Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 19, 2009

KRISTOL'S CONTRACT?.... It's Monday, so Bill Kristol has another New York Times column today. The gist of it is that he'd like to see Barack Obama embrace Bush's policies in Iraq. Natch.

But reading the column, it occurred to me that there's been very little news of late about Kristol's employment status with the paper of record. As I recall, it was January 2008 when Kristol signed a one-year contract. It's January 2009. So why is Kristol still there?

Greg Mitchell had an item on this back on December 29.

Exactly one year ago this weekend the Huffington Post broke the news that, as Jim Morrison might have put it, the Kristol Ship was about to sail at The New York Times. Much uproar ensued across the blogosphere. Some pointed out Kristol's call for the paper to be prosecuted, on Fox News in 2006, after its big banking records scoop: "I think it is an open question whether the Times itself should be prosecuted for this totally gratuitous revealing of an ongoing secret classified program that is part of the war on terror."

A day after the Huffington Post reported it, the Times announced that it had indeed hired the conservative pundit as a new weekly op-ed columnist, on a one-year contract. [...]

[The paper's public editor, Clark Hoyt, wrote a year ago]: "This is a decision I would not have made. But it is not the end of the world. Everyone should take a deep breath and calm down.... If Kristol is another [William] Safire, he has the chance to prove it. If not, he and the newspaper will move on, and the search will resume."

Now, a year later, the Times indeed has a chance to "move on."

And since then, nothing. There's been no news about Kristol getting a new contract, being denied a new contract, or the search for a new addition to the Times' stable of columnists.

Has anyone heard anything? I've long assumed that Kristol, after a year of errors of fact and judgment, would receive a polite call from the publishers, explaining that the paper has decided to go "in a different direction." But at this point, there haven't been any reports either way.

Steve Benen 4:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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You know, if he doesn't get a new contract, it's going to be "The Passion of the Kristol" from the Fever Swamp. Might be easier just to go on ignoring him.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on January 19, 2009 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Kristol joined the Army.

Posted by: Haik Bedrosian on January 19, 2009 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

As near as I can tell, I don't think Bill's column has ever made the ranks of the most e-mailed articles in the paper....it is because he has nothing to say that anyone feels is worth sending to a friend or associate because it is interesting or thought-provoking.

This is the guy whose biggest accomplishment is apparently getting McCain to choose Sarah Palin, and we know how well THAT turned out.

Posted by: dweb on January 19, 2009 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

The Ole Gray Lady ain't what she used to be...many long years ago.

Posted by: Danp on January 19, 2009 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

He'll be kept. He's a villager. He sells papers to wingnuts and The Times needs every sale it can get.

BTW, liberal columnists don't seem to sell newspapers. I think it has something to do with commentary from the left that's just as good (or better) for free on the Internets.

But ReThugs, if they ever gave ANYTHING away for free that they could sell for MONEY, they'd get their R-cards yanked.

Posted by: Cal Gal on January 19, 2009 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

This is off topic but I need to say that the so called "leak" exploited by MSNBC all afternoon now is NOT NEW NEWS. IT"S NOT A LEAK that just emerged today by Jill Biden on the OPRAH show today!!

I'm not a journalist, but I did know that Joe Biden was indeed given a choice over V.P. or Secretary State a good several weeks ago.

Some pundit, and I simply can't recall who- indicated this quite plainly and clearly (either on CNN OR MSNBC) around the time Hilary had been offered the position (or when she accepted).

In any case, I can't believe MSNBC (or anyone else in the News industry has caught this falsehood). None of these folks have done their homework! Jill Biden leaked NOTHING! But boy, are they having fun gabbing about it as though it were fact on MSNBC...

I distinctly remember someone (who I don't know) indicating that the choice was given Biden. And this was around the time Hillary was offerred the job or accepted the job. I remember the journalist/pundit even jokingly added: Biden probably chose V.P. 'cause that's the easier slot of the two.."

Doesn't anyone else remember this? Granted, it was not discussed since then--but Jill Biden is not the one who leaked this!

For goodness sake, doesn't anyone do their homework anymore? I even knew this....

Posted by: MSNBC is dead wrong re: so called Jill Biden gaffe: It's NOT A NEW LEAK and NOT NEWS! on January 19, 2009 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

It is appalling the way he states in today's column (and everywhere else where he gets face/print time) that Bush's greatest legacy is that he "won the war in Iraq".

Can somebody with a platform please call him on this patently absurd assertion?

Posted by: crossdotcurve on January 19, 2009 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

On the print edition front page summary (at bottom), Kristol's is the only name cited as having a piece in Opinion.

Krugman also had a column today, but no front page mention.

Draw your own conclusions.

Posted by: Mimir on January 19, 2009 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

I don't have the papers with me, but FWIW, sometime over the past three or four days The Times published a promotional ad for its regular op-ed columnists that omitted Kristol.

Posted by: wild child on January 19, 2009 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

The problem the NY Times faces is that there are no good conservative thinkers to replace Kristol. The language of resentment they inherited from George Wallace has been replaced by one of hope, the imperialism they advocated was discredited by W's cavalier stab at it, and the economic doctrines they espouse have been shown to have, in Greenspan's words, a flaw. So where is the better columnist to come from?

Posted by: ebbolles on January 19, 2009 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

"The legacy of George W Bush, A Collection of Conflicting Opinions"

Available a Amazon soon....

ISBN13 9781441455437

The debate over George W Bush is probably the most visceral debate of our century. There often seems to be no in between. Folks either love him or hate him. As we approach the inauguration of Barrack Obama, the internet has been bombarded with opinions ranging from one extreme to the other. In this book is a collection of dialog from all over the world and every walk of life. In an eight hour period of time just prior to GWB stepping out of the White House, one that that rings true is that we live in an amazing country just to be able to have this conversation.

Can a man's legacy be drawn from an eight year period in time? What kind of a footprint has GWB left on the American people, or the world for that matter? Has he served his country well by protecting us from terrorism, or has a alienated America from the rest of the world. What role did Christianity play under the leadership of George W Bush? Has he acted as a Christian in his role as President of the United States, or has he misused the Bible as a means of procuring votes and evoking war? Was the rebuilding of Iraq set in motion years before the Twin Towers tragedy, or was this a rapid decision based on an emergent circumstance? Did Iraq have
weapons of mass destruction, or should we have been focusing on catching Bin Ladin? What about North Korea and Proliferation of nukes in Iran? Was there miscommunication between the CIA and the FBI and why was Home Land Security restructured as it was? Were our civil rights violated by the Echelon Program? The list of questions will go on for an eternity and there will probably be more theories about the Bush Administration than the JFK assassination and the Watergate Scandal combined.

I have tried to keep this debate as original as possible. That includes errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling. I have also tried to collect them in a somewhat chronological method in order to keep a level playing field. I have simply collected publicly posted comments of others from open sources with no expectation of privacy or concealment. This is simply a collection of what others have had to say. I have tried to eliminate
personal attack between the folks debating (or at least leaving out what I thought may be real names of folks) Some of the statements are redundant, just as they came down the pipeline. What ever your opinion of George W Bush Is.... This is a compelling, and somewhat disturbing read.

Posted by: John Crippen on January 19, 2009 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP is bereft of good ideas. All their greatest ideas failed under President Bush. So all they have left to bloviate about on the NYT opinion pages and elsewhere are attacks and sniping aimed at Obama and his people.

It's no coincidence that so many newspapers have fallen on hard times during the Bush administration. I hope the Obama era ushers in a new generation of critical readers.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on January 19, 2009 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

It's no coincidence that so many newspapers have fallen on hard times during the Bush administration. I hope the Obama era ushers in a new generation of critical readers. -- pj in jesusland, @17:49

It may, but that new generation of readers isn't going to save the papers. I used to depend on papers for all my information -- political and otherwise. These days, I still read the papers but onlly to fill in the gaps in/give a broader background to the info I get from the net. If my husband stopped the subscription to the paper tomorrow, I'd probably continue to read it, but, again, on the net (do that already over the weekend anyway).

And I'm almost 60... younger people will be that much less tempted to buy a paper (with the implied selection of what's news and what isn't, even before you factor in the bias of individual writers), when they can choose from a much broader menu of news items, for free.

Posted by: exlibra on January 19, 2009 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

On the print edition front page summary (at bottom), Kristol's is the only name cited as having a piece in Opinion.

Krugman also had a column today, but no front page mention. -- Mimir, @17:22

SOP. They always list only one OP-ed writer on the front page and it's never Krugman. I had to point it out to my husband, because I was getting tired of his saying -- every Monday and Friday -- "your favourite columnist must be taking a day off today".

Posted by: exlibra on January 19, 2009 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

If it turns out they continue to retain his services, I will pull the plug myself and cancel my subscription. I know, he'll still be there, but at least I won't be paying for it.

Posted by: PFL on January 19, 2009 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

The problem the NY Times faces is that there are no good conservative thinkers to replace Kristol.

The problem is that there are no good conservative thinkers.

Posted by: Tom Burka on January 19, 2009 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

Diversity? Ethnic pandering, NY kosher style?

Posted by: Luther on January 19, 2009 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

Heh, aren't papers still worth it for the coupons - or can I get those online just as easily?

Posted by: Neil B ♪ ♫ on January 19, 2009 at 7:55 PM | PERMALINK

my question is: are there any indications that people buy the NYT for Kristol? I'm sure some regular subscribers read him to be outraged, but they're already there. Is there anybody who wouldn't read the Times were it not for Kristol? I just can't see the numbers changing or stabilizing thanks to him, but I could be wrong. Dems don't like him, & the Pubs who read (both of 'em) know not to trust what he writes as accurate. So...why?

Posted by: slappy magoo on January 19, 2009 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

Put two and two together, Mr. Benen.

He's still writing, they didn't renew the contract.

Ink doesn't cost that much and if he's willing to write free of charge and the Times is nice enough to let him continue to pretend to be a writer... no harm no foul, eh?

When the economy improves and they can afford to pay his replacement, well...

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on January 19, 2009 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

slappy magoo raises a point I'd like to expand on. Does anyone anywhere (well, maybe not anyone anywhere -- there's always somebody somewhere) buy a paper or not buy a paper because of its columnists?
Outside of the big cities, most columns, other than strictly local interest stuff, are bought from syndicates. The price of the paper is the same with or without columns. Does the choice of coumns reflect anything other than the whim of the publisher? Does anyone in the business do any kind of analysis on whether having columnist X or columnist Y has any effect on sales or circulation or ad revenue? I suspect that if such an analysis were done the answer would be "no," and I further suspect that nobody bothers to do such an analysis, but I'd like to hear from someone in the business and find out. Anyone out there who knows how columnists are selected and why?

Posted by: CJColucci on January 19, 2009 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

I figured the NYT hired KrystolMeth as part of their "hire the handicapped" program. Either that or he'd be working as a greeter at WalMart.

Just shows you that affirmative action is not dead - still in effect for "challenged" white men.

Posted by: CParis on January 19, 2009 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

One would think that even the intellectually challenged 'Pinch' Sulzberger would understand the wind is blowing from a different direction, and that Kristol's continued useless blather would not get him any points with the new administration.

But then Obama has already sent the Gray Lady a message by not granting them any access. One would think he would do the same with the Washington Post, which is much to the right of the not-so-venerable NYT, but he chose not to.

One can only hope that Kristol's star is in descent. He deserves nothing else, but Rupert will probably keep him afloat, and we will have to endure his moon face spouting nonsense for too much longer.

Posted by: rich on January 19, 2009 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

Diversity? Ethnic pandering, NY kosher style? --
Luther, @19:30

Please... Kristoff, Friedman, Krugman, Brooks... Did you think that baby Jesus dropped them off at the NYT's stables one Christmas Eve?

They're plenty diverse already; they even have two women and one black as op-ed columnists, all of whom are given more space than Kristol. The only reason I can think of of them offering the kob to Kristol is the same as CParis suggests, @20:56 -- affirmative action for failed pundicks.

Posted by: exlibra on January 19, 2009 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

Kristol is probably working Carlos Slim Helu real good to have his name advanced as new editor of the NYT, as both Kristol and Slim share the same reactionary worldview, and if Slim is going to take controlling interest in the paper, why not place a fellow Friedmanista in charge? Murdoch does it with his rags, so I'm looking for some rather dire changes down the road.

Posted by: barrisj on January 19, 2009 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

Cut him lose.

Posted by: steveb on January 20, 2009 at 12:38 AM | PERMALINK



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