One of my readers just informed me that the NY Times announced on December 30th that it had hired Bill Kristol to write a weekly column (HuffPost broke the story on December 28th–where have I been?). Say what? You heard me: Bill Kristol. David Brooks is bad enough and John Tierney was pretty horrible until he moved to the Science section. But what does Bill Kristol have to offer NY Times readers? Yet another apologia for the Iraq war? Another saber rattling about war against Iran? Where our next military adventure will occur? What will we learn from this guy?
Kristol acknowledges he and Time Magazine, where he wrote a column, just severed their relationship “by mutual consent.” Why is the Times picking up Time’s dregs? It wasn’t bad enough that the Times fronted for Judith Miller and then supported her till the bitter end. Now they need to bring in another member of the cheerleading squad for American adventurism abroad.
Phil Weiss correctly notes the Times announcement mistakenly labels Kristol a “conservative” and called his father, Irving Kristol, a founder of the American conservative movement. I guess the Times doesn’t realize it hired a NEO conservative whose father was one of the founders of American neoconservatism. Isn’t that pathetic that the Times (at least this reporter) didn’t realize the difference (which is pretty vast).
Phil also notes that Kristol’s mother is Gertrude Himmelfarb, one of the intellectual forces behind Commentary. This fact made me realize that Kristol is a first-cousin of Martha Himmelfarb, who I knew (though not well) when she attended Barnard and I attended the Joint Program in the 1970s.
I would say in all the time Brooks has written for them I’ve read maybe five of his columns. Kristol will no doubt be no different.
It’d be nice to think that this decision had something to do with the old Mafia saying: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” At least that would mean the Times editors want to know what conservatives are thinking in order to better refute their propaganda. But I doubt that’s the case this time.
I wouldn’t have minded so much if they’d found a conservative with a conscience and a certain degree of humility. Someone interested in creating a dialogue on both sides of the political aisle. Kristol is about as interested in doing that as I’m interested in becoming a Catholic. And I’m just about as interested in reading his crap in the Times’ pages.
Earlier it seemed the Times hired grouchy old conservatives in a tokenistic sort of way and let them rant in their corner (cf AM Rosenthal). Now it seems like they’re bringing neocons on board to say the things they (or their readership) actually rather agree with but couldn’t get their established columnists to say.
“I would say in all the time Brooks has written for them I’ve read maybe five of his columns. Kristol will no doubt be no different.”
The fact that you read Brooks so infrequently should not be bragging rights Richard. I like to read bloggers who actually read what intelligent people who disagree with them write. You may disagree with Brooks’s position, but they are at least thoughtful and worthy of considering, at the very least for deconstructing. Same goes for Kristol.
I knew about this story on the 28th because I read a range of sources. I make a point of reading Counterpunch and Frontpagemag at least once a week to take the pulse of the extremists on both ends of the spectrum. Once a week is about all I can stomach of either site, but I make sure to read them. That you and Phil Weiss are out to lunch on this is not surprising. Phil is too busy counting Jews at holiday parties and you seem satisfied with debating amateurs in your comments section rather than reading others whose ideas may challenge your position.
Kristol may be arrogant, but your comments don’t make you appear humble.
You can do better than that.
Richard – Please take my above comments in the spirit of criticism of someone one respects and has high expectations of.
Re-reading it – it seems a bit harsher than my intention.
Dan Sniderman says
I call on anyone to point out ONE thing Kristol has been write about in the past 7 (or longer) years. His is consiently wrong on eery subject he’s ever written on. I don’t understand why these guys continue to get hired…
Richard Silverstein says
DP: We all have to make choices about how to spend our time. I’m raising 3 small children in addition to this avocation. I spend a great deal of time actually writing & maintaining this blog as well. So, like most other people I decide where it’s most profitable to spend my time reading. And it most definitely isn’t reading either Brooks or Frontpagemagazine or Counterpunch. Though I’m thankful that some are reading those sources just to keep them honest (if that’s possible).
I have written several critiques of some of Brooks’ most egregious columns about the IP conflict so I do read him when he gets my dander up. More than that I simply can’t stomach. He’s a rank poseur in my book & not at all a thoughtful conservative or whatever people are calling him.
I may be debating rank amateurs here in this blog but I take being a blogger seriously in terms of engaging my readers/commenters, unlike Phil who never seems to bother reading his comments section (that may be a bit unfair, but he certainly never writes in his own comment threads that I’ve seen). I’d like my comment threads to be a community of sorts if that’s possible. So I spend time here. It’s why I’m responding to you (not that you’re a “rank amateur”).
RIchard – Your participation in the comments section is much appreciated. It definitely creates a conversation, which is much more than I can say for Mr. Weiss’s blog.
Thanks for your efforts.
Glenn Condell says
‘I guess the Times doesn’t realize it hired a NEO conservative whose father was one of the founders of American neoconservatism. Isn’t that pathetic that the Times (at least this reporter) didn’t realize the difference (which is pretty vast).’
Oh I think they know the difference Richard. What is pathetic, what astonishes and depresses me is that the standard left/lib response to the Kristol appointment is this apparent befuddlement – ‘what were they thinking’ indeed. As if every addition to the already top heavy Israel-first editorial pages of the nations’ papers of record is some sort of blunder, explicable only by incompetence or the caprices of fate. There is a pattern here that sticks out like dog’s balls but which appears to be invisible to most people. Time has decided to step away from the neocon chokehold on American public opinion and the Times has stepped in to stanch the bleeding, adding yet another always-wrong Israel-first blowhard to it’s persuasion machine, there to help prop up the sagging neocon/Lobby project of cajoling Americans into paying for occupation now and Greater Israel later.
‘At least that would mean the Times editors want to know what conservatives are thinking in order to better refute their propaganda. But I doubt that’s the case this time.’
So do I. They already know what real conservatives are thinking – the sackings of Kristol and Krauthammer are indicative of this – but the silent war between the Gates/Baker/Hamilton crowd and the Lobby/neocons has been brewing awhile. The Kristol appointment is another move, perhaps a rather desperate one, in that battle for the hearts and minds. The Bloomberg candidacy may be another attempt to keep sovereignty over US foreign policy where it currently resides, rather than where it should. Walt and Mearsheimer started this but it has a long way to go before it works itself out.
‘Now it seems like they’re bringing neocons on board ‘ – as if hitherto they were what, Frenchmen or something?
‘another member of the cheerleading squad for American adventurism abroad.’ – what lis behind this hunger for American adventurism (a hunger that pointedly excludes their own families’ contributions to such sacrifices)? Who benefits? Do all these people simply share a snow-white belief in National Greatness Conservatism? They are in retreat but also in denial, as the ludicrous, even contemptuous appointment of Kristol reveals. It’s a big ‘screw you’ to common sense and to genuine conservatism. They think they can afford it, they think they can get away with it, and maybe they can. But I wonder if circling the wagons and hunkering down together in increasingly obvious neocon haunts like the Times won’t have an eventually counterproductive result.
‘I don’t understand why these guys continue to get hired…’
I do. Lots of us do. It’s not rocket science, rank amateur though I freely admit I am.
Richard Silverstein says
Glenn: I guess I don’t see the Times marching as much in lock step with all the evil forces you decry. I think of it more as a blunder & you think of it as a deliberate policy to embrace neoconservatism.
DP: Another pt. I wanted to make is that I do spend a lot of time reading & arguing with a portion of the political spectrum not many people do–that is the Israel First hyper right. That’s why I was sued for libel & why the Masada2000 owner created a mock blog & why I’m derided as Kapostein at another site I shall not name. It’s not like I don’t spend ANY time reading the opinions of people I disagree with. It’s just that I figure that there are enough people in the blogosphere to argue against Brooks’ insipidness or Kristol’s wrongheadedness. There aren’t (yet) enough people doing that regarding Daniel Pipes, Campus Watch, the David Project, Israel Project, Stand With Us, and their ilk.
Point taken Richard. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.
Thank you for your efforts.
Richard Silverstein says
DP: I should also add another point in defense of Phil Weiss. He may not moderate his comment threads but he does one thing I haven’t managed to do & for which I admire him. He makes a living as a progressive journalist. There’s a lot to be said for that. When you scrape by doing that you may have to give other things short shrift like your blog’s comment threads.
If people were willing to pay me a full time wage for my writing I might have a lot less time to devote to my comment threads.
Jeanne Capozzoli says
I once heard Al Franken on Air America charge that Kristol claimed before the Iraq invasion, “It is just pop psychology that claims the Shiites and Sunnis can’t get along.” Many young Americans and Iraqis have died because of Kristol and his neocon ilk. I can’t believe that the NYTimes has hired him–especially after the Judith Miller debacle. Let me guess, no one in the management of the NYTimes has lost a loved one in this tragic “pie in the sky” adventure in Iraq.