Political Animal


December 27, 2011 10:00 AM Kristol still pining for more options

By Steve Benen

Just a few weeks ago, Bill Kristol argued that it’s still not too late for “a late entry” in the Republican presidential race, and that he sees “a window of opportunity in February.” The Weekly Standard editor is apparently hoping for a ticket with Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio, in that order.

Today, Kristol is at it again, writing a message to “the Republicans of the states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida,” letting them know that their primary and caucus votes will, among other things, affect “whether others will feel impelled to enter the race.”

Though the column isn’t entirely about this fanciful dream, Kristol’s piece went on to say:

[I]t is a moment, as you prepare to cast your vote, for others to reflect on whether they don’t owe it to their country to step forward. As this is no time for voters to choose fecklessly, it is no time for leaders to duck responsibility. Those who have stood aside — and who now may have concluded, as they may not have when they announced their original decision, that the current field is lacking — will surely hear the words of Thomas Paine echoing down the centuries: “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

Now is not a time for leaders to engage in clever calculations of the odds of success, or to succumb to concerns about how they will look if they enter the fray and fall short. Now is a time to come to the aid of our country.

Kristol, at least in this new piece, didn’t specify who these “others” might be, but it’s not difficult to imagine who’d be on the wish list.

This comes, by the way, a day after National Review’s Rich Lowry ran a piece quoting “a pretty prominent conservative officeholder,” who conceded that when it comes to the Republican Party and the 2012 presidential candidate, “[W]e don’t have our A team on the field.”

It’s possible this will end up on my list of blown predictions, but I continue to see this pining by prominent Republican voices for more choices as pretty silly. The Iowa caucuses are literally seven days away; we’re well past the point at which GOP insiders should be asking, “Who else is out there?”

But this should also be rather embarrassing for the current field. Republicans have been planning to take on President Obama for three years, and they now have seven candidates to choose from. One candidate, former one-term Gov. Mitt Romney, has been running practically non-stop for five years, and appears well positioned to grab the nomination — not because he’s a great candidate, but because his rivals are all ridiculous to the point of disqualification.

That the notion of late entrants is even a topic of conversation is practically a slap in the face to Romney and his team, and a reminder of just how little he’s impressed GOP stalwarts.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • Redshift on December 27, 2011 10:08 AM:

    For Lowry, my only comment is "face it, you don't have an 'A' team, asshat."

    Kristol doesn't deserve anything but a Nelson Muntz:


  • berttheclock on December 27, 2011 10:10 AM:

    Sounds as though, Kristol, Lowry and Mourning Joe are crooning their version of "We want Billy" from "Chicago" only they are singing "We want Christy".

    Ah, a CAPTCHA without an ink blob.

  • g on December 27, 2011 10:11 AM:

    And who's to say that any "new entrants" will be any less laughable than the current field?

    Who's out there? Rudy 9/11? Sarah Palin? The Donald? They'll certainly bring some gravitas to the process.

  • DAY on December 27, 2011 10:13 AM:

    What they held a caucus, and nobody came?
    And didn't even have the weather to blame?

  • MattF on December 27, 2011 10:14 AM:

    Before lamenting the non-runners let's not forget 1) that Perry, one of the most highly touted of the 'non-runners', decided to try it and tanked 2) that many of the current non-runners tried and failed to get support and/or money 3) the rest of the non-runners have looked at the contest for the Republican nomination and said 'No Thank You.' The fault here is neither in the stars nor in the politicians, it's with the Republican party and its current composition and direction. And one might note that Bill Kristol himself has had quite a bit to do with that.

  • Perspecticus on December 27, 2011 10:17 AM:

    I commend you, Steve, for both reading Willie Kristol so we do not have to and for somehow being able to discern any sort of understanding from that mess of writing. I mean, really, this:

    "[I]t is a moment, as you prepare to cast your vote, for others to reflect on whether they don’t owe it to their country to step forward. As this is no time for voters to choose fecklessly, it is no time for leaders to duck responsibility. Those who have stood aside — and who now may have concluded, as they may not have when they announced their original decision, that the current field is lacking — will surely hear the words of Thomas Paine..."

    ...was written by the EDITOR of a national newspaper?

  • c u n d gulag on December 27, 2011 10:18 AM:

    Somewhere, Thomas Paine wonders what evil thing he did in his life to warrant having a gutless, and always wrong, Neocon Wingnut Welfare recipient weasel like Bill Kristol to quote him.

    And the rest of what he wrote is just pure f'in comedy gold.
    Like this sentence:
    "As this is no time for voters to choose fecklessly, it is no time for leaders to duck responsibility."

    Why should voters be allowed to steal from Kristol's act?

    After all, who has been more feckless, and ducked responsibility for his always wrong pronouncements more than "Captain Wrong-way" Kristol?

    What a dope! What a maroon!!!

    And as for Lowry, does it occur to him that after he and his crew foisted C+ Augustus on this country, that there weren't any "A team" candidates out there even back then?

    Now, you're down to the D's and F's, Rick, and you're bitching because you don't see any "starbursts."

  • Danp on December 27, 2011 10:20 AM:

    It's a little late to start a national campaign. Primaries are just around the corner, ballots have been finalized in places, multiple debates have been held and scrutinized. Kristol knows this. What he is actually suggesting is that Republicans create the illusion of a none-of-the-above electorate, so the party heads and their elite donors can hijack the elections with a brokered convention. These people actually believe that Obama won in '08 because he had no experience or baggage. That's why Kristol backed Sarah Palin, and my guess is that he wants someone like Nikki Haley this time around.

  • Peter C on December 27, 2011 10:25 AM:

    Any Republican who enters the race after Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida have held their primaries/caucuses INSULTS the voters of those states. If/when they do, we should get some valiant reporters out to those states to ask voters what they think of the newcomer's disrespect. That's the sort of story that would blanket the airwaves if we really had a 'liberal media'.

  • martin on December 27, 2011 10:25 AM:

    Any person and any party that stood and encouraged the two terms of George Bush has lost all right to complain about the quality of the current flotsam said party has produced.

  • Mudge on December 27, 2011 10:27 AM:

    Republicans do not trust candidates from the Northeast. Mitt and Christie qualify. Let's see, Nixon (CA), Goldwater (AZ), Nixon (still CA, although a NY lawyer), my partner *g*), Ford (MI), Reagan (CA), Bush (pretending to be from TX),Dole (KS), Bush (TX), McCain (AZ).

    Cain (GA), Newt (GA), Perry (TX) and Paul (TX) suit the Republican electorate's taste better. Obviously Ryan (WI) would fit the pattern.

    Having to actually govern a liberal NE state seems to poison the for the 27%.

  • Mike on December 27, 2011 10:35 AM:

    MattF hit the nail on the head. There is no one else to step up. Those Republicans who could possible win the general election can't win the nomination. Those that have a shot at winning the nomination are too extreme, or too beholden to the extreme as is Romney, to win the election. Kristol knows this, but the solution is not to look for the messiah candidate, but to get the party to move in a direction that the majority of voters can support.

  • rfb on December 27, 2011 10:37 AM:

    How can Kristol complain about the candidate field when the Republican party has long had a deliberate policy of pandering to the most ignorant and fanatical voter? As the saying goes they are just reaping what they and Fox news have sown.
    What is obvious even to Kristol is that the Republican candidates with the possible exception of Romney and Huntsman are either knaves, fools, or just crazy. Some of them like Bachmann are both evil and crazy.
    Kristal is simple pining for the classic Donald Duck candidate: all white male, no past indiscretions and most importantly agrees will every voter's views.

  • c u n d gulag on December 27, 2011 10:42 AM:

    "Kristal is simple pining for the classic Donald Duck candidate: all white male, no past indiscretions and most importantly agrees will every voter's views."

    Then Kristol should be 100% for Gingrich!

    Since Donald Duck never wore any pants, and Newt's are frequently only to be found around his ankles.

  • Diane Rodriguez on December 27, 2011 10:43 AM:

    No "A" team on the field. There hasn't been a Republican A team in a long while and that is not meant to be a partisan observation. The Republican party is id driven and desperate. They define their desires by saying it is a legitimate ideology. They run willy nilly like a bunch of raccoons searching for shiny objects. Every candidate is that potential shiny object. With the smallest scrutiny the candidate implodes. All these guys like Kristol are craven idiots. They're just trying to deflect the blame for what their party has become. They have no idea that their longing for the past ( I want my country back) is not reality for most Americans. The sooner they self destruct the better. Unfortunately, the media is perpetuating the charade, likely because it is mostly owned by people who embrace the same vision of the past.

  • T2 on December 27, 2011 10:44 AM:

    What kristol is really saying is "we surely don't want a Mormon". He's seen the current field and realizes what a disaster it is. I'd bet 10,000 that the GOP would like to take back their incredibly stupid choice of Sarah Palin as the 2008VP....that let the dogs out. When you think about it,McCain was hardly an inspired choice either..the GOP took him rather than have a MORMON.
    Ryan? Nobody outside the TeaBaggers even know him, Christie is slob...most people have only seen chest shots of him. Rubio? Let me tell you something...just like the GOPers pretended to like Herman Cain because they knew he'd never be the nominee, they pretend to like Rubio. But when push comes to shove, he'll still be a "Mexican" (regardless of his origin) to 90% of the GOP "base).

  • Kane on December 27, 2011 10:45 AM:

    Does anyone seriously believe that Ryan, Christie, Daniels, Pawlenty, Barbour, Palin, Huckabee, Trump, Thune, Pence, DeMint, Jindal, Pataki, Rubio, Bloomberg, Giuliani, Jeb Bush and the other usual suspects all decided to sit out the 2012 presidential election because they didn't hear a higher calling to run?

    Please. They can read an electoral map and they can see the writing on the wall. Even with all the stars aligned, the electoral map remains decidedly in Obama's favor.

    They also understand that by pandering to the extremists to regain control of congress, republicans have painted themselves into a corner. The GOP presidential candidates must now pander to those same extremists to gain the nomination, which will make them unelectable in the general election. And if they attempt to move to the center to appeal to moderate and independent voters, they will be branded a RINO for life. Better to sit out 2012 and hope that by 2016 the political dynamics of the GOP has changed and the party has moved towards the center.

  • square1 on December 27, 2011 10:52 AM:

    Politics is an odd business. OOH, some politicians will spend ungodly amounts of time whoring themselves for campaign donations and pressing the flesh for votes, even when they have little to no chance of winning. OTOH, some politicians who appear to be well-suited to a given race will just choose not to run.

    In '08, Democrats like Al Gore and Wes Clark seemed to be better possibilities than Chris Dodd or Tom Vilsack. Yet they sat it out.

    Today, it is hard for me to believe that Mike Huckabee is sitting on the sidelines when he is both more competent and less scary than the other GOP candidates. And he isn't a mormon. In fact, I'd be inclined to believe that he has literally been bought off not to run by the big business GOP backers who prefer Romney.

  • Mark on December 27, 2011 10:52 AM:

    MattF: Spot on.
    This is what happens when the inmates run the asylum.
    First the Religious Right and then the Tea Party.
    No wonder all of the sane republicans have stayed away.
    Kristol can whine all he wants about wanting a "better" choice. But now he has to eat some very bitter crow cause he and his fellow mouth-breathers at FUX News couldn't be bothered to stand up to the very people who are now "running" the GOP.

  • Kane on December 27, 2011 11:00 AM:

    It is not the GOP candidates that voters are dissatisfied with, it's the GOP policies! The regurgitation of the same failed policies that were soundly rejected in 2008 aren't about to excite anyone in 2012. But rather than adapt their policies to a changing world, the GOP elites have convinced themselves that all they need is a dynamic frontman and a new marketing slogan to make the sale. Yes, the current crop of salesmen are seriously flawed, but look at the weak product they are attempting to sell.

  • stinger on December 27, 2011 11:10 AM:

    Dang, I'm glad Kristol's on the other side.

    "including nsesraBLOT" Not so lucky as berttheclock...

  • Goldilocks on December 27, 2011 11:30 AM:

    Better Kristol: "Now is a time to come to the aid of our country... and stop our obstructionist tomfoolery."

  • booch221 on December 27, 2011 11:40 AM:

    Poor little Flip Romney.

    The more voters see of him, the less they like him.

  • TCinLA on December 27, 2011 11:42 AM:

    The reason the Republicans have a Clown Car Circus for a presidential primary is because they're a Clown Car Circus of a political party. They don't have an "A" team.

  • MuddyLee on December 27, 2011 11:47 AM:

    Bill Kristol: you and the Weekly Standard brought us the Iraq War in 2003 (you were calling for it during Clinton's presidency) and Sarah Palin in 2008. Don't you think you have done enough to try to ruin our country?

  • bobbo on December 27, 2011 12:08 PM:

    Please, please, Republicans, listen to Bill Kristol! Has he ever been wrong about anything, ever?

  • rrk1 on December 27, 2011 12:14 PM:

    Doesn't matter which clown the Rethugs finally settle on. The amount of corporate and special interest money in what is laughingly called the 'presidential campaign' will be literally astronomical. 'Citizens United' has destroyed what little is left of democracy in this country, and the results will be even more obvious after the 2012 'election'.

    A an old friend has always said, "Money doesn't only talk: it screams". The shrieks, shouts, and screams will be patently obvious as the coming year unfolds.

    Even if the Rethugs completely disintegrate (pray for it) the damage already done is so extensive, and the country so ungovernable, that there is no turning back. A subtle military takeover is coming - to save us from ourselves. Petraeus is available.

    Just when it seemed Captcha had been stabilized, a new insult has been added. Comments really aren't welcome here.

  • schtick on December 27, 2011 12:30 PM:

    ROFLMAO. I have family that has lived in Jersey for ages. The people that spit out Chicago politics won't hold a candle to Jersey politics. It's a state where you just love to get pulled over by a state trooper so he can call you a fucking asshole as he asks if you really have a fucking license. And I'm not making this up. Dubya would look like a saint.

    crapcha....enlargement fuchil....oh dear.

  • dsimon on December 27, 2011 12:52 PM:

    Danp hits on a good point: it's late to get in. Offices have to be organized and signatures have to be gathered to get on ballots. It's already too late for Virginia, as Gingrich and Perry will attest.

    So what is Kristol thinking? Is he oblivious as to the mechanics of actually winning delegates to the convention? Or is he thinking that someone else could get in late and win a brokered convention? Perhaps he hasn't given the subject any thought at all?

  • N.Wells on December 27, 2011 1:43 PM:

    I have a dream .... the R's get to their convention with no clear winner. They go through 8 ballots, with no indication that the libertarians will ever agree with the wealthy, nor the southern baptists with the mormons (except of course on the topic of hating black presidents). Trump, Cain, McCain, Palin, Bolton, and Fred Thompson have all risen from the politically dead to offer themselves as the solution to the Republican dilemma, but to no avail. George Bush comes out of self-exile to propose Paul Wolfowitz and Harriet Miers, but everyone politely ignores him and the nation tunes in instead to a Dancing With The Stars run-off between taped performances by Bristol Palin and Tom DeLay. Finally, in exhaustion, the Republicans turn to one of their most senior and experienced politicians to find an appropriate candidate to annoint as the brokered candidate, the white knight on the dark horse who will save the party. The senior politician that they turn to is Dick Cheney .........

  • MattF on December 27, 2011 1:48 PM:


    And not Satan? Oh, wait...

  • navamske on December 27, 2011 4:12 PM:


    The senior politician that they turn to is Dick Cheney

    Birther alert! Cheney is ineligible to be president, having been born on Tatooine.