modern politicians, it didn’t seem a stretch to write about dead ones. The founders are our fathers; they are also our contemporaries, present in so much of what we think and do. I curated “Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America,” an exhibition at the New-York Historical Society; and I wrote and hosted “Rediscovering George Washington” and “Rediscovering Alexander Hamilton,” films by Michael Pack which aired on PBS. I am currently a columnist for American History. In 2008 I was awarded the National Medal of the Humanities. In 2011 I was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship.
In 1980 I married Jeanne Safer, a psychoanalyst and author of many books (including The Normal One and Cain’s Legacy). We live in New York City, and have a house in the woods in Ulster County. My alternating column for National Review is called “City Desk” and “Country Life.”