Political Animal


January 08, 2013 10:02 AM Kristol’s Latest Moment

By Ed Kilgore

If you aren’t familiar with the career of William Kristol, who will without doubt be the most quoted and televised opponent of Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as Defense Secretary, do check out Kenneth Vogel’s long profile of the man for Politico. As with any piece giving Kristol and his friends an opportunity to self-promote, there’s ridiculous stuff there, like the claims that Kristol is on the brink of creating the long-awaited Republican version of the DLC, which will give “reformers” like Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan a platform to denounce the stale orthodoxies of conservative interest and activist groups (which would require denouncing their own selves and all their supporters). That is so not happening.

But Vogel offers a good drive-by tour of Kristol’s public career, beginning with his gig with Dan Quayle and his profitable partnership with Rupert Murdoch, and accentuating his role in the Neocon movement that is still the closest thing this side of Paulandia to a coherent foreign policy perspective within the GOP.

It’s easy to see why Kristol is making the fight against the Hagel nomination a signature moment. It enables him simultaneously to fight for his views on Israel and the U.S. role in the Middle East, smite the hated Barack Obama, take down the first major conventional Republican critic of Kristol’s cherished Iraq War, and distract Republicans and the media from the fiscal issues he thinks the GOP is mishandling. But the idea, as reflected in Vogel’s lede, that Kristol is “charting the future of the Republican Party” as some sort of eminence grise controlling things behind the scenes is incredible. He’s been useful to the Powers That Be in the conservative movement and the GOP, but the idea that your average GOP county chairman in East Calcium Deposit, Arkansas, is taking orders from or shares the views of a guy like Kristol, who is never convincing when talking about the cultural or constitutional issues that gave the Tea Party life, is pretty funny. There’s something about Kristol, though, that attracts media attention almost infallibly, no matter how often (and it is very often) he’s wrong in his political predictions and no matter what happens to his latest cause. So no matter what happens to Hagel we’ll see a lot of Kristol over the new few weeks.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • ere on January 08, 2013 10:23 AM:

    Excuse me, but when did "predicting events correctly" become the number one criterium by which we are to judge a person's wisdom?

  • john sherman on January 08, 2013 10:24 AM:

    I hope anyone interviewing Kristol first asks him where Saddam's weapons of mass destruction are. How does anybody who pimped the Iraq war as industriously as he did have any standing to talk about foreign policy?c

  • Steve P on January 08, 2013 10:34 AM:

    I still recall the confident smile on Kristol's face when Jon Stewart confronted him with his own b*llshit--something about the Iraq war--as if he knew that if didn't matter how many times he was wrong, the saps would still line up for more.
    In that, he was right.

  • SteveT on January 08, 2013 10:35 AM:

    ere asked:
    "when did 'predicting events correctly' become the number one criterium by which we are to judge a person's wisdom?"

    It certainly puts them head and shoulders above all the people who predicted events incorrectly.

  • c u n d gulag on January 08, 2013 10:36 AM:

    I'm no great fan of Chuck Hagel, except as the Republican who can provide President Obama and the Democrats with cover in the much needed, long overdue, lowering of Defense spending, but I gotta say, now that William "Wrong Way" Kristol has chimed in against him - HAGEL IS NOW A SHOE-IN!!!

    If Kristol assured me the sun would rise in the East tomorrow, I'd be planning for the end of the world as we know it before 6am the next morning - 'cause, either the sun went out, or the Earth suddenly started spinning in the other direction.

  • Ron Byers on January 08, 2013 10:37 AM:

    William Kristol, a living legend in his own mind.

    It is amazing what a really creative public relations professional can push out to the media.

  • SteveT on January 08, 2013 10:42 AM:

    Bill Kristol, along with Newt Gingrich, is what a stupid conservative thinks a smart conservative would sound like.

  • DiTurno on January 08, 2013 11:28 AM:

    @SteveT: I'm not sure *any* rank and file conservatives think Kristol is smart. I have a sense that his entire reputation is based on his TV demeanor: he can say stupid and/or insane things in an even tone and a half-smile. He's the video equibalent of David Brooks, although Bobo is Nostradamus compared to Kristol. And that's saying something.

  • Peter C on January 08, 2013 11:31 AM:

    For some time now, the over-riding imperative for Republicans has been to dominate the discussion by loudly making ‘an argument’ for their policies. Because of their media dominance, they didn’t need to make a GOOD argument, just a loud one (since there would be no actual debate or discussion about the ‘merits’ of the argument). Consequently, they’ve placed a premium on ‘glibness’ over ‘insightfulness’. Thus, we get ‘loud and inane’ instead of ‘reasoned and thorough’ as the norm for public debate and the majority of voters tune out. This ‘tuning out’ is, of course, EXACTLY the desired result.

    A democracy needs a safe ‘public square’ where policy can be discussed and debated. Without it, how can we collectively determine the course of our society? For a society as large, populace and dispersed as ours, the public square happens through mass media rather than in a physical location. At every turn, the Republicans have sought to disable the ‘public square’ and make political discussion acrimonious, poisonous and threatening. They revel in ‘hot button’ issues where tempers flare at the drop of a hat. They promote the belligerent and bellicose among them. They delight in a bully. All this serves to chase the public from the public square so that a small minority can dominate public policy for their individual gain.

    This is why obviously objectionable and inane pundits like Kristol have such longevity; they are especially glib and spout their idiocy without any trace of internal doubt or self reflection. The make ‘an argument’ quickly and confidently, even when that argument is blatantly stupid on its face. They know that ‘refutation’ is only minimally effective; most of the people who are even marginally interested have already tuned out by the time it occurs.

  • dweb on January 08, 2013 11:43 AM:

    Bill only ranks as a deep thinker because Newt is such damaged goods and Dick Morris....but hey, Newt still gets on the Sunday talk shows, so he must be a deep thinker too. This is all like Dancing with the Stars or Survivor, only nobody ever gets booted off the stage or the island. Once you become a pundit, there is virtually nothing you can do or say that will get you excommunicated.

    See Coulter, Ann, or Malkin, Michelle, or Carlson, Tucker or......add your own.

  • biggerbox on January 08, 2013 11:53 AM:

    Every time Bill Kristol claims to have any credibility on character or qualifications, the response should come down to two words:

    Sarah Palin.

  • Rand Careaga on January 08, 2013 12:24 PM:

    Years ago (perhaps in this very blog) a comment was left relating this charming story:

    "I remember back in the late 1990s, when Ira Katznelson, an eminent political scientist at Columbia, came to deliver a guest lecture. Prof. Katznelson described a lunch he had with Irving Kristol during the first Bush administration.

    "The talk turned to William Kristol, then Dan Quayle's chief of staff, and how he got his start in politics. Irving recalled how he talked to his friend Harvey Mansfield at Harvard, who secured William a place there as both an undergrad and graduate student; how he talked to Pat Moynihan, then Nixon's domestic policy adviser, and got William an internship at the White House; how he talked to friends at the RNC [Republican National Committee] and secured a job for William after he got his Harvard Ph.D.; and how he arranged with still more friends for William to teach at Penn and the Kennedy School of Government.

    "With that, Prof. Katznelson recalled, he then asked Irving what he thought of affirmative action. 'I oppose it,' Irving replied. 'It subverts meritocracy.' "

  • T-Rex on January 08, 2013 1:08 PM:

    ere: Predicting events incorrectly does not necessarily prove a lack of wisdom. But charting a risky and ethically dubious course of action based on predictions that turn out to be disastrously wrong is proof of dangerous stupidity. One such prediction by Kristol was that the Iraq war would be short, easy, and beneficial to all involved. Another was that there would be no resistance because the Iraqi people would welcome us as liberators, after which we would find the WMD that justified our otherwise totally unjustifiable aggression. Another was that Sarah Palin's political brilliance would give John McCain the edge he needed to win, and that Palin would then be ideally qualified to be one heartbeat away from the Presidency.

  • esaud on January 08, 2013 2:37 PM:

    It's funny that the Hagel detractors need to root around in 1990's stuff.

    That's because Kristol et al were proven wrong about everything since 2000, so they don't want to bring up Iraq or Afghanistan.

    Still, it is astonishing that anyone pays any attention to a shameless grifter like Kristol. Fools all around.

  • majun on January 08, 2013 5:11 PM:

    "There’s something about Kristol, though, that attracts media attention almost infallibly, no matter how often (and it is very often) he’s wrong in his political predictions and no matter what happens to his latest cause."

    It's called being the son of Irving Kristol and therefore the Dauphin, or probably more appropriately, the Michael Corleone, of the Neocon universe.