Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 16, 2008

BLAMING KRISTOL FOR PALIN.... There's been quite a bit of animosity of late between the McCain campaign and Bill Kristol. This wasn't at all expected, given that Kristol has been a McCain cheerleader for years.

But the two aren't getting along well this week at all. Kristol wrote a column urging McCain to "fire his campaign" and "start over." A campaign spokesperson responded that Kristol had "bought into the Obama campaign's party line." Kristol fired back that the McCain campaign is composed of "a bunch of nice young kids" who are "out there spinning implausibly." The campaign responded once more, saying, "[I]t's a good thing Bill Kristol has never run a political campaign because he'd probably have to fire himself at least two or three times."

The ongoing animosity may have something to do with the McCain campaign blaming Kristol for one its biggest problems -- picking Sarah Palin was his idea. Harper's Scott Horton told Glenn Greenwald that McCain aides see Palin as a "total disaster," and see Kristol as culpable.

"We've got a lot of finger-pointing going on within the camp, and I'd say there's a pretty broad agreement amongst a number of the senior-most advisors to McCain that the Palin pick is worse than disappointing. It's a total disaster, as one describes to me. And there is a sort of blame game going on there. [...]

"I would say the anger and irritation between a number of the senior people in the McCain camp and Bill Kristol is become really acute.... They view this man as the guy who gave them this albatross, Sarah Palin. I think there's a lot of real anger about it. There's also recognition that it's too late to do anything."

I'm the last guy who would defend Kristol, and the campaign aides are certainly right to perceive Palin as humiliating, but this isn't Kristol's fault. Sure, he recommended Palin and vouched for her, but the McCain campaign thought it was wise to listen to Bill Kristol.

They've made that mistake quite a few times, changing campaign strategy to match Kristol's advice. It's failed every time.

Who's worse, the fool or the fools who listened to him?

Steve Benen 2:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (47)

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Comments

I call your Star Wars near-quote, and raise you an Animal House:

"Hey. You fucked up. You trusted us."

Posted by: DonBoy on October 16, 2008 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

My son told me last night, he turned to Fox just as Kristol was pronouncing Obama the winner. I couldn't believe it!

I think they're lying about the Large Hadron Collider being shut down. Things just couldn't get any weirder. Like a Dali painting, melting in a fire.

Posted by: on October 16, 2008 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, it's John McCain's fault that John McCain picked Palin.

Posted by: CJ on October 16, 2008 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

The notion of these trolls feeding upon one another makes for good comedy. It's almost a "Monty Python" moment for American politics, where everyone's the little white rabbit AND the stumble-bum knights---at the very same time.

Pass the popcorn, please....

Posted by: Steve W. on October 16, 2008 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Even if it was Kristol's idea, no one told those dimwitted assholes to select an unvetted candidate. Only they can take credit or blame. It's all so junior high.

I guess Kristol's right when he said the campaign was run by a bunch of kids -- I'll disagree with "nice." If these kids are nice, I'd hate to meet the bad kids!

Posted by: LP on October 16, 2008 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

They've made that mistake quite a few times, changing campaign strategy to match Kristol's advice. It's failed every time.

Hwy, why should Kristol's campaign advice be any different from his other kinds?


Posted by: Gregory on October 16, 2008 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

The minute the election is called things are going to get UGLY in Camp McCain.

Posted by: Saint Zak on October 16, 2008 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Oh how I love this. McCain picked this woman...nobody forced him to do it - he's a maverick for crying out loud!
Just a little something on the side here...it's interesting to note that Biden can easily handle an after debate interview - no problem - where the hell is poor lil o'Sarah? Hidden away and out of sight....What an embarrassment.

Posted by: whichwitch on October 16, 2008 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a note on the blogospheric echo chamber: since about 7 this morning there have been about nine posts here specifically about the two candidates. Every one of them was about McCain, and mentioned Obama only in the context of his relationship to McCain. Several of them don't mention Obama's name at all.

I just thought that was interesting. The guy is going to be President for the next four years, you know.

Posted by: Zathras on October 16, 2008 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

cj, not only did john mccain pick her (and call her a "soulmate" after 2 meetings), but i believe that his original instinct - to pick lieberman - was the correct one.

the free advertising from his base - the pundit class - would have been incredible. the maverick, putting country first!

and why didn't he do it? because he was too chickenshit to stand up to the hard-core of the base and tell them that lieberman was his choice.

i think the histories of this campaign will see in this one little drama - wanted lieberman, told the base wouldn't accept lieberman, got scared of the base, and in panic, selected a "soulmate" whom he barely knew - the whole story of the mccain fiasco.

Posted by: howard on October 16, 2008 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

These kids are pussies who've never worked and honest day in their life and like Kristol live in a bubble cut off from everday Americans and their concerns.

The campaign is clusterfuck because these dimwitted public relations assholes think that wikipedia, a google image search, and a cursory glance at lexis/nexis can replace actually hard work.

I've communicated with several who bought the Palin myth hook line and sinker. The line about 18 million cracks was one they took seriously as a definitive attempt to steal disaffected Hilary supporters. These people are not bright but and mendacious to the core. They've come of age in the last 8 to 14 years of greed and corruption and complete conviction that they can both create their own reality and cram it down the throats of Americans. Corruption always leads to a class of people like this. It's similiar to a few corrupt families I have known in my life. One guy makes a go of it then has a kid that is spoiled but competent who then has kids that can barely rotate their tires.

Posted by: grinning cat on October 16, 2008 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

> The campaign responded once more, saying, "[I]
> t's a good thing Bill Kristol has never run a
> political campaign because he'd probably have
> to fire himself at least two or three times."

That's actually the funniest line I have heard from the McCain campaign since November 07.

Posted by: Not Really on October 16, 2008 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

My fave line from the Fox News segment: Kristol says that McCain should fire his staff because it would “send the same signal Bush sent when he replaced Rumsfeld…and won the war.”

Damn right, Bill! And remember how, after that, Bush's popularity went through the roof! I mean, the floor! But in Bizarro world, that's the roof!

Earth to New York Times: can I have Bill Kristol's paycheck? He didn't earn it.

Posted by: The Fabulous Mr. Toad on October 16, 2008 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

They deserve each other.

Cage match needed pronto...two go in, one comes out.

Posted by: ckelly on October 16, 2008 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

This reminds me of an old SNL skit:

"It's a breath mint! No, it's a floor wax!
Stop!!! You're both right!"

Posted by: signsanssignified on October 16, 2008 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

It begs the question of who else John McCain asked to be his running mate and why they said no. There has to be a conservative who has held office in Washington that would have been a better choice than Mayor Barbie.

Posted by: SteveA on October 16, 2008 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

The fools who listened to him will be gone in the next few weeks, but Kristol will remain spouting his nonsense from pedestals he's given for no good reason that I can understand.

Kristol is worse, by far.

Posted by: CalGal on October 16, 2008 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

I'd say the fool and the fools who listened to him are equally bad. They're all part of the same group of GOP dead-enders who are scrambling to avoid the consequences of the past 8 (the past 30, actually) years.

And it has been well known for a while now that GOPers show no mercy to people they perceive as traitors. Look at what just happened to Chris Buckley when he endorsed Obama. It is no surprise to see Kristol and the McCain camp turn their fangs on each other now that the election is all but lost. The real surprise would have been if one of them (or even both!) had acknowledged their screw-up.

Posted by: Shade Tail on October 16, 2008 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

I laughed out loud when the Palin pick was announced, but then got really bummed out after her speech at the convention. The hatred she inspires in those who support her and the massive bounce in the polls were scary. Remember, we're the country that elected George W. Bush twice. But now I'm back to thinking that Sarah Palin is the gift that keeps on giving. Thank you John McCain!

Posted by: on October 16, 2008 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

The attack spin I'm hearing now is saying that 'Obama was Aloof and Condescending (and McCain was passionate about moving away from Socialism').

I don't hear any follow up from Norah O'Donnell or others--they just essentially let the pundit speak.

How is that sort of segment different than an advertisement?

It isn't.

Posted by: on October 16, 2008 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

When do they turn on Rush Limbaugh? He was pushing Palin just as hard as Kristol was.

That's something I'd pay to see.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on October 16, 2008 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Five years ago, at the height of the 2004 cycle, I believed Bill Kristol was one of the most dangerous men in America. He was and is the chairman of the PNAC, the epicenter of neoconservative thought as well as the genesis of the war we now have in Iraq. He is conscienceless, ruthless, and quite smart in a predatory way, but he masks it all behind a grinning facade of academic amiability.

That McCain's people are declaring open war with Kristol is not a small story. It signals that the Republican party's fractures go to the bone, and that the usual suspects can either no longer be counted on by Kristol, or no longer have any real authority in the Republican party.

I think you will see more of this, and perhaps even other factions drawing a bead on Kristol. Likely suspects include Mitt Romney, who has his own eye on 2012, the Bush famly, who would like to get Jeb a shot at some point -- even though it's never going to happen, and the corporate money/lobby cartel which is, as a result of the hurricane ripping Wall St. about to close ranks and focus only on domestic issues.

Bill Kristol's fantasy of remaking the world in his own twisted image is dying, and Kristol's probably going to go down very ugly. Which means it's time to make a big bowl of popcorn.

Posted by: The Phantom on October 16, 2008 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

I really find all these 'it's not McCain's fault' arguments about how bad his campaign is going very strange. Because, if true, they paint a very poor picture of the man.

Look, either McCain is in charge of his campaign and making the final decisions and setting the tone or he is not.

Neither one of those choices make McCain look good.

If he's running his campaign and making the choices then he is responsible for the Palin pick, the shift to negativity, the erratic response to the economic crisis etc etc.

But if he is not in charge of his campaign and his aides and staff are burying the 'real John McCain' that says something even worse. It means he CAN NOT MANAGE people. He can be easily led astray by bad advice. That he DOES NOT FOLLOW his own convictions when pressed. It means every statement he's made about 'leadership' and being a 'maverick' are a complete and utter lie.

Posted by: thorin-1 on October 16, 2008 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

I call your Star Wars near-quote, -DonBoy

I missed it. Did Steve call Kristol Yoda or something?

Posted by: Danp on October 16, 2008 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

What's worse is the fools who listened to him because they had the final say,no matter how you slice it. So the onus is on on the listeners whose listening becomes action.

This was in the end McCain's choice.

And that's all we need to remember.

That's all she wrote.

Posted by: iseerussiafromyhouse on October 16, 2008 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

First a Star Wars reference, now a B5 reference.

Hey, Zathras. Mr. Benen has put Obama under the microscope plenty of times. Just because he's been focusing primarily on McCain for this one day doesn't mean he hasn't been considering Obama, his record, and his positions.

Besides, what would you have Steve write? "Obama holds the same platform he did during the past two debates"? "Obama once again looked comfortable and in control"? I guess he could have written those articles, but seriously, why bother?

Posted by: Shade Tail on October 16, 2008 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

now now - lets not leave our pal Steve "Mini-Rove" Schmidt out of this! Who is a bigger fool, the fool who gives bad advice (Kristol), the campaign manager who grabs it and takes off at a blind run with it (Schmidt) or the candidate who follows it?

None of the above! The correct answer is "The biggest fool is the candidate who hires Rove's by-product, Steve Schmidt, in the first place!"

Posted by: zeitgeist on October 16, 2008 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

Gee. A GOPer blaming someone else for his mistakes.

Never seen that happen before.

Posted by: tAwO 4 That 1 on October 16, 2008 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

It's amazing how a simple typo can change history. You see, it was actually Billy Crystal who recommended Sarah Palin because, you know, he thought it would be a funny joke. The message got handed to McCain with the name written down as "Bill Kristol," and the rest is history. We can only hope that in three weeks, Ms. Palin will be history as well.

Posted by: Richard on October 16, 2008 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure saying the McCain campaign was foolish to listen to Kristol counts as "defending" him.

Posted by: ibid on October 16, 2008 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

LP is right. Mccain is the one to blame full stop. He could have chosen whoever he wanted. He chose Palin. The buck does not stop with Bill Kristol.

Posted by: swarty on October 16, 2008 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Danp:

"Who's worse, the fool or the fools who listened to him?"

This of Sir Alec Guinness speaking that line.

Posted by: Shade Tail on October 16, 2008 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

So just how was this conversation supposed to work out well for anyone on that side?

Kristol: The McCain campaign should be fired for listening to me.

Campaign: Bill's right. We should be fired for listening to him ... McCain 08!

Posted by: apm on October 16, 2008 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

Sir Alec Guinness speaking that line.

Thanks.

Posted by: Danp on October 16, 2008 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

dessert topping or floor wax.

eric

Posted by: eric on October 16, 2008 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

This little spat is so cute. Let me see if I have this straight. First, Mr. Kristol somehow convinces John McCain that selecting Sarah Palin as his vice presidential candidate is a good idea (and "mavericky"). And one can assume that Mr. Kristol promised John McCain that she would receive favorable national press coverage in The New York Times. At the same time, Mr. Kristol advises the McCain campaign to take off the gloves and portray Barack Obama as a unpatriotic scary black man with connections to terrorists. And then when it's realized that the American people perceive both of these tactics as stunts (and the selection of Palin as reckless) and John McCain's poll numbers get worse and worse, Mr. Kristol stands up and claims that negative campaigning (and the competence of McCain's staff) is the cause of McCain's failure to gain ground in the election - an attempt to pre-empt the notion that McCain's problems are directly related to Palin. And the McCain campaign, now stuck with Palin because of Mr. Kristol's efforts to fool John McCain into thinking that selecting her was wise, is vocally trashing Mr. Kristol.

This is better than the first season of Desperate Housewives.

Posted by: eric on October 16, 2008 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Kristol did pick her. A long time ago. Which is why Palin so readily accepted: she'd been thinking about it for awhile. What Kristol didn't do, apparently, was set up any Presidential Berlitz training to get her ready and, of course, Palin was so busy up in Alaska, putting her veto on entire budgets and all, to bother to get ready on her own. When Gingrich played Congressional Kingmaker, he actually had a school, complete with little lists of phrases and such, to get his candidates ready for their Stepford Congress duties. Kristol, like Cheney ducking the military, had other interests.

Maybe he never believed that anyone would take him seriously. I could see that.

Posted by: dubois on October 16, 2008 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

i think the histories of this campaign will see in this one little drama - wanted lieberman, told the base wouldn't accept lieberman, got scared of the base, and in panic, selected a "soulmate" whom he barely knew - the whole story of the mccain fiasco.
Posted by: howard on October 16, 2008 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

There was only ever one way for McCain to win this election and that was for him to run as the candidate he was in 2000. But McCain retired that persona after Bush was re-elected in 2004, crossed the floor and gave the big failure in the white house that massive hug. For the next 4 years, McCain toed the party line to the letter, cementing his credentials with the base but moving further away from the independents that could give him a majority.
Republicans can not win with 'base' elections anymore, the Democrats have added to many members to their ranks to make that work. So it is going to be tough sledding for the GOP going forward.

Posted by: Northern Observer on October 16, 2008 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

A little Schadenfreude, anyone?

Lovin' every minute of it!

Posted by: on October 16, 2008 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

I've never understood why ANYONE would listen to Kristol about anything. Anyone with a brain should be able to see immediately that Kristol, like so much of the right-wing brain-trust, is an intellectually dishonest lightweight, whose brain-output has all the candlepower of a single firefly. If that.

I've been reading Kristol on and off for years, and he's been wrong about everything. Not only wrong, but deeply, profoundly wrong. It appears he's in his profession, if you call it that, only through nepotism, and he probably never really had the intellectual ability to do his job.

It's people like him who give Americans a bad name everywhere. He'd do us all a favor if he'd just go away. His lack of intellect is a joke that would funnier if people hadn't allowed him to do so much damage by actually taking him seriously.

Posted by: LL on October 16, 2008 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

I just thought that was interesting. The guy is going to be President for the next four years, you know.

So we'll have four years to talk about Obama, whereas this is the only time McCain will be relevant.

Your man Bush has been President for the last eight years. How did that work out for the good old U.S. of A.?

Posted by: Gregory on October 16, 2008 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Wow. This is like all the Clinton postmortems blaming Mark Penn and Patty Solis Doyle (and ...). She and Bill relied on various people's advice and McCain accepted Palin. The candidates have to take responsibility for their own campaigns.

Although postmortems were entertaining after the Clinton campaign, maybe we should wait until Sen. Obama actually wins the election to assign blame. If for some unholy reason, McCain pulls off a squeaker win, his campaign will be lauded as brilliant. Focus on the GOTV.

Posted by: krk on October 16, 2008 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

Soulmate Palin was picked by McCain and being mad at Kristol for endorsing her is infantile on McCains part. If Lieberman was his real choice and he wimped out in picking him then shame on him. Just another reason not to vote for McShame.

BTW -- I voted today - feels awesome. I am a female in her 40s, well educated, with 2 kids, one in college and voted for Obama/Biden. FEELS GREAT!!

Posted by: wom45 on October 16, 2008 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

If Obama had just picked Hillary as his running-mate and done those 10 town-hall debates with me, I wouldn't have had to pick Sarah Palin. It's all his fault.

Posted by: Sen. McCain on October 16, 2008 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Kristol is an example of why nepotism isn't really a good idea.

Posted by: Leslie on October 16, 2008 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

Long Knives.

Posted by: bobbo on October 16, 2008 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

Bill Kristol vs. the McCain-Palin campaign?

This one is strictly Saddam's Iraq vs. Khomenei's Iran. Too bad they can't both lose.

Posted by: Peter Principle on October 17, 2008 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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