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Tilting at Windmills

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June 15, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

BILL KRISTOL....Matt Yglesias has some words about Bill Kristol:

Kristol is like a horrifying right-pundit Chimera fusing together the worst aspects of Krauthammer and Barnes, but adding in a strain of raw cleverness that elevates — and yet denigrates — the resulting punditry from banal categories like "worst" to more exalted realms of "dangerousness."

The Bill Kristol phenomenon is a stellar example of what a nice suit and a sober tone of voice can do for you. When Curtis LeMay suggested bombing North Vietnam into the Stone Age and getting over our fear of using nuclear weapons, everyone saw him for what he was: a bellicose nutcase. Kristol is barely any less bloodthirsty, but he's smart enough to talk in more soothing tones. As a result, he gets columns in Time magazine, edits his own widely-read magazine, and shows up constantly on television.

Underneath it, though, he's every bit the bellicose nutcase that LeMay was. His answer to every foreign policy problem is exactly the same: a proposal to use the maximum amount of force that he thinks elite opinion can tolerate. But Kristol is well dressed, soft spoken, and a lively dinner companion. So everyone just sort of shrugs their shoulders at the fact that he basically wants to go to war with the whole world. It's a nice gig.

Kevin Drum 1:01 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (55)

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Comments

Who is more culpable and repugnant, Kristol or those signing his various paychecks and giving him a wider voice than that he reaches in his own magazine?

Posted by: steve duncan on June 15, 2007 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

"His own magazine" is bought and paid for. We know who backs this idiot and they should all be held up to example.

Meanwhile:

Middle East Trifecta


Hamas wins, Thanks to us!

Does nobody here care a shit about what is going on?

Posted by: notthere on June 15, 2007 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Or:
Blue Girl, Red State

Posted by: notthere on June 15, 2007 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

And the smugness. Don't forget Kristol's smugness.

Posted by: DJ on June 15, 2007 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

Posted by: Laney on June 15, 2007 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

notthere, we've already answered you. Stop spamming the threads.

Posted by: PaulB on June 15, 2007 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

"a stellar example of what a nice suit and a sober tone of voice can do for you."

I agree. The same can been said about Paul Wolfowitz, Addington, Dick Cheney, and Scooter Libby.

A great example of this is Bill Keller's 2002 love letter to Wolfowitz. In it, Keller decribed as "epithets" descriptions of Wolfy that called him a "hawk ..., conservative ideologue, unilateralist,[and] nemesis of Colin Powell's State Department." How are those "epithets"? That the truth confused Keller helps explain how the so-called NY Times was/is soooo wrong about so many things.

Keller calls these descriptions of Wolfy as being "stereotypes" and writes: "The shorthand version of Paul Wolfowitz, however, is inadequate in important ways. It completely misses his style, which relies on patient logic and respectful, soft-spoken engagement rather than on fire-breathing conviction." (NYTimes Mag, Sept. 22, 2002)

If Wolfy becomes a pundit, he'll garner a great deal of respect. He's soft-spoken, donchya know?

Posted by: Jim E. on June 15, 2007 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Could you provide a link to a Kristol comment so that we could also see if this is true.

Posted by: debate forum on June 15, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

It's a nice pig.

Posted by: Brojo on June 15, 2007 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

From Broadcast News (Kristol as the devil):

Come on, no one's going to be taken in by a guy with a long red pointy tail. Come on, what's he going to sound like?...I'm semi serious here. He will be attractive, he'll be nice, and helpful, he'll get a job where he influences a great God fearing nation. He'll never do an evil thing, he'll never deliberately hurt a living thing - he'll just bit by little bit lower our standards where they're important.

Posted by: rusrus on June 15, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

debate forum:
Kristol is one of the pundit fathers of the American doctrine of "regime change" Iraq-style. He's been one of the leading architects of our war in Iraq, he's advocated war against Iran, and -- this is my favorite -- he's offered to oversee our "overall strategy for containing, influencing, and ultimately seeking to change the regime in Beijing."

Think about it -- according to Kristol, since the 1990's we should use our army to acocmplish "regime change" in Iraq, Iran and China.

I wonder where he thinks we'll get the troops? Lat time I checked, China was a considered a big country...

Posted by: Diana on June 15, 2007 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

I believe Curtis LeMay was also a firm believer in "UFO's," so maybe he really was a nut case.

Posted by: Qwerty on June 15, 2007 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

"I wonder where he thinks we'll get the troops? Last time I checked, China was a considered a big country..."

Posted by: Diana on June 15, 2007 at 1:51 PM
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I think many on the Right would overcome troop issues by pushing red buttons.

Posted by: steve duncan on June 15, 2007 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Matt Yglesias' rather interesting characterization of Bill Kristol immediately brought to my mind 25-year-old memories of my former sister-in-law.

She was an otherwise very engaging and enterprising young woman who had a real knack for talking people through their initial hesitations about doing something, in large part by making things sound so reasonable.

Next thing this then-20-year-old knew, friends were breaking into a locked warehouse in the Sn Fernando Valley at 3:00am to "retrieve" certain goods "belonging" to my brother and her, my brother's car was burned as a warning, armed family members started to chase down other people, we're all subpoenaed to appear in circuit court, etc.

Anyway, you all get the general picture. I mean, who knew at the time that all this chaos and general mayhem would ensue, right?

In retrospect, the writing was clearly on the wall in two-foot-high letters, only we all freely ignored the warning signs out of respectful deference to my brother and sister-in-law.

I was quite lucky, in that I never got into legal difficulties as a result of all this nonsense, and nobody really got hurt. Nevertheless, it was one of life's hard-knock lessons that about grievously misplaced trust that I'll never, ever forget.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on June 15, 2007 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK
Does nobody here care ... about what is going on?

It's Kevin's (and, beyond that, the Monthly's) blog. It is enough that they aren't interested. The rest of us will just have to find somewhere else to discuss the issue.

OTOH, if this is your attempt to get Kevin to change his stance on commenting on Israel/Palestine by making it so that the comments are worse when he ignores the issue than those he is trying to avoid by not discussing it, well, I guess you are welcome to keep trying that until he changes his mind or his moderator tires of it.


Posted by: cmdicely on June 15, 2007 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Kristol has a big fan in Lieberman (not much of a surprise):

http://www.tnr.com/blog/theplank?pid=117485

'Perusing the Weekly Standard’s promotional package (which isn’t online), I came across this testimonial from Joe Lieberman:

“If Kristol says what I’m doing is right, it must be right.”'

This does not strike me as a sound way for a self-described moderate liberal hawk to evaluate his positions.

--Jonathan Chait

Posted by: Fred F. on June 15, 2007 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

I think many on the Right would overcome troop issues by pushing red buttons.

Up until recently, "pushing red buttons" (technological air war) was the Democratic style of warfare--at least during the Clinton administration. If there were outcries about civilian casualties during Bosnia and Desert Fox, they were pretty quiet ones. None of our pilots were lost, so who cared?

Keep in mind the only President who ever dropped nukes on someone was a Democrat.

Posted by: rnc on June 15, 2007 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

I think many on the Right would overcome troop issues by pushing red buttons.

Actually, launch is accomplished by simultaneous key-turns, but point taken.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on June 15, 2007 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

The Vietnam era had its own Bill Kristol: Walt Rostow. Bow tie, tweed jacket and pipe, a bright smile, Harvard accent, and an unflappable commitment to the certainty that Ho Chi Minh was a pawn directed from Moscow and we could end the war with high-tech gadgetry, televisions in thatch huts, and more bombing. Later, someone would say of him that he was the kind of guy they liked in Washington because, with the pipe and that Harvard confidence, he looked like he was an absolute world-class expert on anything, even when he had no fucking idea what he was talking about.

Posted by: mattsteinglass on June 15, 2007 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Bill Kristol - King of the Chickenhawks.

Posted by: RobertSeattle on June 15, 2007 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK
Up until recently, "pushing red buttons" (technological air war)

Clearly, from context (war with China), "pushing red buttons" doesn't mean "technological air war with no ground troops against a foe fighting another force on the ground already", but "use of strategic nuclear weapons". So congratulations on missing the point entirely.

If there were outcries about civilian casualties during Bosnia and Desert Fox, they were pretty quiet ones.

Given that the intervention in Bosnia was directed to stop the direct application (rather than collateral effect) of military force on civilian populations, there is probably good reason for that in at least the former case. Is there any evidence in even the latter case that civilian casualties were significant?

Keep in mind the only President who ever dropped nukes on someone was a Democrat.

Yeah, but it wasn't over some abstract idea of "regime change" for a nation which hadn't attacked us and posed no imminent threat, now, was it?

Posted by: cmdicely on June 15, 2007 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

Nobody, Right or Left, is seriously proposing tactical nukes for anything, much less strategic ones.

Posted by: rnc on June 15, 2007 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Kristol needs to be bitchslapped out of his seat. Violence it's the only thing he understands.

Posted by: elmo on June 15, 2007 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Did Japan attack the US mainland? What real threat were they? Answer me NOW fuckhead

ROFLMAO!

Posted by: elmo on June 15, 2007 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK


Underneath it, though, he's every bit the bellicose nutcase that LeMay was.

Except for the fact that LeMay was fully aware of the consequences of war, having personally and extensively toured Japanese cities at the end of 1945 which had been devastated by firestorms (nuclear and conventional) produced by his aircraft.

Bellicose he may have been, but LeMay at least had a real-world understanding of the human consequences of that bellicosity. He had smelled dead burnt human flesh in person, and known that what he had done had been instrumental in causing it.

Kristol has never heard a shot fired in anger, nor ever seen the results of such a shot striking home. He is one of those individuals who is prepared to dispatch other people to kill (and be killed by) still other people, in accordance with his own desires and his own agenda, and whose sleep will never be troubled by nightmares.

--

Posted by: marquer on June 15, 2007 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

Nobody, Right or Left, is seriously proposing tactical nukes for anything, much less strategic ones.

No one except Republican presidential candidates:

Blitzer: If it came down to a preemptive US strike against Iran’s nuclear facility, if necessary would you authorize as president the use of tactical nuclear weapons?

Hunter: I would authorize the use of tactical nuclear weapons if there was no other way to preempt those particular centrifuges.

Posted by: tRex on June 15, 2007 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Megalomania with a human face.

Posted by: JHM on June 15, 2007 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Manco asks:

Did Japan attack the US mainland? What real threat were they?

Given that the history channel had a show on last night about defending Alaska from the Japanese, and their use of balloon-lofted incendiary bombs in the Pacific Northwest is well-documented, I think the answer is pretty definitely "Yes."

I also doubt Michelle Malkin would have spent so much time and energy writing a book defending the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII if Japan wasn't a threat.

Posted by: kenga on June 15, 2007 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

tRex - how did Manco know you were a member of NOW?

Posted by: kenga on June 15, 2007 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

It's a nice gig.

Maybe, you'd like to edit that last sentence?

Posted by: s9 on June 15, 2007 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

my bad - I should have asked that last of cmdicely.
Apologies all 'round.

Posted by: kenga on June 15, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

"Nobody, Right or Left, is seriously proposing tactical nukes for anything, much less strategic ones."

Depends on how define "seriously." It certainly has been proposed and discussed.

Posted by: PaulB on June 15, 2007 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Ditto marquer's 3:14 pm comment.

Posted by: alkali on June 15, 2007 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

The day will soon come we find China, India and much of the rest of the developing world laying claim to oil we desperately need for ourselves. No amount of drilling, diplomacy or clever contractual bargaining is going to assure a sufficient supply. Force will be resorted to. Traditional (non-nuclear) force isn't going to cut it. No President is going to stand for a game of musical chairs and we're the losers. Whatever it takes, including nuclear, to leverage a dominant position will be employed. The U.S. will use nukes again to assure our oil supply. There'll be terrible ramifications, blowback and retribution. But without oil we die. We'll deal with the resulting death and chaos but we will use nukes. The 101st Airborne is not subduing China.

Posted by: steve duncan on June 15, 2007 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Yep, the self-anointed Straussian "philosopher" and his merry band of New American Centurion, neo-fascist Likudniks are really a brilliant bunch.

Look what they've achieved with their grand plan to re-make the Middle East politically. An Islamic government in once staunchly secular Iraq; an Islamic government in the Palestinian Territories; and, reportedly, dual governments in Lebanon.

The planned Middle East political pandemonium hasn't turned out to be the great boon for Israel, whose interests these whack jobs have been promoting.

And yet, Billy Kristol, is still an eagerly sought after pundit.

Posted by: Chris Brown on June 15, 2007 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

But without oil we die

Speak for yourself, I'm an eagle scout.

Posted by: elmo on June 15, 2007 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

Everything Drum says about Kristol can be applied to Cheney. Cheney has gotten tremendous mileage out of saying stupid things in a firm but calm voice, indicating to the ignorant that he's thought carefully about the question. In that one respect (at least) he resembles Hitler; he's a great orator who is otherwise a complete fool. We are, actually, very lucky to have a figurehead President at the moment who actually sounds as stupid as his ideas really are.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on June 15, 2007 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK
I also doubt Michelle Malkin would have spent so much time and energy writing a book defending the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII if Japan wasn't a threat.

If that's true, its only because if Japan wasn't a threat, there wouldn't have been a detention for her to defend afterwards, not because Malkin exhibits any kind of rational judgement.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 15, 2007 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely writes if this is your attempt to get Kevin to change his stance on commenting on Israel/Palestine

Has this ever been explicit, or does it just seem that way?

Laney

Posted by: Laney on June 15, 2007 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Please note, however, that Kristol always makes sure to stay in safe venues when he says his worst. You can see it in his eyes. He knows any sort of serious debate/challenge to his ideas will almost immediately put him on the defense. Fox is the perfect venue for this.

Krauthammer is in a similar boat. The past several months, when I watch him on Sunday, I can sense a certain quiet desperation in his responses. He's quick to respond; but sure as shit, he can't take any hits.

Posted by: Tony Shifflett on June 15, 2007 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK
Has this ever been explicit, or does it just seem that way?

I'm pretty sure I remember a very explicit statement either here or on the old Calpundit, but the closest I can find right now is this.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 15, 2007 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

You can't look at and listen to Kristol and rationally conclude he is "bloodthirsty" or the other descriptions of him by Kevin and Matt. If you have ever seen and heard Matt in person, is there any doubt about who would win a debate between him and Kristol?

If is fine to disagree with Kristol, who has the luxury of being able to sit in comfort advocating taking big risks without the responsibility for the end result, but he is a smart and honest guy.

Posted by: brian on June 15, 2007 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

So everyone just sort of shrugs their shoulders at the fact that he basically wants to go to war with the whole world. It's a nice gig.

Yes, it’s a nice gig, exactly.

I work in an office with 12 people, or did until recently several were moved elsewhere. Six (yep that's 6) are probably more bellicose than Kristol. Two of them have openly, as far back as two years ago, “lost patience” with the Iraqi people (“those people”), and point blank advocate bombing them to smithereens since they do not appreciate what we’ve done for them. As for the other four of the six bellicosers , they seem to pretty much agree that may be necessary... the massive bombing that is. They just aren’t quite as open about it in polite company.

So, there is a political market demand for Kristol. He’s merely provided a service, filling the niche.

Posted by: little ole jim from red country on June 15, 2007 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum >"...So everyone just sort of shrugs their shoulders at the fact that he basically wants to go to war with the whole world. It's a nice gig."

I agree

So let us all let him go to war w/the rest of the world just as long as he goes by himself

"Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable" - John F. Kennedy

Posted by: daCascadian on June 15, 2007 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

If all it took was a nice suit and a soft voice, all kinds of people would be media celebrities, and all sorts of views would be represented in the "MSM." They aren't. Kristol is out there because what he says draws an audience -- about 30% of the public passionately agrees with his lunacy and wants to hear iot -- rather than because he knows he should look presentable when he goes on TV.

Why not try out your own thesis: get a few nice suits, take some lessons in public speaking, then see how many TV shows have you on with a message of "Bombing Iran is a stupid idea." See how that goes over.

Posted by: Martin Gale on June 15, 2007 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for that link cmdicely, I had missed that KD post from last year. Very interesting, and explains a lot.

Posted by: JS on June 15, 2007 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

Umm Brian,
Kevin even says in the post that Kristol is smart. That doesn't disqualify him from being a bloodthirsty nutcase - in fact, it makes him all the more dangerous.
I'm gonna need to see some evidence for your claim of Kristol's honesty.

Posted by: ckelly on June 15, 2007 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

I'm still trying to determine if there is a liberal/progressive equivalent to Kristol/J. Goldberg/J. Podhoretz, i.e. people who achieve a plush public megaphone mostly via the nepotism route. Does anyone really think those three would have a platform without their mommies/daddies being big deals in the conservative pantheon?

Posted by: Gram Parsons on June 15, 2007 at 9:29 PM | PERMALINK

If is fine to disagree with Kristol

I am most grateful to you for granting me the option to disagree with Mr. Kristolnacht-all-over-again.

The big question is, how well are you guys going to manage your decline and accomodate the rise of China and India? We sure don't need a repeat of how the rise of German power in the latter half of the 1800's was handled. But with Mr. Kristol's crowd, there's never a historical folly they don't care to repeat.

Posted by: snicker-snack on June 15, 2007 at 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

We sure don't need a repeat of how the rise of German power in the latter half of the 1800's was handled.

You mean, only letting them have the leftover colonies?

Posted by: mattsteinglass on June 15, 2007 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

I think you are onto something. Kristol is not the only rightwing nutcase whose demeanor and affected professorial tones have helped elevate him to the exalted position of knowledgeable observer: David Brooks, George Will and perhaps Bill Bennett all play the same phony card; it mirrors the main Republican "IDEA" of the pastfew decades... getting seemingly congenial candidates like Reagan, Bush (hard to imagine now, but he "won" as a compassionate conservative...the single person on the planet who is utterly devoid of any compassion), and now Fred Thompson to front the odious politics and class warfare of the privileged classes and corporations.

Posted by: della Rovere on June 15, 2007 at 11:44 PM | PERMALINK

Bottom line Kevin, if Kristol did'nt have an outlet on Fox and a Uncle Murdoch bankrolled magazine to edit, he would be chopping up hookers on the interstate. Ted Bundy had a smooth exterior also.

Posted by: DonkeyKong on June 16, 2007 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Modern liberals find them among the US military like LeMay who helped the US defeat Naziism.

LeMay didn't fight against the Nazis, historical ignoramus. And what he's being called on here is his Vietnam-era statements, when he was a politician, not a general.

(Wallace's VP nominee in '68.)

Posted by: rea on June 16, 2007 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

The Bill Kristol phenomenon is a stellar example of what a nice suit and a sober tone of voice can do for you.Speak for yourself.

PC people have a mental block.

Posted by: Luther on June 16, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

He reminds me of the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. Wish some one would knock off that damn grin of his, I'm sick of it myself

Posted by: iggy on June 18, 2007 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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