Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 26, 2009

KRISTOL'S ADVICE SOUNDS FAMILIAR.... In his inaugural column for the print edition of the Washington Post, Bill Kristol offers some advice for his Republican brethren: obstruct as much as humanly possible.

...Obama's aim is not merely to "revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity." ... Conservatives and Republicans will disapprove of this effort. They will oppose it. Can they do so effectively?

Perhaps -- if they can find reasons to obstruct and delay. They should do their best not to permit Obama to rush his agenda through this year. They can't allow Obama to make of 2009 what Franklin Roosevelt made of 1933 or Johnson of 1965. Slow down the policy train. Insist on a real and lengthy debate. Conservatives can't win politically right now. But they can raise doubts.... Only if this happens will conservatives be able to get a hearing for their (compelling, in my view) arguments against big-government, liberal-nanny-state social engineering -- and for their preferred alternatives.

It seems like an odd thing for Kristol to put in writing. Generally, Republicans say they want to at least try to have a constructive role in public policy. Kristol counsels the opposite -- Obama is poised to "make history," so Republicans need to "obstruct and delay." The GOP, Kristol insists, needs to "find reasons" to do. Obstruct for obstruction's sake, and figure out the rationale later.

What's striking is how predictable Kristol's advice has become. This was the strategy Kristol recommended during the fight over the economic recovery package, and more importantly, it was the advice he offered Republicans in the early 1990s, when they confronted the Clinton White House. Indeed, in December 1993, Kristol wrote a strategy memo to congressional Republicans, urging them to "kill" any effort at healthcare reform -- "sight unseen" -- because it would help the Democratic Party.

Jonathan Chait noted this morning, "His current advice is equally disingenuous. Kristol is saying that Republicans should raise objections about the speed of legislation, pick fights, point to foreign policy -- but not because they actually care about the speed of the legislative process or the other fights they're going to pick. It will all be a pretext to stop Obama's agenda. Is this the kind of thing he should be admitting in public?"

Probably not. The minority party is going to oppose the majority party's ideas. That's expected; it's what the minority party is supposed to do. But Kristol's advice helps end the charade -- Republicans, if they take the columnist's advice, won't play a constructive role and won't make good-faith compromises to advance a policy agenda.

That's largely in line with expectations, but it's nevertheless interesting to see in print.

Steve Benen 10:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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Comments

The GOP has never been about governing, it's always been about amassing power. So this playbook is completely consistent with their creed.

The GOP doesn't understand governance, and doesn't want to understand governance. All they want to do is siphon as much cash as possible to the upper 1% of the citizenry and then call it a day.

Putting a strategy in print to accomplish that goal isn't so surprising. The goal has always been known, and so has the strategy.

Posted by: fromer on February 26, 2009 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Kristol knows that if Obama's programs succeed, the GOP is dead. It's their last and only option.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on February 26, 2009 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Advice roughly like Kristol's can be roughly legitimate if the giver really thinks that the programs won't work, will take important freedoms away, etc. But to be against programs and their success because it will help the other party is un-American. I think the DNC, Democrats running for office, etc. should publicize pro-failure quotes from people like Kristol, Limbaugh, etc. and say "See, this party's advisers put spiting their opposition, and their party's success above the good of the nation."

Posted by: Neil B ◙ on February 26, 2009 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

I think 'good-faith' is the fundamental and continuing issue here. I also think that Kristol just doesn't understand the concept or why it matters.

Posted by: MattF on February 26, 2009 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

It would be nice to have an actual opposition party that can provide a real critique and alternative ideas, instead of one that's opposed to the very idea of government.

I wonder if I'll see that in my lifetime...

Posted by: Redshift on February 26, 2009 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

The weird thing is, my carrier delivered a Washington Times this morning, instead of a Washington Post.

Maybe with Kristol in the WaPo, he couldn't tell the difference between the two.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on February 26, 2009 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

We need a good library of these articles and videos (such as Ken Blackwell's) of Republicans baldly stating that they're intentionally obstructing Democratic policies solely for political advantage. I'm surprised they're stupid enough to put these things in writing and on tape. Well, perhaps I'm not so surprised...

Posted by: Skepticat on February 26, 2009 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Why does Bill Kristol hate America? Let him go on rallying the troops of the party of NO. He is supplying us with all the amunition we need for 2012

Posted by: John R on February 26, 2009 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

"...Obama's aim is not merely to "revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity." ... Conservatives and Republicans will disapprove of this effort."

This is an amazing statement. He literally says that Conservatives and Republicans do not WANT lasting prosperity for this country! And they accuse liberals of being "anti-American?" Crazy!!

Posted by: winddancer on February 26, 2009 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

You know I was really down on the Post for hiring Kristol, but now I realize what a canny, progressive move that was. The more we have Kristol out there making it clear that Republicans exist only to obstruct and delay the nation's recovery (can't let Obama do what FDR did), how little they care about the problems that ordinary people face (universal health care - that's a winner for democrats so better destroy it), the better the chance for the country as a whole to see through this.

Keep it up Kristol!

Posted by: Nothing But the Ruth on February 26, 2009 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen quoted Jonathan Chait: "His current advice is equally disingenuous."

Actually, Kristol's advice is anything but disingenuous ("lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity"). Kristol is being, if anything, strikingly frank and candid, and is no doubt sincere, in advocating "obstruct and delay" tactics.

Nor is there anything wrong with Republicans using such tactics as are available to a minority party to obstruct or delay policies that they oppose, to "raise doubts" about the majority agenda, or to "get a hearing" or "a real and lengthy debate" on their counter-proposals.

The real problem with the Republicans is that their actual proposals are unacceptable to the American people because they represent nothing but more of the same CheneyBush policies of enriching and empowering the rich and powerful at the expense of, and to the detriment of, everyone else.

We've already had the "real and lengthy debate" and the Republican policies have already had "a hearing" -- more than a "hearing", we've been subjected to an eight-year long demonstration of their disastrous effects, which is only the most recent and extreme such demonstration the nation has endured over several decades, with consistently bad results.

This is why the only thing the Republicans are left with is lying. The sort of Republican rhetoric that Steve Benen and others characterize as "crazy" and "confused" is neither crazy nor confused; it is deliberately, calculatedly, despicably, reprehensibly dishonest.

Using legislative tactics to force a "debate" and get a "hearing" is legitimate. Engaging in "debate" and a "hearing" with blatant lies, in the service of rapacious greed, is not.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 26, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

"it's nevertheless interesting to see in print."

Interesting? He may as well stand up and say, F**K America!!!

The entire ilk of Republican is walking around with its collective pants around their ankles, but oblivious to it. Bill Kristol is saying that if hurting America is good for the party, so be it! And he's willing to put his name to that. Next he'll say let's burn the flag while wearing flag pins.

Posted by: Capt Kirk on February 26, 2009 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Kristol claims the point of this obstructionism would be to allow conservatives to "get a hearing" for their arguments and their preferred alternatives. Mr. Kristol has apparently already forgotten the eight years of the Bush administration. It's not like conservatives haven't been given plenty of opportunity to make their case and prove the superiority of thei ideas.

Sorry, Bill, but choosing those arguments and preferred alternatives was what got us into this mess. Nobody sane is interested in more of that.

Posted by: biggerbox on February 26, 2009 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

There's nothing like a bad economy to get people's attention that normally wouldn't take notice of much of anything going on politically. And the worse it gets, the more jobs lost, retirement savings lost, etc. the more people are following what politicians are or aren't doing.
If this were your garden variety recession, comments like Kristol's wouldn't register as much.
Now, though, they're playing with political suicide if positions like his get more play.
Keep it up, Bill, et al. Drive yourselves into extinction. Country first, after all.

Posted by: PS on February 26, 2009 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Wouldn't want "to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity" would we?
Can't have that!
FIGHT ON...

Posted by: leoguy on February 26, 2009 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Implicit in Kristol's argument is that the types of "big-government, liberal-nanny-state social engineering" programs he proposes obstructing are capable of some degree of success. He is clearly not making the argument that the GOP needs to obstruct these programs because they will irrevocably harm the nation. He may, if faced with the full import of what he writes, argue that yes, these programs will provide a measure of success in that they will help some people, but they will hold the country back as a whole and the interests of those few who really do need these programs should be sacrificed for the greater good. A valid argument...not a particularly compelling argument, but valid. But the bottom line is that these programs won't destroy the nation, and will help some (who will, inevitably, become life-long supporters of the Democratic Party).

Compare Kristol's arguments to those that were put forth, much less forcefully and surely not as overtly, when the Democrats tried to obstruct some of the GOP's programs over the past decade or so. Mostly Democrats were upset because the Republican agenda was clearly harmful to large constituencies within the US. These were mostly the most vulnerable groups, the poor, ethnic and religious minorities, gays, etc. etc. It is clear which party, in the ongoing political wars, claims the high moral ground.

In the end Kristol's advice is reminiscent of the old Vietnam era injunction, "[i]t became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it." And in the final analysis that is all the Republicans have...blind ideology. And the reincarnation of Mr. Rogers in the person of Bobby Jindal (maybe he should go back to his exorcisms).

Posted by: majun on February 26, 2009 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

This is an amazing statement. He literally says that Conservatives and Republicans do not WANT lasting prosperity for this country!

Why would they want a prosperous America?

A cowed America, a contingent America, an America cringing before and fawning on its rulers, an America afraid to say 'boo' lest it lose its health insurance health, or its job, is infinitely less of a threat to those rulers.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on February 26, 2009 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Kristol's Guide to Political Trolling, eh?
Pathetic viewpoint.

Posted by: Hank Roberts on February 26, 2009 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

...Obama's aim is not merely to "revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity."

Stunning beyond words. Lasting prosperity must be opposed? I can't wait to hear his glorification of prolonged misery.

Does he even read what he writes?

Posted by: JoeW on February 26, 2009 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

As Gen. Kristol takes his troops back into the Shenandoah Valley.

Posted by: berttheclock on February 26, 2009 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

...Obama's aim is not merely to "revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity." ... Conservatives and Republicans will disapprove of this effort. They will oppose it. Can they do so effectively?

This comment boggles my mind. What he is saying the only lasting prosperity they want is for the wealthy, the rest of the country can eat cake. And yet it is the middle class and the poor of this country that the rich want to send off to fight their wars. Go Repigs I hope you destroy the party so bad it takes 50 years to even come back to a minority.

Posted by: NODAK on February 26, 2009 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Kristol has a perfect track record.

OF BEING 100% WRONG about everything he has uttered in his entire life. He is a clone of his father, who was also wrong about everything.

Why does anyone give a flying fuck what this loser thinks?

Posted by: getaclue on February 26, 2009 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

"The minority party is going to oppose the majority party's ideas. That's expected; it's what the minority party is supposed to do."


No, it's not. That's not how the American system is set up to work. The minority party is supposed to do the same thing the majority party does, what they believe is in the best interests of the country. This "opposition just because" thing may work in parliamentary governments, but WE DON'T HAVE A PARLIAMENTARY GOVERNMENT.

Sheesh.

MIke

Posted by: MBunge on February 26, 2009 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

November 2010 can't come too soon. Six more Senate seats taken by the Democrats and we no longer have to listen to these scummy nutbags about anything. The Wrong Wing Confederate morons can then go to hell all on their own.

Posted by: TCinLA on February 26, 2009 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

The right has been vying for a return to slave labor since it lost the civil war. Sadly, the right is winning, having driven wages down to a nub while the people who contribute NOTHING reap the top benefits. The parasite class (otherwise known as the elite) are heading for another reckoning. Will it take finding their grandchildren swinging from lampposts before they back down?

Posted by: getaclue on February 26, 2009 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

The common denominator between Kristol's health care strategy paper in 1993, his advice to the Republicans in 2009 to obstruct Obama wherever they can, his warning against a legislative repeat of Roosevelt 1933 or Johnson 1965 is that the American people must be prevented at all costs to realize that it is overwhelmingly the Democratic Party with which their interests align.

Kristol has known that all along, he is acutely aware that the culture wars as a wedge strategy are running out of gas like a punctured balloon. He also realizes that the current economic crisis has all the hallmarks of turning into a paradigm changer and that if Obama succeeds the Republicans are looking at least at one, maybe two generations in the political wilderness, if not the possibility of going out of business entirely.

Therefore Obama must be made to fail, even if the prize is an American economy that goes into the tank and brings a decade of misery for the American people. What a patriot! Country first!

The fact that Kristol feels the need to advocate so openly for destructive opposition is a good sign. It shows his utter desperation and will mark him as a cold-blooded cynic.

Posted by: SRW1 on February 26, 2009 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

One other thing:

Kristol is stress-testing the patience of the American people. The comments section of the WaPo will be interesting to watch.

Posted by: SRW1 on February 26, 2009 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Looked at the first few pages of the comments to Kristol's column. It looks like he may have invited a tsunami. What a success for the opening column of his WaPo gig. Maybe his licence for writing BS finally will expire.

Posted by: SRW1 on February 26, 2009 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

"They can't allow Obama to make of 2009 what Franklin Roosevelt made of 1933 or Johnson of 1965."

You know, like fix shit.

Posted by: smelch on February 26, 2009 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

if you haven't watched it, i recommend PBS' American Presidents program about johnson.

he was a better president than most people realize.

Posted by: karen marie on February 26, 2009 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

WTF gives with the Washington Post?

Today's 'opinion page' features Kristol, Broeder, Henry 'the war criminal' Kissenger, and an interview by Ignasias. Three stooges and a fool - all on one page.

It is probably a good thing that the reich-wing does not read the WashPost. That would interfere with their propaganda efforts to paint the Post as part of the 'liberal media'.

Posted by: AngryOldVet on February 26, 2009 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

GOP=Anarchists. I think we will see a progressive super-majority, and we will finally catch up with Europe for quality of life. Unless we can be distracted by homophobia and religious intolerance. Live too well, churches go out of business. And they are a business!

Posted by: Sparko on February 26, 2009 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Two comments found above:

The GOP has never been about governing, it's always been about amassing power.

Change GOP and put in Democrats and it will read correctly...LOL

GOP=Anarchists. I think we will see a progressive super-majority, and we will finally catch up with Europe for quality of life.

Hey who is using alinsky's Rules for young radicals? These are your anarchists - best you check what an anarchist 'IS'...and NO iot doesn't depend onwhat is is...

European quality of life!!!! what are you epeople smoking...

Posted by: CC Hellbing on February 26, 2009 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

CC: The GOP believes government is the problem, not the solution. So why should it be a surprise that they do a lousy job of governing when they get into power? As the last eight years have demonstrated rather conclusively.

As for European quality of life, they are ahead of us on many measures. Per capita GDP is lower thanurs in most countries, but poverty rates are also lower, they are generally healthier and they have more liesure time.

Posted by: tanstaafl on February 26, 2009 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

And this guy's supposedly one of their best. A party with no ideas, no sense of a future, no morality, but they do have:

Rush Limbaugh
Bill Kristol
Joe the Plumber
Sarah Palin
That Bachmann thing.

Good luck with that, and God help us all.

Posted by: steveb on February 26, 2009 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

It's really quite simple. Bill Kristol cares about the Republican party. He doesn't care about America.

Posted by: Kenneth Fair on February 26, 2009 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK
...Obama's aim is not merely to "revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity." ... Conservatives and Republicans will disapprove of this effort. -- Kristol

This is an amazing statement. He literally says that Conservatives and Republicans do not WANT lasting prosperity for this country! ... Crazy!!

Posted by: winddancer on February 26, 2009

Incredible. This isn't a policy difference or a political philosophy difference. It isn't even mostly about the political success of Obama and how that would make a challenge to him difficult. It's about America, it's about our success and how HE IS AGAINST AMERICA. Incredible.

Posted by: MarkH on February 26, 2009 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

Wow.
It took me THIS long to realize Kristol is one of our many moles in the conservative movement.

He's GOOD.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on February 26, 2009 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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