News & Criticism

Kristol Provokes Gales of Outrage; Shafer Defends

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Jack Shafer, Slate's house libertarian, denounces those denouncing the New York Times hiring of neoconservative Tsar Bill Kristol. Regardless of one's opinion of Kristol's politics (and I, like Shafer, would prefer someone like Steve Chapman [whose reason columns are archived here] as the paper's second "dissident" voice), Shafer makes a pretty convincing case that, while Kristol might bomb as a columnist, it will surely be an interesting ride:

In a campaign year like this one, Kristol will capitalize on the Times imprimatur to expand his source list to include Democrats of all strips. He'll traffic in political intelligence, some of it as reliable as the CIA's WMD-Iraq findings, so caveat emptor . He'll start political feuds. He'll attack his friends and reward his enemies if it suits him. He'll stir the animals up, which was H.L. Mencken's goal. I can't promise that he'll be good, but he'll be different, he'll be interesting, and I guarantee he'll never be as bad as Roger Cohen.

Full column here. And don't miss Shafer's February 2003 reason review of Terry Teachout's The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken.

More reason commentary on Kristol here.

NEXT: Ron Paul on Bill Moyers Tonight

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  1. I’m astonished they didn’t make him Ambassador to Canada instead, so he could work at home in Washington :
    http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/12/o-neocanada.html

  2. The problem here is, that his talents merit he live in a cardboard box and push a shopping cart. That he is employed is a travesty of justice. That he is favored with this plumb job is an offense to every literate American.

  3. Is it okay that I don’t know who he is?

  4. Bill Kristol is so wrong that he brought skis for a Christmas vacation in New Zealand.

    http://highclearing.com/index.php/archives/2007/12/29/7636

  5. Bill Kristol is no William Safire. Other than that, a pretty good article by Shafer.

  6. So how many other Dan Quayle staffers will the NYT be hiring?

  7. Sorry, but why would the Times want to give space to a guy who urged George Bush to “override” umpteen decisions by both Florida and U.S. courts on the Terri Schiavo case by “executive action”? Does the Times feel a need for a pro-torture guy in their stable? I think the Times is feeling heat from right-wing Jews to be “nicer” to Israel and picking Kristol amounts to a little ass-covering on their part. “We’ve got Bill, goddamnit! What more do you want?”

  8. I always thought the Kristol provoked gales of derisive laughter (Aww, spit!) than actual outrage.

  9. I always thought the Kristol provoked gales of derisive laughter (Aww, spit!) than actual outrage.

    I think that’s probably the strategy the New York Times had in mind. Everyone likes reading dumbshittery.
    The guy couldn’t carry Safire’s bed pan.

  10. Moynihan finds Kristol interesting. Shocker.

  11. Is it okay that I don’t know who he is?

    No. No it’s not.
    He and his ilk are the main reason we’re at war right now.

  12. Potential train wreck. Entertainment value. I hadn’t looked at it that way.

    I wonder if that’s why the Boston Globe keeps on Jeff Jacoby?

  13. Bill Safire – now THAT was a columnist.

    Bill Kristol couldn’t carry George Will’s bed pan.

  14. Shafer dodged the important issue that Kristol is hardly lacking in media exposure. How is the Times serving their readers when Kristol already gets his views aired on Fox and in the Weekly Standard, and in whatever shadowy PNAC-style cabals have meetings this week. The Times is just giving their readers thrice-warmed-over material.

    Kristol was just a lazy choice. There are plenty of conservative voices who have no prominent media platforms. And who aren’t as stupid.

  15. “Jack Shafer, Slate’s house libertarian, denounces those denouncing the New York Times hiring of neoconservative Tsar Bill Kristol.”

    Hmm, Slate is a liberal online magazine with a house libertarian. Kristol will be the “liberal” NYT’s house conservative. Who is NRO’s house liberal? Or Weekly Standard’s? Oh, they don’t have one, do they?

    This is why the “liberal media” is nuttin’ like the conservative media. One has some belief in fairness, the other does not.

    “He’ll stir the animals up, which was H.L. Mencken’s goal.” Except Mencken was intellectually honest. Kristol, not so much. I wonder if his checks from the RNC are made out to “Bill” or “William?”

  16. I’ll worry about Bill Kristol when he declares himself a ‘neo-libertarian’ and gets a job on the Reason staff.

  17. You have to see the positive side of Kristol writing for the Times: At least in print (vs. on TV) you don’t have to see that weird, wide, no-lip mouth.

  18. Maybe, NoStar, but in print, you can’t see Kristol’s “tell,” the facial gesture he does that let’s you know when he’s lying.

  19. Oh yeah, the little facial tick. How I’d love to play poker with that scumsucker.

  20. in print, you can’t see Kristol’s “tell,” the facial gesture he does that let’s you know when he’s lying.

    Sure you can. They call it a “by-line”.

  21. I’ve just always wondered how old Kristol was when he had that run-in with the Joker.

  22. Maybe, NoStar, but in print, you can’t see Kristol’s “tell,” the facial gesture he does that let’s you know when he’s lying.

    Just assume his lips are moving when he writes his column.

  23. joe,
    You’re damn right about the George Will comment.
    Even though Safire makes Will look like a bet-wetting little girl with a bad toupee.

  24. This is why the “liberal media” is nuttin’ like the conservative media. One has some belief in fairness, the other does not.

    Strictly speaking, housing viewpoints you disagree with within your own publication probably says more about your definition of fairness than whether you think it exists (or, as I think you are thinking Mr. Nice Guy, want it to exist).

    Moreover, in a previous thread someone noted that the decision to bring Kristol onboard could just have been a decision to acquire a strawman to tear down. Is this fair? Who would ultimately trust a publication of one political orientation to adequately represent another orientation? Well, maybe people would tend to do so who routinely disregard other obvious incentive-based dynamics such as those who favor government interference against (e.g.) the market.

  25. Ventifact,
    Well, it would be one thing if the Times brought in a 90 lb weakling of conservative thought or an extremist that is easy to refute as a nutjob (see: Michael Savage, Michelle Malkin or Ann Coulter*). Heck, Kristol is a bigger challenge than the LA Times’ choice for house conservative, Jonah Goldberg. Kristol is a respected thought leader of conservatism and even though he can’t hold a candle to Safire, bringing him on rather than a lightweight says something. That said, the Times could do better.

    * A good example of this on the conservative side is Alan Colmes on Hannity and Colmes

  26. Mo-

    When has Kristol ever been right about, well, anything?

    Whether they know it or not, Kristol is indeed a strawman.

  27. “Even though Safire makes Will look like a bet-wetting little girl with a bad toupee.”

    George Will sports a toupee ? Man, I hope that’s Gillespie’s real hair. I wouldn’t be able to take it if it turns out he wears a rug.

  28. Kristol is a respected thought leader of conservatism

    Respected by whom? Not the typical NYT reader, and rightly so, considering the guy’s been wrong about everything for the past eight years or more.

    I mean, I know a lot of people who worship at Bill O’Reilly’s feet, but anyone who employs him to represent the voice of conservatism is employing a strawman.

  29. I’m afraid, Ventifact, that Bill Kristol isn’t a strawman for Republicanism and contemporary conservatism, but one of its most representative and effective advocates.

  30. “Wrong for the last eight years” and “an effective advocate for the Republican and neo-conservative side of the argument” are not mutually exclusive definitions.

    Not even close.

  31. Face it, Kristol speaks for a lot more conservatives than John Tierney.

    Where was all the grief about how John Tierney’s fringe libertarianism made hims a “strawman?”

  32. joe — true, being consistently wrong and being consistently true to the Republican viewpoint (to the point of being iconic) are not mutually exclusive, but that just proves that a person can be a powerful figure but also a straw man in others’ eyes.

  33. Good for Kristol, and good for the NYT.

    I’ve watched Kristol on Special Report quite a few times. I don’t agree with him on some issues, but he makes well-reasoned arguments and is one the leading conservative thinkers around today, and one of the most vocal advocates of promoting freedom in the Mideast.

    Amusingly, one of the first linked Reason articles on Kristol from above is titled “Bill Kristol Smokes Crack And Writes A Column.” That’s sadly typical of the intellectual level of his critics.

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