Political Animal


April 08, 2013 12:41 PM Holy Trinity

By Ed Kilgore

If you want a succinct, carved-in-stone official conservative account of the late twentieth century in world history, here it is from Bill Kristol at the Weekly Standard blog:

And now the last of them is gone. Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Pope John Paul II—three who won the Cold War and, it isn’t too much to say, saved the West (at least for a while!)—are no longer with us. Their examples remain.

No “it could be argued” or “did more than any three other people” or “some might say” qualifiers here. If not for this Holy Trinity, it seems, we’d still be fighting (or might have lost!) the Cold War, and Western Civilization would be done.

Next time you wonder why conservatives seem so rigid and un-nuanced in their understanding of contemporary events, remember this token of historical dogma from the guy many Beltway folk consider to be the soul of reasonableness and moderation in today’s GOP.

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.


  • g on April 08, 2013 12:45 PM:

    How'd the pope win the Cold War?

  • Domage on April 08, 2013 12:46 PM:

    I think Lech Walessa might want to get a word or two in here.

  • Peter C on April 08, 2013 1:01 PM:

    Has Bill Kristol ever been right about anything, EVER???

    He's a simpering smirk with arms and legs.

  • T2 on April 08, 2013 1:04 PM:

    kinda sad. The guy wants so badly to return to those days of yesteryear when his dear GOP was an actual working, responsible party.

  • c u n d gulag on April 08, 2013 1:06 PM:

    Oh, Bill, you simple, simple, child.

    Truman, Ike, JFK, LBJ, even Nixon and Carter, had nothing to do with the fall of the USSR.
    Neither did any of the European leader over those years.

    Or, the Hungarians or the Check's, or the Afghan's either.

    It was your Conservative "Holy Trinity."

  • arkie on April 08, 2013 1:06 PM:

    And here I thought that the people of eastern Europe played a role in the downfall of the Soviet Union. And Mikhail Gorbachev - intentionally or unintentionally.

    And what about George Kennan and Harry Truman who conceived and implemented the policy of containment?

  • Shane Taylor on April 08, 2013 1:28 PM:

    Years after she had left office, Thatcher is said to have lamented, "What ever happened to [political philospher] John Gray? He used to be one of us." Here was Gray's take on the Iron Lady's legacy:

    Speaking to the _Sunday Times_ in 1981, Thatcher defined the aim of her policies: ‘Economics are the method; the object is to change the soul.’ Nowhere did her leadership produce a change of soul more visibly than in her own party. The result, however, was in many ways the reverse of what she intended, just as it was in society as a whole. Thatcher did not begin with the full-blown neoliberal policy agenda with which she was later identified. There was no mention of privatisation in the 1979 election manifesto, which focused on reining in inflation and limiting the power of trade unions. However, as the sell-off of council houses showed, Thatcher did want to shift resources away from government control. The aim was not only to curb local authorities, always a ruling obsession, but also to promote a kind of moral regeneration in council house tenants. Thatcher believed that markets reward ethical behaviour, and she was strengthened in this prejudice by the ideas current in right-wing circles at the time.

    It is usually a mistake to suppose that politicians are much influenced by the thinkers they are fond of quoting: though Thatcher cited _The Road to Serfdom_ more than once it is unclear whether she had read anything of Hayek. Yet she fully shared Hayek’s view that free markets reinforce ‘traditional values’, which is an inversion of their actual effect. The conservative country of which she dreamed had more in common with Britain in the 1950s, an artefact of Labour collectivism, than it did with the one that emerged from her free-market policies. A highly mobile labour market enforces a regime of continuous change. The type of personality that thrives in these conditions is the opposite of the stolid, dutiful bourgeois Thatcher envisioned. Skill in re-inventing yourself is the key virtue, along with a readiness to cut your losses as soon as any commitment becomes unprofitable or unexciting. Thatcher’s economic revolution was meant to go along with something like a social restoration. Instead, it led to Britain as it is today, a society obsessed with the idea of personal self-realisation, more liberal in sexual matters, less monocultural and less class-bound, more insecure and more unequal.


  • esaud on April 08, 2013 1:37 PM:

    The neocons always struck me, not so much a group with a shared foreign policy, but a bunch of people with the same severe cognitive impairment.

    They are oblivious to empirical evidence. They feel no regret for the terrible consequences of their policies. They glom onto self-serving myths with abandon. They're foolish, horrible, blood-thirsty people.

    I consider the Republican's wholesale shift to neocon foreigh policy as the last wheel of the Republican party to come off the tracks.

  • martin on April 08, 2013 1:39 PM:

    Thatcher believed that markets reward ethical behaviour,

    Which is all you need to know about how delusional she and her thuggish admirers were and are.

  • Jacko on April 08, 2013 3:00 PM:

    I think I can see Kristol's logic here. After Reagan "won" the Granada War and Thatcher "won" the Faulklands War, the demoralised Soviets, unable to beat the Afghanis, simply gave up.

  • MuddyLee on April 08, 2013 3:28 PM:

    This is the same Bill Kristol who chose to work for VP Dan Quayle, who did his best to derail health care reform during the Clinton administration, called for the invasion of Iraq BEFORE 9/11 in his Weekly Standard magazine, did everything he could to support the Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq in 2003, and brought Sarah Palin out of Alaska and managed to get her on the republican campaign team with John McCain in 2008. Has he ever done ANYTHING that would make reasonable, intelligent people care what he says about Thatcher, Reagan, or the Pope?

  • gocart mozart on April 08, 2013 3:59 PM:

    Reagan said "Abra-cadabra, Tear down this wall!"*

    The Pope said "communism bad, I stand with the Poles"

    Maggie said "Gorby is a man we can deal with."

    Gorby said "Since you asked so nicely, it shall be done."

    *or was that Roger Waters?

  • ripmondo on April 08, 2013 3:59 PM:

    reagan was clueless on the soviet union...............if you want to see what broke the soviet's back watch "farewell". fact is it was the french cia................we, and reagan's minions were clueless..................the soviet's had moles inside every area of defense, etc. when reagans people heard this from the french they were shocked. didnt have the slightest idea...............destroying the kgb is what eventually brought them down.

  • gocart mozart on April 08, 2013 4:02 PM:

    For some reason I wanna say that it was done on Highway 61, but I am not sure that is correct.

  • rrk1 on April 08, 2013 4:33 PM:

    Thatcher & Reagan were buddies, although he was already ga-ga, and absolutely clueless about Iran-Contra, the weakness of the Soviet Union, or what he had for lunch. She probably humored Reagan when she realized how far gone he was.

    Even though the misery she caused in the UK is infinite and further enriched the rich, she would probably be thought of as a moderate by our current spate of Rethugs. Definitely not presidential material by their demented standards.

    The revulsion I feel about anything said by moon-faced Kristol is matched only by the hagiography being lavished on Thatcher at her demise. The woman was rightfully hated by the middle and lower classes of the UK, and they as well as I, will enjoy reading an objective obituary about her, if the corporate MSM will permit one to be written.