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Tilting at Windmills

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January 27, 2009

CONFUSION OVER KRISTOL.... Perhaps the only thing more frustrating that Bill Kristol's endless stream of jobs in the mainstream media is confusion over why this is frustrating.

After getting fired from Time, Kristol was hired by the New York Times. After getting fired from the New York Times, Kristol was hired by the Washington Post. Today, Fred Hiatt, the Post's editorial page editor, defended the move.

Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt called Kristol "very smart and very plugged in," saying Kristol would be an influential voice in the coming debate over redefining the Republican Party. "It seems to me there were a lot of Times readers who felt the Times shouldn't hire someone who supported the Iraq war," said Hiatt, adding that he wants "a diverse range of opinions" on his page.

I don't doubt that many Times readers disagreed with Kristol about Bush's Iraq policy, but that wasn't the problem. Rather, Kristol had spent much of Bush's presidency not only touting neocon nonsense, but also becoming what Jonathan Chait described as a "thug" -- directing baseless, ridiculous attacks against anyone who disagreed with him.

Around the time Kristol was hired by the NYT, A.L. published a greatest-hits package of outrageous Kristol columns; ThinkProgress had a collection of Kristol's recent "lies, distortions, and hawkish proposals"; and Media Matters assembled a list of Kristol observations -- on matters ranging from foreign policy to campaign politics -- all of which are obviously, demonstrably wrong. In most professions, repeated failures on this scale are not rewarded with promotions at some of the nation's most prestigious news outlets.

And all of this came before Kristol even started his New York Times column.

Matt Yglesias, who once described Kristol's writing as "dangerous," noted today:

[Hiatt] doesn't say Kristol's column is good! Doesn't call it insightful, doesn't call it informative, doesn't call it well-written. He just says that Kristol is "plugged-in" and influential. Which no doubt he is. But as a consumer of media, I prefer to take in well-written informative commentary that's entertaining or enlightening. Being deliberately misled by influence-peddlers or wannabe influence-peddlers doesn't rank high on my priority list. But to Hiatt it's the very model of a modern major political pundit.

I suspect that Hiatt, like Andy Rosenthal before him, considers these complaints petty. He probably assumes that liberal bloggers are just whining about Kristol because he's a conservative. "Everyone knows" that Kristol is "very smart," so critics must be wild-eyed ideologues, not to be taken seriously.

The reality, though, is far more mundane. Kristol writes predictable twaddle, riddled with routine factual errors, misguided predictions, and radical, bellicose ideas. He's also well dressed, soft spoken, and a lively dinner companion, which gives him media credibility, influence, and career opportunities he hasn't earned.

Steve Benen 12:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (37)

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said Hiatt, adding that he wants "a diverse range of opinions" on his page.

So, in other words, Hiatt's a liar and thinks his rapidly declining readership is a pack of idiots. Diverse range. What a crock of shit.

Posted by: Jay B. on January 27, 2009 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Can we just let this whole Kristol thing die?

Posted by: Gang Green on January 27, 2009 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

On cue. The diverse range of opinions at the Post strikes again!

What's worse is that Hiatt is a shameless liar who seems not to live in a world where his claims can be challenged by observable reality.

Posted by: Jay B. on January 27, 2009 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

But this is the Washington Post. Well-written informative commentary gave over to partisan rhetoric a long time ago.

(Do you know that Hiatt is considered to be the 3rd most influential *Liberal* by Forbes? You certainly can't tell he's a Liberal from his editorials and op eds.)

Posted by: CDW on January 27, 2009 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me there were a lot of Times readers who felt the Times shouldn't hire someone who supported the Iraq war Hyatt

Considering how hawkish the WaPo was leading up to the Iraq war, and how relatively liberal it's main readership is, this strikes me as a really odd statement to make. In fact, I would guess there are a whole lot of WaPo readers who would like to see a bunch of pre-Iraq hawks scrubbed from their editorial page.

Posted by: Danp on January 27, 2009 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

This is the NFL/NBA coaches theory of hiring. Because there are only 32 people that are capable of doing this out of a population of 340,000,000, so we have to continually recycle them, no matter their demonstrated incompetence. Probably also applies to banks, brokerages, hedge funds, governmental departments.

Posted by: Greg Worley on January 27, 2009 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

"He just says that Kristol is "plugged-in" and influential."

Few things make one more influential than being plugged-in to Time, the New York Times, or the Washington Post.

Posted by: JeffF on January 27, 2009 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

You'd think that Kristol's being chairman and co-founder of the Project for the New American Century, which was a prime mover for this administration to attack Iraq and cause the deaths of thousands if not millions, would have been plenty of reason to exile him to a guano-encrusted isle somewhere to contemplate his transgressions. I guess being "plugged in" is sufficient to forgive anything these days in our post-morality world -- look at Henry Kissinger or Elliot Abrams. Lovely.

Posted by: R. Porrofatto on January 27, 2009 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Once you get beyond "He's plugged-in" what more is there to say?

Posted by: rich on January 27, 2009 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Bill Kristol does fulfill at least one useful function in the world: he's a good exemplar of the logical fallacy of the circular argument.
Hiatt says he warrants his media megaphone because he's influential (no quote marks, since the term is Howard Kurtz's in the WaPo piece, and not attributed directly to Hiatt).
But of course that elides the reality that he's influential only because he's published in formerly-credible newspapers, which then gets him on the teevee.
Kristol is the neo-con (emphasis on the "con") equivalent of Paris Hilton -- famous only for being famous.
How he got his initial access, also unmentioned here, was of course simply by having chosen the right parents -- OG neocons Irving Kristol and Gertrude Himmelfarb.

Posted by: smartalek on January 27, 2009 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

It's really quite simple. If you don't like what Kristol, Limbaugh, and Hannity are putting out there, stop glorifying it by always commenting how stupid it is. Boycott their sponsors, don't listen to, whatch, or read their work or their employers.

Posted by: Winkandanod on January 27, 2009 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

As their business models continue to fold because of competing electronic news services, our MS dailies seem to be pinning their survival hopes on stale punditry offered by the likes of third-base born Kristol and bed-wetting Thiessen. Good luck to that WaPo! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 27, 2009 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me there were a lot of Times readers who felt the Times shouldn't hire someone who supported the Iraq war

and it seems to me this Hiatt fellow is a liar and a fool. This looks like a variation of the "some say" form of debate and "journalism".

Posted by: Allan Snyder on January 27, 2009 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

It might not be bad to have him around, he's been a very good predictor of things to come. He predicts and you can count on the opposite always being true.
It seems like we're in a time where people desperately want things to get better and we have someone finally trying to unite for the general good and these guys are getting even more venomous. I just think this time around they could get so ridiculous that they drive themselves out of jobs.

Posted by: kswan on January 27, 2009 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

D'oh.
JeffF made my point sooner, better, and more concisely. I bow to superior skillz.

Posted by: smartalek on January 27, 2009 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

If you don't like what Kristol, Limbaugh, and Hannity are putting out there, stop glorifying it by always commenting how stupid it is. Boycott their sponsors, don't listen to, whatch, or read their work or their employers.

I find this to be a bizarre argument. Ignoring them does exactly nothing -- they have a huge audience and boycotting their sponsors has had negligible influence in the past. Moreover, I haven't watched Fox News for years and I've never heard more than minutes of Limbaugh. Finally, The Post COULD serve as more than a conventional wisdom mouthpiece. It's a very important institution, if it dies, we will lose a great deal (or potentially so), and I'd argue that it is worth fighting for.

Finally, ignoring arguments is the surest way for them to gain traction with persuadable types. Countering them is far more effective.

Posted by: Jay B. on January 27, 2009 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Plugged-in, influential ... See, what the media moguls look for is popularity among a sector, not quality. Really, everyone should have know that for years, although it is always worth complaining about.

Posted by: Neil B ☼ on January 27, 2009 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

stop glorifying it

Amen. And I would include that loon from last night's column. They live to piss off liberals. Giving them pixel space (and linkage!!) serves only to fuel their fetid farts.

Let's just laugh at 'em instead. It's much more fun.

Posted by: MissMudd on January 27, 2009 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Fred Hiatt: "We're going to give Kristol bags of money to write bad articles because we want to and there's nothing you can do about it. Bzzzrrrppptttt!!!"

Yes, Fred. Ooookay, fine, Fred. Whatever you say, Fred.

(Backs out of room slowly and closes door gently)

Posted by: Curmudgeon on January 27, 2009 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

I think Yglesias has it exactly right in describing Kristol as a 'wannabe influence-peddler'. It's demonstrable that the NYT doesn't mind if its columnists are dumb, or partisan, or misinformed. But Kristol tried to use the Times as platform to advance his own influence in the Republican party. That's a no-no.

Posted by: MattF on January 27, 2009 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

To the people saying "ignore people like Kristol, they'll go away," please remember that's exactly what people were doing with Rush Limbaugh right before the Oklahoma City bombing. Rush was sitting there in his studio, declaring that revolution is near, that the common people were getting angrier and angrier at Washington DC, etc., and Timothy McVeigh said to himself "If I take dramatic action against The Establishment, the common people will love me!" "Ignoring them" is an extremely BAD idea!

Posted by: Rich2506 on January 27, 2009 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

>>called Kristol "very smart and very plugged in,",,

As are many high end domestic appliances.

Posted by: Nigel on January 27, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

So who is he plugged into?

Posted by: h on January 27, 2009 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

The Times, the Post, etc. get advertising revenue for the hits their on-line sites get. The more hits , the more money coming in the door. Kristol generates a lot of hits. Don't click on this fool.

Posted by: Dr Wu, I'm just an ordinary guy on January 27, 2009 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's fair to ask if Hiatt and his editorial board ever read the rest of their newspaper. Or, do they merely spend their days wondering what David Broder would say.

Posted by: JoeW on January 27, 2009 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Elliott Abrams / Gary Bauer / William J. Bennett / Jeb Bush / Dick Cheney / Eliot A. Cohen / Midge Decter / Paula Dobriansky / Steve Forbes / Aaron Friedberg / Francis Fukuyama / Frank Gaffney / Fred C. Ikle / Donald Kagan / Zalmay Khalilzad / I. Lewis Libby / Norman Podhoretz / Dan Quayle / Peter W. Rodman / Stephen P. Rosen / Henry S. Rowen / Donald Rumsfeld / Vin Weber / George Weigel / Paul Wolfowitz

Established in the spring of 1997, the Project for the New American Century is a non-profit, educational organization whose goal is to promote American global leadership. The Project is an initiative of the New Citizenship Project (501c3); the New Citizenship Project's chairman is William Kristol and its president is Gary Schmitt.

Obviously William Kristol is 'obviously smart' & 'plugged in'. Otherwise, he would not have had leadership of such a brilliant group of individuals who have been prescient about the needs of our country.

Unfortunately, you pinheads will have to wait for history to show how grateful our nation should be for their leadership. You are obviously too stupid to understand the brilliance of Kristol & PNAC. Fortunately, the Washington Post is a member in good standing of our corporate media and will continue to provide a platform for Mr. Kristol's eruditions.

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on January 27, 2009 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

saying Kristol would be an influential voice in the coming debate over redefining the Republican Party

Kristol was one of Palin's big boosters.

Bring. It. On!

Posted by: Gregory on January 27, 2009 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

...said Hiatt, adding that he wants "a diverse range of opinions" on his page

Let's see:

Richard Cohen arguing on behalf of US torture in this very issue.
Michael Gerson
Hiatt himself
Robert Kagan
Charles Krauthammer
Sebastian Mallaby
administration apologist Ruth Marcus
Robert D. Novak
Kathleen Parker
Robert J. Samuelson
George F. Will

Yeah, there's such a dearth of conservative op-ed columnists at the Post already!

If I still had a subscription, I'd cancel it.

Posted by: Gregory on January 27, 2009 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

The NYT is Kristol clear about it all.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on January 27, 2009 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

winkananod apparently never had to deal with a sociopath...or babysat a sugar-junkie attention-span-lacking "mischeivous" 8 year old. Which at heart is what Kristol is, albiet a slightly-better-dressed one.

Pay attention to Kristol, he then talks about the attention he's getting and since he's so-much-smarter than his critics, he must be saying something right.

Ignore Kristol, he'll talk louder, he'll say more outrageous things, he'll demand attention. It's not like some Dr. Spock-esque training where he'll eventually tire and go away. He'll keep saying and doing dumb things, and gloat over the LACK of attention, because he knows that it's based on not trying to feed his ego, which in turn feeds his ego.

And when some people finally get fed up with ignoring him and tell him to STFU, he gets the smug satisfaction of not only breaking your will, but that he must be saying something right to get people "so not-right they're left" mad at him.

No. Best course of action with the Kristols and Coulters and Hannitys and Limbaughs of this sad world of ours, so filled with potential so often wasted, is to point out how wrong they are, as often as they are wrong, which is often. We're not phrasing our contempt as anger over what they say because we disagree with it. We get angry because it's usually, factually wrong, demonstrably so, and the media treats the lies they spew as a he-said-she-said analogy. "The right thinks this and the left thinks this and how unbiased are we to allow both the conservative elite AND the dirty f***ing hippies a chance to have their say?" No, when the right lies, they need to get called on their lies. When they say something dangerous, it needs to be said that what thye're saying is dangerous; you can't rely on the masses to know that. The runup to the war in Iraq (and the subsequent near-avoidance of trying to get bin Laden, the REAL war on terror) was based on the right spewing lies and stirring pro-America-anti-"others" sentiments that made otherwise rational Americans lose their freaking minds. That can't happen again. You neuter them by pointing just how f***ing stupid they are on a regular basis. If print media is so stupid they think hiring imbeciles will sell more papers or temper criticism that there have no op-ed voices on the right, they deserve to bo bankrupt, and pity should be given to the workers who rely on those idiots to not be idiots.

Posted by: slappy magoo on January 27, 2009 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

RepublicanPointOfView @ 2:22, your list of PNAC members reads like a guest list to a Social Darwinist soiree. If you are being erudited by such a list, quite calling others stupid.

Your admission makes the line "takes one to know one" more discernable. -Kevo

p.s. "pinhead?" are you an O'Reilly fan also?

My advise to you: learn a bit more about the wonderful we all live in, and lose the attitude! -Cheers

Posted by: kevo on January 27, 2009 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

Obviously, Kevo's interpretation of RepublicanPointOfView does not take into account that it could just be a sarcastic account of rethugnican thinking!

Also - I will never lose my attitudes!

Signed:
- SadOldVet
- AngryOldVet
- RepublicanPointOfView

Posted by: SadOldVet on January 27, 2009 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with Kristol is that he's not a serious person. He's the class clown, throwing rhetoric irrespective of his "true" beliefs just to see the fuss it creates. Look at his contradictory comments about Palin, and the 2009 election, for example. Look at his predictions, about which it can be said, bet against him and you will win.

Posted by: frank logan on January 27, 2009 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

>>called Kristol "very smart and very plugged in,",,

As are many high end domestic appliances.
Posted by: Nigel on January 27, 2009

Ah yes, but today we also demand they be efficient and not waste our time.

Does the WaPo actually have a Lefty or Liberal or Progressive in their paper? Somehow I doubt it. I most seriously doubt it.

Posted by: MarkH on January 27, 2009 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

slappy magoo at 3:25 PM:

Spot on, and exactly why I particularly like Mr. Benen's post. Steve (can I call you Steve, Steve?), you have precisely the right approach for enervating the dickless wonder known as Bill Kristol. Don't always agree w/ your angle, but you have this one by the short and curlys.

Posted by: Conrads Ghost on January 27, 2009 at 11:20 PM | PERMALINK

Kristol is "plugged in" in the recto-cranial sense of the term.

Posted by: the mythical little guy on January 28, 2009 at 3:34 AM | PERMALINK

"very smart and very plugged in"

I can think of many bloggers who's predictions during the Bush years were light years ahead of Wild Bill Krackhead's.

Why doesn't the WaPo hedge their current position by hiring somebody who has a track record of accurate predictions?

Posted by: Glen on January 28, 2009 at 4:43 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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