Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 7, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

KRISTOL ON HUCK....I read Bill Kristol's inaugural column in the New York Times last night, and I guess I had about the same reaction as Matt Yglesias: why? Basically, he planted great big wet kiss on Mike Huckabee's cheeks, and that just doesn't make much sense. Kristol is a neocon and a John McCain supporter, and Huckabee, with his evangelical fervor and half-baked foreign policy views is about as far away from Kristol as a Republican can be. In fact, if I had to guess, I'd say that aside from Ron Paul, Huckabee is probably Kristol's least favorite candidate in the entire GOP field. So why the suck up?

Beats me. On a narrower note, however, am I the only one who was amused by Kristol's reference to the last three presidential candidates as "the well-born George Bush and Al Gore and John Kerry"? This may be the first time I've ever heard a conservative admit that Bush isn't, in fact, just a brush-clearin' regular guy from west Texas. Before long they'll be finally fessing up that Bush's ranch in Crawford is more a campaign prop than a real ranch.

UPDATE: James Joyner rounds up reactions here from other bloggers wondering more or less the same thing as me.

Kevin Drum 11:38 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (51)

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Maybe Kristol has finally realized that every single prediction he's ever made has turned out to be completely wrong.

Therefore, the best way to bring down Huckabee is to embrace him. Finally master the Reverse Midas Touch and use it for his own ends.

Either that, or he's just an idiot.

Posted by: Brian on January 7, 2008 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

"...why the suck up?"

Because the fix is in, and the Republican ticket this fall will be McCain-Huckabee. Their only hope for victory is to nominate the Media Love Object, keep the disgruntled fundies in line with a VP selection, and pray fervently that McCain doesn't drop dead of old age.

Posted by: AJL on January 7, 2008 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

My answer would be is that he wanted to come out of the gate as non-controversial as possible. So everyone expected him to be pro-Republican, no surprises there. Once he gets established in the real estate, he will use it to do what he is meant to do there, which is nullify any sense or reason when it comes to bite a Republican in the ass.

Posted by: Alan on January 7, 2008 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

"Before long they'll be finally fessing up that Bush's ranch in Crawford is more a campaign prop than a real ranch."

BINGO, we have a winner!!!!

Posted by: jason on January 7, 2008 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

The Crawford ranch is wildly successful at raising "brush." That's why GW has to make regular trips there to clear it.

If there was a market for fresh-cut, free range brush, the Crawford ranch would be a very profitable venture.

Posted by: Ranger Jay on January 7, 2008 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Tbogg has the right answer --
http://tbogg.firedoglake.com/2008/01/06/pnac-redux/

Shorter Bill Kristol:

Another Republican candidate who is light on foreign policy experience and could easily be manipulated? Wait till I tell all the other guys!

Posted by: BillB on January 7, 2008 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Then in 1988, when we won with the Bush senior campaign and carried the highest total of evangelical votes ever in American history, we lost as we always do -- the Republicans -- we lost the Jewish vote and the Hispanic vote and all those votes. We lost the Catholic vote. We were the first modern presidency to win an election and it was a landslide and not win the Catholic vote. It was barely, but we lost the Catholic vote.

How did we do it? We carried 82 percent or 83 percent of the evangelical vote. I remember when it was all over-- this was one of the reasons I got a job in the White House -- but I remember when it was all over, there was great shock from me and others saying, "Whoa, this is unhealthy." We immediately began going after the Catholic vote.

While at the same time, we were frightened by the fact that we lost all these votes and still won the White House. The message did come home. My God, you can win the White House with nothing but evangelicals if you can get enough of them, if you get them all, and they're a huge number. ...

from:
The Jesus Factor


Social Democrats, USA
Copyright: 1996, SD, USA

Kristol described the current Republican coalition as consisting primarily of two main strains: economic and social conservatives. The economic conservatives are anti-state and the social conservatives are anti-liberal who view liberalism "as corroding and subverting the virtues that they believe must be the bedrock of decent society." He believes that the differences between the economic conservatives and the social conservatives produce "tensions" between the two groups. Kristol's long range view is that the social conservatives represent "an authentic mass movement that gathers strength with every passing year."

from:
Splitting the Republican Coalition

Posted by: someotherdude on January 7, 2008 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

As David Brooks said Kristol is a Pseudo conservative. Hucksterbe's Consumption (fair) tax completely turns me off and I doubt that I would ever vote for him.

Posted by: TruthPolitik on January 7, 2008 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Kristol's reference to the last three presidential candidates as "the well-born George Bush and Al Gore and John Kerry"?

Reminds me of the Andrew Jackson show on PBS this past week. Jackson was the first self-made, populist president and hated the elites of his day. While Jackson's disdain for competent technocrats resembles the younger Bush, it's important to remember that Dubya was bred as an elitist. Bill Clinton, on the other hand, was a self-made elite, rather like Alexander Hamilton.

Posted by: Grumpy on January 7, 2008 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I think you're reading too much into Kristol's praise of Huckabee. What Kristol is saying is that Huckabee is an agent of change just like Obama is. They both have the audacity to hope instead of just preaching fear. That is why conservatives respect Huckabee and Obama even if we don't agree with everything they stand for.

Posted by: Al on January 7, 2008 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

(a) Neoconservatives want access and influence. They don't get that by trying to take down someone who might be the next Republican nominee.

(b) Mike Huckabee could very likely be the VP nominee in a McCain ticket, thus holding the neocon/evangelical coalition together.

(c) Huckabee has a lot of personal charisma, so maybe Kristol just likes him.

Posted by: Me2d on January 7, 2008 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Bill Kristol lays awake in bed at night, masturbating to the thought of dead Arabs. Everything he says or writes must be viewed through that prism.

Posted by: Alan on January 7, 2008 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

When it comes to foreign policy, the Huckster is, like George W. Bush was, a tabula rosa. Those are easy marks for neo-cons who can convince the unsophisticated that their radical ideological agenda is o so reasonable. Remember Cheney talking to various sabbath gasbags? As he spoke, he seemed confident and well-informed. Aside from that, this is the first column and designed to be counter intuitive.

Posted by: Mike on January 7, 2008 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

For one thing, Michael Bloomberg would be tempted to run in the event of an Obama-Huckabee race — and he would most likely take votes primarily from Obama. -Bill Kristol

First off I strongly disagree with this. The Bloomberg types are the ones that *definitely* want to avoid a "Mayberry Mullah". If Bloomberg runs it will be a Perot repeat with him splitting off GOP'ers who can't stand Huckabee. I think that BK is counting on the older Dems to flock to Bloomberg, but they are the ones more likely to see that it will split the vote in favor of Huckabee and they won't do it.

Kristol and the other neocons want to make nice with Huckabee because they are on the skids and want to bandwagon with the theocons to keep their influence. The old money GOP will be left out to dry because the recession will turn them into a pariah. That's why I think that Romney is going to tank and disappear. I believe we will see an Obama/Huckabee in the GE. Maybe McCain. Either way the populace has soured on the pols beating the fear drums-they want a soother. That's why Guilliani is tanking.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on January 7, 2008 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Read the following five of Kristol's sentences--admittedly taken out of context--and then see what you think he was getting at:

1. It was at this moment that he [Kristol's friend] turned to me and said: “You know, I’ve been a huge skeptic about Huckabee. I’m still not voting for him Tuesday.

2. I’m [Kristol] certainly not ready to sign up.

3. Now it’s true that many conservatives have serious doubts about Huckabee’s positions, especially on foreign policy, and his record, particularly on taxes.

4. The conservative establishment is strikingly hostile to Huckabee — for both good and bad reasons.

5. For one thing, Michael Bloomberg would be tempted to run in the event of an Obama-Huckabee race ...

Does "damning with faint praise" come to mind? Or maybe "hedging one's bets?"


Posted by: Econobuzz on January 7, 2008 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps McCain is thinking of putting him on the ticket as VP?

Posted by: Misplaced Patriot on January 7, 2008 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

The Huck is so little informed about foreign policy -or economic policy, that BK & company can consider him to be an empty slate. Better to invest something now to ingratiate themselves with him, and jump to the head of the que for filling up the slate.

I would suggest they have plan A, and plan B:
Plan A is to defeat Huckabee.
Plan B is gain sufficient influence with him to control his policies.

Posted by: bigTom on January 7, 2008 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

I would agree that Bush's "ranch" is not a working ranch. As far as I know, it's a biggish piece of land with nothing growing but brush.

However, I think he really does like being there, even though it'st desolate and isolated.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 7, 2008 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

He forgot "the well born Bill Kristol"--given his connections and the minuscule distance Bill has traveled away from their influence, Bush is Jett Rink by comparison.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on January 7, 2008 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

At a dinner in Des Moines Huckabee said Intelligent Design is a scientific "theory" that should be taught alongside other scientific theories. Shows you he can't distinguish between testable theories and religious assertions. Yikes.

What does Huckabee's God have to say about foreign policy? Well, Huckabee's campaign manager said, "the war on terror is obviously, it's a theological war. We have a radical Islamic group, so we believe that a guy with the training of a pastor understands the theological nature of the war. " In other words, according to Huckabee we're fighting Islam, not Iraq, not al Qaeda. According to Huckabee it's been Islam all along. Wow, we better settle in for the long haul.

What else doesn't Mike know? Ooh, ooh, I know -- he doesn't understand why you shouldn't issue pardons to psycophatic killers, even when you think pardoning such a person will make Bill Clinton look bad. Politics trumps legal precedent, after all, just like with President Bush.

By the way, this is the time of year down at Bush's Crawford ranch when they fertilize the brush to make sure it will be thick and lush for the photo opps later in the year.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on January 7, 2008 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Bill Kristol has never been right about anything, ditto his NeoCon friends. Sulzberger should be horsewhipped for giving him a column.

Posted by: Andy S on January 7, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

However, I think [Bush] really does like being [on his ranch], even though it'st desolate and isolated.

Just like his remaining supporters.

Bush won't spend five minutes on that ranch after he thankgodfully vacates the presidency. He'll be in Dallas.

Posted by: shortstop on January 7, 2008 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

I would no more have actually read that excretion from Billy than I'd celebrate Jim Bridger (that 'heroic' statue ought to have him posed atop emaciated and dying Cheyenne women and children and the rest of the genocidal maniacs who 'won the West').

An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor
does the truth become error because nobody will see it. -Mohandas K. Gandhi

Posted by: MsNThrope on January 7, 2008 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Fortunately the column is only on Mondays, which is a paltry affair that is probably the least read.

Posted by: bob h on January 7, 2008 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Kristol wanted to write something controversial so his new NYT column would get publicity and discussion. If so, he succeed, as this thread demonstrates.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 7, 2008 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Hucksterbe's Consumption (fair) tax completely turns me off and I doubt that I would ever vote for him.

But it does show that Huckabee knows how to do Republican (i.e. Voodoo) economics: Adding a 30 cent sales tax on a dollar spent is only a 23% tax, because 0.30 is only 23% of 1.30.

Posted by: AJ on January 7, 2008 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

I am disgusted at the amount of pixels devoted to the snarling jackass. Ugh.

Jason Blaire was strike one.

Judith Iscariot was strike two.

Bill the Bloody is strike three.

I sent a letter to the Times registering my disgust - and canceling my subscription - and now I'm done.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on January 7, 2008 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Why would you think the Crawford ranch isn't a ranch? As I understand it, it's so far out in the middle of nowhere and so, well, rural, that big city reporters hate going there. That sure sounds like a ranch to me.

As for Kristol, he's OK, but if the NYT really wanted to pick a conservative with style, someone who could really get its regular readers steaming mad, they should have hired Mark Steyn. Now there's a writer with a gift for words and keen insight. It doesn amuse me, though, that the NYT readership is apparently so terrified at the notion of someone, somewhere, disagreeing with the Conventional Liberal Wisdom as dispended by Gail Collins, et al. that they can't stand the notion of dissent on the op-ed page.

Posted by: DBL on January 7, 2008 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

But Kristol is right about Huckabee. Republicans are fed-up with dishonest politications same as liberals are fed-up with it too, and Huckabee looks clean, looks like a return to real ethical behavior. He won't torure mid-easterns.

If McCain and his war for 100 years wins in NH that would be really bad news for Repugs. They would be running on war and more of it with McCain and his anti-diplomatic policies. It's voting for Bush all over again as simply re-packaged lie about the war in Iraq. The same old hate doctrines of Rovism.

So Bill is absolutely right about that aspect of the Bush spector. Repug voters want to clean up the GOP but the ex-Charles Keating supporter McCain will do whatever big oil says, same as he did whatever Keating wanted him too despite the all the senior retired ruined because of McCain's support to Keating - and that isn't change - it's more of the same. So at least Huckabee doesn't seem like he would use God as a poltical tool in the same way the ever nasty, ciminal-minded Bushie uses God for political bullshiting, to torture, to wiretap.

We should all hope McCain wins NH - it's all the GOP needs - a hard right turn, a another bona fide isolationist driven by nothing but big war talk.

Posted by: me-again on January 7, 2008 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think there is a large mystery here. After Iowa, we all know that Huckabee will either be the actual nominee or the vp nominee (come on, if you are named McCain, Romney, or Rudy, and you need to shore up with the base, who can you pick now besides Huckabee?).

Also, the republican party is fracturing all over the place. My guess is that this is a movement to try and re-unite the party. If Huckabee is the nominee, the party stays united one more cycle.

Posted by: Scu on January 7, 2008 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Why would you think the Crawford ranch isn't a ranch? As I understand it, it's so far out in the middle of nowhere and so, well, rural, that big city reporters hate going there. That sure sounds like a ranch to me.

I'll bet it does. It neither grows crops nor raises animals. Its only output is brush.

Produces nothing except waste products? Sure sounds like a Bush to me.

Posted by: shortstop on January 7, 2008 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

I think AJL nails it. The GOP is deathly afraid of losing their core evangelical vote, and a ticket with Huckabee as VP might appeal to them and keep the flock in the fold. Kristal is ass-deep in GOP machinary, he wouldn't be making these proclamations without his overlords' say-so.

Posted by: MeLoseBrain? on January 7, 2008 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

IIRC, BK's rag (Weekly Standard) endorsed Romney so yes - as others said, BK is hedging the Neocon bet since Mitt is about to go down in flames again.

And - like Huckabee - weren't Reagan and Dubya both initially hailed as simple, straight- talking, non-Washington, non-elite Republicans ? That's always been their strategy to deceive mainstreet/small-town America who are fed up with "Washington politicians & insiders".

Does anyone really doubt Huckabee would backpedal on the sales tax and "settle" for a flat tax - which is what the conservatives really want ? As for the rest of his schtick, it's "compassionate conservatism II" and will last about as long as Dubya's lasted.

Posted by: longshot on January 7, 2008 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Broder's dream team - McCain with Huckabee - what a joke. Broder so loved Bush that he just wants another Bush, but conservative voters don't really feel that way, at least not the ones that have left the Repug Party, or the 50% that don't like Bush anymore, so making the GOP smaller then the Dem Party now - but then I guess those fleeing voters didn't matter right, at least not with Broder and his radicalism, his rabid Rovism cult following nature, and those foul mouth lefty bloggers that Broder so passionately loves to hate. McCain is all about keeping the hate alive.

Posted by: me-again on January 7, 2008 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

The Times told Kristol to behave himself. This is the new Kristol (2.0): gracious, Bush-hating, warm to the new Obama presidency.

But he still is at heart a knife throwing ultra right-wing fanatic.

True test: Does he still call for Iran's destruction (or erasing it off the map, however he puts it)?

Posted by: Dr WU-the last of the big time thinkers on January 7, 2008 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Kristol is trying to plant the seeds for the eventual Republican ticket. After all, both McCain and Guiliani leave evangelicals cold. If they stay home in November, the Republicans haven't got a chance to win the election. But a McCain/Huckabee or Guiliani/Huckabee ticket could give conservative religious voters some hope that their issues will have a voice in an otherwise secular administration.

Posted by: Kevin Pedraja on January 7, 2008 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

IOW, all that crap you guys came out with over Kristol's new gig was, to coin a phrase, "wanking"?

Posted by: a on January 7, 2008 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on January 7, 2008 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Huckabee is definitely on the ticket. In fact, after listening to Huckabee praise McCain effusively in an NPR interview the other day, then having the two of the team up against Romney at the debate, I think the McCain-Huckabee ticket is virtually a lock, assuming McCain's campaign holds up.

Posted by: suzanne on January 7, 2008 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

Bill,

I like your candor. I am sure you would like non-Democratic administration. I believe capitalization of "D" was an oversight.

Tom

Posted by: Tom on January 7, 2008 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

"Damning with faint praise" is exactly what I pegged it as this morning. I'm also on board with the sucking up to the potential new boss explanation.

My favorite throwaway line was "Now it�s true that many conservatives have serious doubts about Huckabee�s positions, especially on foreign policy, and his record, particularly on taxes."

What else do conservatives care about?

Posted by: yellojkt on January 7, 2008 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

Kev,

The Crawford ranch IS a prop, purchased less than a year before Bush announced his candidacy. These days, most ranches in Texas are vacation homes for rich yahoos like Bush. But even a year after he was elected, locals were still referring to the spread as the Englebrecht hog farm, which it once was. I asked the McLennan County extension agent what qualifies a piece of land as a ranch. He said, 'When you start calling it a ranch, it's a ranch.'

Nice prop, though. The media's bought the spin ever since he bought it.

Posted by: Joe Nick on January 7, 2008 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

He said, 'When you start calling it a ranch, it's a ranch.'

Personally, I always make sure to refer to is as his 2,000 private estate. There's quite a bit of difference in the public mind between the sentences "Bush spent the month on vacation at his ranch" and "Bush spent the month on vacation at his 2,000 acre private estate."

Posted by: Stefan on January 7, 2008 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Kristol thinks the Republicans might be ready for a likeable, regular guy? They got one in 2000 and returned him again in 2004 -- arguably the worst president in history. How about someone who knows what the hell they're doing this time?

Posted by: Jody Lindh on January 7, 2008 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

That anyone could use the word or phrase "well-born" at all in this day and age is bizarre. I'm an anglophile and I love the aristocracy and all that, but do normal Americans today speak of who is and who is not "well born"? Isn't it wildly archaic? Don't people talk about who is "upper class" or "middle class" or "lower class" or "working class" or "upper middle class" or "moneyed" or "poor" or "new money" or "old money"?

Does Mr. Kristol sit at the breakfast table in the breakfast room reading the paper as his family members help themselves to hot dishes of foodstuffs such as kippers arrayed by the help on the sideboard? Does his wife mention a politican and have Mr. Kristol respond in an ultra-precious 1930s Mayfair accent, "Yes-s-s, but who-o are his people? I mean, do we know them??"

The fact that the phrase bothers me must mean that I am not "gently bred."

Posted by: Anon on January 7, 2008 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

"That anyone could use the word or phrase "well-born" at all in this day and age is bizarre."

Well, I guess that says all we need to know about the money repugs, doesn't it?

And as to the religious zealots, I do wonder if Bloody Bill is prepared for when the Huckster comes round with the missionary pamphlets and the prayer meeting invitations to get him Rapture-ready. They never counted on Huck's crowd taking over the show way back when they started courting them; always figured they could be played for their votes. Wonder if Bill's ready to convert if the pander demands it.

Posted by: Delia on January 7, 2008 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Blue Girl - Congratulations on your principled stance re: NYT. As someone who (I suspect, but don't know...for sure) did more than most to eliminate the ridiculous TimesSelect, your decision to cancel your subscription to a paper you've passionately fought for, and with, couldn't have been undertaken lightly. I salute you!

General etymological enquiry:
In the linked round-up of blog reactions to Kristol's debut, James Joyner quotes Jules Crittendon. Crittendon, while listing Huckabee's disqualifiers for nomination, mentions Huck's stance on "illegration." Is this cunning (if creepy) contraction of 'illegal immigration' Crittendon's invention, or was it coined elsewhere?

Note: This is apropos of nothing in particular, other than my nebbish fascination with the provenance of newly invented words. But I am genuinely curious whether others have heard or read "illegration" elsewhere...

Posted by: DanJoaquinOz on January 7, 2008 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK
On a narrower note, however, am I the only one who was amused by Kristol's reference to the last three presidential candidates as "the well-born George Bush and Al Gore and John Kerry"? This may be the first time I've ever heard a conservative admit that Bush isn't, in fact, just a brush-clearin' regular guy from west Texas.

Of course they will, because it doesn't matter any more. George Bush isn't running for anything. Admitting the things they've always glossed over (or outright lied about) regarding him is a cheap way to show that they are "reasonable" and to buy credibility with the easily duped, so that they can sell fresh lies on issues that do make a difference now.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 7, 2008 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

kristol isn't a conservative as much as he is a republican shill. he sees everything, ultimately, in repub v. dem terms. huckabee may well be his team's nominee, and, as such, kristol will get behind him. after all, anything is better than that liberal democrat barack obama.

Posted by: zafar on January 7, 2008 at 10:52 PM | PERMALINK

Delia: And as to the religious zealots, I do wonder if Bloody Bill is prepared for when the Huckster comes round with the missionary pamphlets and the prayer meeting invitations to get him Rapture-ready. They never counted on Huck's crowd taking over the show way back when they started courting them; always figured they could be played for their votes. Wonder if Bill's ready to convert if the pander demands it.

In Kennebunk, land of the Bushes,
The men of the cloth all wore tweed.
And one didn't meet any Christians
Like Robertson, Falwell and Reed.

But politics calls for adjustments.
If right is the wing that you need,
You praise God and shout hallelujah
With Robertson, Falwell and Reed.

- Calvin Trillin

Posted by: Brian on January 8, 2008 at 5:25 AM | PERMALINK

I think that to get the loans from creditors you must have a good motivation. But, one time I have received a small business loan, just because I was willing to buy a building.

Posted by: FernandezMelba30 on July 17, 2010 at 2:48 AM | PERMALINK
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