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Tilting at Windmills

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January 26, 2009

KRISTOL LEAVES THE TIMES.... At the end of an otherwise uninteresting New York Times column from Bill Kristol, there are six heartening words:

This is William Kristol's last column.

There's been some question as to whether Kristol's one-year contract with the paper of record would get an extension, and today, we get our answer: he's done. Whether the Times showed him the door or Kristol quit is unclear, but the result is the same.

It's hard to overstate what an embarrassment this was from the start. Not only was Kristol's writing pedestrian and predictable, but he had an unfortunate habit of making obvious factual mistakes, which necessitated frequent corrections. Indeed, at last count, Kristol prompted four corrections in one year -- though, if you want to get picky about it, one of the four included two separate factual errors in the same column, which would bring the total to five.

And that's just counting the demonstrable errors of fact. Errors of judgment were found in practically every piece.

Back in May, Glenn Greenwald had an item on the "sloppy, error-plagued and incomparably hackish columns" Kristol has produced. Regrettably, the next seven months worth of content was no better.

For reasons that have never made sense, the Times' publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., decided in late 2007 that it was time to add another Republican columnist to the paper's op-ed page, and the decision early on was to find a "lightning-rod conservative." But Kristol didn't spend the year generating electricity, he spent a year embarrassing the nation's most prestigious news outlet, wasting space on the most valuable media real estate in the country. His columns combined the three worst qualities a columnist can have: Kristol's work was wrong, predictable, and boring.

A Times staffer said last year, "Having a robust conservative voice on the page is a good idea. But you want quality." Instead, the paper wanted Kristol. That is, it used to want Kristol.

And so, the search is on for a new Times columnist. No matter who the paper chooses, he or she is bound to be an improvement.

Steve Benen 8:05 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (46)

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Hey, a new gig for Bush. Now that would be worse. Or Palin - she used to be a journalist, and she reads all the papers, so she's got to be good, right?

Also, did you mean 4 errors in a week instead of a year?

Posted by: N.Wells on January 26, 2009 at 8:06 AM | PERMALINK

Did you mean practically every piece?

Posted by: Jamie Laing on January 26, 2009 at 8:07 AM | PERMALINK

i can't imagine billy boy giving up that high-profile gig (and $$$$) voluntarily. esp with a democratic president and congressional majority in charge -- where his contrary yammering would provide job security.

Posted by: linda on January 26, 2009 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

"No matter who the paper chooses, he or she is bound to be an improvement."

We'll remind you of this statement when they choose Jonah Goldberg.

Posted by: Lee Gibson on January 26, 2009 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

I'll miss him. Having an easy target made Monday-morning blogging easy. But I also look forward to a new challenge.

I said goodbye here: "So long, Bill. Write if you get work."

Posted by: Mustang Bobby on January 26, 2009 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

Made my Monday morning. Given Sulzberger's lack of good sense, he's likely to pick another loser. Let's hope it isn't Anne Coulter. Actually, that's unfair. Even Pinch has better sense than that.

Instead of a right-wing lightening rod, how about a left-wing radical? Oh, I forgot. There aren't any of those around anymore. He'll pick someone to curry favor with the new administration, which has ignored the not-so-venerable NYT thus far.

Posted by: rich on January 26, 2009 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

This is William Kristol's last column.

Would be appropriate to a graveyard obelisk.

The Constant Weader at www.RealityChex.com

Posted by: Marie Burns on January 26, 2009 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

Joe the Plumber might be available.

Posted by: Tony on January 26, 2009 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

My vote's for Daniel Larison. Seriously.

Posted by: EarBucket on January 26, 2009 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

Looks like an immedate pickup by Caldwell, the conservative Editor of the Opinion Section of the Oregonian - Following, a virtual sweep by the Democratic Party in Oregon, except for the eastern hinterlands, Caldwell felt it his duty to bring more "center-right" conservatives on board. He hired four for commentaries. Kristol would not be any different than David Reinhard, the former conservative voice of the Oregonian. Wonder when the NYT will pick up Glenn McCoy for their "fair and balanced" political cartoon work?

Posted by: berttheclock on January 26, 2009 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

I get an Italian paper, La Repubblica, delivered to my door here in Milan. Every Monday it includes section of selections from the NYT in English. I am soooo glad this will no longer waste ink on that arch a-hole Kristol. Schmuck followed me all the way across the Atlantic.
It was bad enough to lend him such legitimacy in the first place. Let's hope the US public's famously short memory expunges Bill from its consciousness post-haste.

Posted by: Richard Greenslade on January 26, 2009 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

If they want a lightning rod, I think Jonah Goldberg is a shoe-in. How long would it be before he wrote a column accusing everyone else at the paper of being a fascist?

Posted by: Shalimar on January 26, 2009 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

Actually Jonah Goldberg would provide may hours of fun and snarking, as his shabby intellect and idiotic take would show the poverty of the Right's ideas...
But a Real Conservative? I do not thing this columnist exists..

Posted by: MR Bill on January 26, 2009 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

Ed Angry from ye olde Weekly World News gets my vote as being the most logical successor to Kristol Close second: Ted Nugent.

Posted by: slappy magoo on January 26, 2009 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Kristol, even the painted lady won't deal with you... get thee to a nunnery

Posted by: Daro on January 26, 2009 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

Well, didn't they just host an abysmally silly piece by Ben Stein?

Posted by: jcasey on January 26, 2009 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

If the NYT 's concern is about quality of thought and prose - Barbara Ehrenreich.

Hire the best writers. To hell with where some gray suit thinks they sit on some spectrum.

Posted by: snicker-snack on January 26, 2009 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

"...bound to be an improvement"? It could wind up being Glen Beck.

Posted by: fuyura on January 26, 2009 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Echoing what many are thinking, could they do worse than Kristol? Oh, yes they could. Coulter, Limbaugh, Hannity and a few other "lightning rod" hacks are lurking out there. Given readership declines and the tendency to see sensationalism as one avenue of attracting readers anything is possible.

Posted by: steve duncan on January 26, 2009 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

No matter who the paper chooses, he or she is bound to be an improvement.

Sadly, no! Sulzberger is on record as an "admirer" of Megan McArdle and Byron York. So we can expect to see either absurd libertarian manifestos or columns that would have been more interesting if written by Byron York's hair rather than Byron York.

Posted by: Jennifer on January 26, 2009 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

Given the speed at which the Times seems to become aware of current events, they just might believe that they can steal Ben Domenech from the Post.

Posted by: That's My New York Times on January 26, 2009 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

For the first (and I guess last) time, I felt rewarded for reading to the end of a Kristol column.

Posted by: Jim H on January 26, 2009 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

It will take some serious searching to find another conservative who was as wrong about every single thing as Kristol. One standout candidate: Alberto Gonzales. He's still looking for work and it's hard to top him in being wrong.
"I don't remember what I wrote but I stand behind every word."

Posted by: Reverend Dennis on January 26, 2009 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

I agree that it's hard to imagine Kristol would have given up such a high-profile slot voluntarily.
It will be interesting to see if this prompts any of the other putatively reputable news organizations (a category that obviously excludes Fox) that have relationships with Kristol to reconsider employing a pundit with such an amazing track record of being wrong about almost everything.

Posted by: mikeypal on January 26, 2009 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

here i was, feeling all depressed about the state of my life, and steve benen cheers me up with some good news.

if this keeps up, i may start to consider the possibility that god does in fact exist.

not that i really think there's any danger of that.

Posted by: karen marie on January 26, 2009 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

This is William Kristol's last column.


He didn't write "in the NYT", just "last column".


Posted by: kenga on January 26, 2009 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

I canceled my subscription in protest last year, and truthfully haven't missed much. I read you, Steve, put a couple of political and news feeds in my reader and do just fine (and I have more time every day). Good job, NY Times!!!!

Posted by: Alex on January 26, 2009 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

If the NYT wants to hire a real conservative let them approach Kevin Philips, once an architect of Nixon's Southern strategy, now turned critic of current GOP policies in must read books like "American Dynasty" and "Bad Money." I'm perfectly willing to consider any conservative thinker who's halfway sane, and today Philips is one of the very few.

Posted by: fyreflye on January 26, 2009 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

NYT is a joke with a fleet of liberal-left columnists, a left editorial board, and now a mere single conservative/moderate columnist. If the left truly cares about ideas, diversity, and dialogue, where is the call for NYT to daily publish a conservative column on the op-ed page. By the reaction on this site, you think the left sees NYT as a Soviet era newspaper spewing one point of view without any dissent.

Posted by: David on January 26, 2009 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Clint Eastwood. At least his columns would be short.

Posted by: Vokoban on January 26, 2009 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

I think George Will would be a good replacement.

Posted by: Lee Waldock on January 26, 2009 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

My vote is for Andrew Bacevich: one of the rare old-school Burkean conservatives. In many ways the polar opposite of Kristol, and a harsh critic of both parties. I'd also be happy to see Bruce Bartlett or Bruce Fein get a wider audience. (unlike everyone else here, I also like Megan McArdle, but I think they'd be better off finding a true conservative.). I can think of several others who would at least be readable - Safire was an ass but an excellent writer. Sadly, there are far more who make Kristol look like a sober genius.

Posted by: Nat on January 26, 2009 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

"Soviet era" - Oh, you mean the NY Post and Washington Times?

Sadly, in Seattle, the Hearst Corp is going to close the Seattle Post/Intelligencer - The P-I features one of the finest political cartoonists in the nation - The liberal, highly intelligent, David Horsey - Although, the Hearst Corp has been very right wing, they allowed the P-I to be liberal. So, Seattle will only be left with the right leaning Seattle Times. More preaching by the Times owner about defeating the "death" tax. Not only the loss of a fine cartoonist, but, the fine political work of Joel Connelly, Art Thiel in sports and one of the finest gardening sections in the land. So, right wingers, you will, finally, have a win for your column.

Posted by: berttheclock on January 26, 2009 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

It's a shame that the Obama Liberal Times loses the only writer worth reading. It doesn't really matter that he is gone as the Times will be gone itself soon(maybe that's why he left). He knows they won't exist much longer and that nobody besides elite liberal Democrats read the Times. I can't wait for the day to come when they completely collapse and stop printing their biased garbage! I will be celebrating that day along with at least half of America. I give them til 2011 at the latest and maybe as soon as 2010...

The only question now is what will we use to housebreak our puppies on and line our bird cages with???

Posted by: J.B. on January 26, 2009 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, J.B., you're such a humorist! Love that knee-slapping bird cage line! But why do you hate the Times? After all, they helped your pResident launch his war of choice by propagating his lies. And I say this as a Times subscriber.

Posted by: Frak on January 26, 2009 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Bill Kristol was one of the only bright things at the NY Liberal Times. I think he is smart to leave no matter what the reason. This piece of crap newspaper was so desperate that they had to borrow $250 Million at 14% interest (can you say loan shark) from a Mexican named Carlos Slim to survive. They will go down anyway and who would want to be associated with this piece of crap newspaper that I wouldn't even use as toilet paper. RIP NY Times. You deserve to fold. I will be very happy when the day comes this year.

Posted by: Marie Mc on January 26, 2009 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Another Zionist gone. That is excellent for America. He was a liar to justify the illegal invasion in Irak just like Bush. Cancer to society.

Posted by: claudia on January 26, 2009 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Ron Reagan! Who graces the pages of our local weekly fishwrap. He tries to channel his daddy at each opportunity, in a sort of smarmy, witless way.

OK, OK, maybe not him...Sheesh, I was just trying to help. How about Steve Gill or Phil Valentine?
What?!? Never heard of them? Lucky you...

Posted by: Porzitsku on January 26, 2009 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

I would like Anne Coulter. She is the most honest conservative out there. She calls them as she sees them and doesn't care who she offends especially Liberals. Her books are awesome and really quite funny! I would love to see her duke it out with the Liberal pukes at the Franklin DelenObama Times.

Posted by: Marie on January 26, 2009 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

How about a liberal columnist like Margret Cho. Or a good writer like Sarah Vowel.

Posted by: Captured Shadow on January 26, 2009 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

A "lightening rod" conservative? Instead of a conservative who can think and write a cogent sentence?

WTH has the NY Times become?

BTW, who is their "lightening rod" liberal?

Posted by: Cal Gal on January 26, 2009 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

"It's a shame that the Obama Liberal Times loses the only writer worth reading. ... nobody besides elite liberal Democrats read the Times."

Um, J.B. you just tagged yourself an elite liberal Democrat because if you didn't read the Times you wouldn't know Kristol was worth reading.

The typical so-called "logic" of a conservative on show.

Posted by: Sarah Barracuda on January 26, 2009 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

The NYT still hasn't found someone to replace William Safire. Safire might have come up with all sorts of shit -- Atta/Prague being one of his most notorious late assertions -- but he respects the paper and the job in a way that Kristol clearly didn't, and was well-connected in a way that John Tierney clearly wasn't. Neither McArdle or Douthat fill that role.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc on January 26, 2009 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

I would venture that Kristol simply worked DOWN to the level of the New York Times.

The writer of this article makes the Times out to be some 'superstar' of journalism... He is wrong. It has little respect left outside New York Liberals, it's lies are obvious, and it bias is insufferable.

Kristol was smart - get out before it collapses.

Posted by: Bill SAnford on January 26, 2009 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

"No matter who the paper chooses, he or she is bound to be an improvement."

Why is this necessarily true?

What if they choose Alberto Gonzales? If they hired Kristol, why would they hesitate for a second to hire some like Kristol but with a ghostwriter who can punctuate and do a basic fact check?

Talk about Lucy and the football ...

Posted by: Douglas Watts on January 26, 2009 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

To describe the NYT as "the nation's most prestigious news outlet" is to ignore the stunning decline in the paper's accuracy, thoroughness and impartiality in recent years. That, I beleive, is far more consequential than what Kristol may or may not have contributed.

Posted by: JMT on January 26, 2009 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK



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