Charles Krauthammer, "A Great Good Man," The Washington Post, September 25, 2009.
My theory of Irving is that this amazing equanimity was rooted in a profound sense of modesty. First about himself. At 20, he got a job as a machinist’s apprentice at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He realized his future did not lie in rivets, he would recount with a smile, when the battleship turret he was working on was found to be pointing in the wrong direction. It could only shoot inward — directly at the ship’s own bridge.
He was equally self-deprecating about his experiences as an infantryman in World War II France. (“Experiences?” he once said to me. “We were lost all the time.”) His gloriously unheroic view of himself extended to the rest of humanity — its politics, its pretensions, its grandiose plans for the renovation of … humanity.
This manifested itself in the work for which he is most celebrated: his penetrating, devastating critique of modern liberalism, and of its grand projects for remaking man and society. But his natural skepticism led him often to resist conservative counterenthusiasms as well. Most recently, the general panic about changing family structures.