Bill Kristol, "President Mike Huckabee?" January 7
If being wrong about the war should disqualify Kristol from the Times op-ed page, then Times op-ed veteran and war-supporter Thomas L. Friedman, who was still calling the invasion "one of the noblest things this country has ever attempted abroad" eight months after the fact, should resign his commission. Bill Keller, Times executive editor today but a columnist at the dawn of the war, should pack and leave, too, because he supported the war in February 2003 as a "reluctant hawk." To be completely consistent, let's have the Washington Post sack its editorial page for its Iraq errors and the majorities of both houses of Congress resign.
Good Lord, where do you have to stand to imagine this as some sort of threat? "Oh, please, sir," cries The Huffington Post Left, "do not deprive us of our thrice-weekly Friedman. Perhaps we were too hasty."
Oh, you say, Kristol's journalistic crime is not just that he was wrong about launching the war but that he has been absolutely wrong about every chapter in the war since the shock-and-awe bombs lit up Baghdad. Well, not wrong at every turn. From where I write this afternoon, he looks pretty goddamn prescient about the wisdom of mounting the "surge" and adopting a counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq.
Mr. Shafer, you are seated behind a post.
Pundits are wrong sometimes and right others. Pundits shouldn't lose or win gigs on the basis of how many of their predictions come true but whether they write interesting copy. Kristol—love him or hate him—writes interesting copy.
First: professionally I'm indifferent to him. Personally, he's a scumbag for, among other things, insisting publicly that he was "too young to be drafted for Vietnam", the sort of detail a "pundit"--the word should frequently be enclosed in quotes, and Kristol is one reason why--should not "get wrong". And when he does it ought to be enough that the question of winning a gig isn't even asked. Otherwise, this country owes an apology to Larry Craig.
Kristol does not write "interesting copy"--not that acolytes of that Rand woman should ever be allowed to engage in literary criticism--and even if he did such is obviously neither required nor even glimpsed that often on the Times Op-Ed pages, unless by "interesting" you mean "offering a close-up view of individual pathologies at work in the national press".
After the last two elections, featuring the well-born George Bush and Al Gore and John Kerry, Americans — even Republicans! — are ready for a likable regular guy. Huckabee seems to be that.
What interesting copy!
His campaigning in New Hampshire has been impressive. At a Friday night event at New England College in Henniker, he played bass with a local rock band, Mama Kicks. One secular New Hampshire Republican’s reaction: “Gee, he’s not some kind of crazy Christian. He’s an ordinary American.”
Now where to, Mac?
In general, here in New Hampshire he’s emphasized social issues far less than in Iowa (though he doesn’t waffle when asked about them). Instead he’s stressed conservative economic themes, seamlessly (if somewhat inconsistently) weaving together a pitch for limited government with a message that government needs to do more to address the concerns of the struggling middle class. This latter point seems to be resonating, as headlines in local papers announce an increase in the national unemployment rate amid speculation about a coming recession.
That Middle-Class misery our party has created over the last thirty years? Now would be a good time to cash in!
Some Democrats are licking their chops at the prospect of a Huckabee nomination. They shouldn’t be. For one thing, Michael Bloomberg would be tempted to run in the event of an Obama-Huckabee race — and he would most likely take votes primarily from Obama. But whatever Bloomberg does, the fact is that the Republican establishment spent 2007 underestimating Mike Huckabee. If Huckabee does win the nomination, it would be amusing if Democrats made the same mistake in 2008.
Yes, we might have a good chuckle with that with some of the middle class, provided we were forced to share an elevator with them at some point.
Take us home, Jack:
Calling Kristol's addition to the page redundant because David Brooks, a former Weekly Standard-bearer, already works there reveals a lack of familiarity with both men's writings. Brooks is "pro-choice and pro-gay marriage," as Ross Douthat noted three years ago in the National Review. Kristol is neither. Brooks is a journalist first and always has been. Kristol is a political operator. Brooks tries to persuade his readers of his views gently, as if he's a guest in the house. Kristol lives to brawl and make enemies. To him, writing is fighting.
Kristol's been sitting atop a wingnut sinecure masthead for fourteen years, after service as Dan Quayle's Brain (you'd think he'd tell the truth about Nam and lie about that one, wouldn't you?). Who's he ever been close enough to to brawl with? An artillery barrage is not a "brawl". Neither is smearing shit on someone's windshield in the middle of the night.
Who's Afraid of Bill Kristol? Not me. I think it'll be fun watching him in an environment where he gets fact-checked for once.
(And if he's not David Brooks, why'd he just re-write Brooks' column from three days ago?)