31 December 2007

Bill Kristol Points The Times in the Right Direction

I have posted before on the political opportunism, unseemly inbreeding, and intellectual impoverishment among the neo-con crowd. It turns out , though, that if you simply keep shovelling the bullshit, eventually someone beside your family and a few fellow-traveling friends might start to listen. Well, it appears that The New York Times has decided to pay for bullshit, having hired Bill Kristol to write a weekly column for their Op-Ed page. (Here too.) There are at least two problems with this. They have less to do with Kristol (who is a political hack well beyond rehabilitation) and more with The Times.

First, it simply cannot be that Kristol has been hired because of his great record of insightful comment. It is hard to disagree with Katha Pollitt who, in her lament about Kristol's hiring notes:

“A pundit, even a highly ideological one like Kristol, has to be (or seem) right at least some of the time. But what's striking about Kristol is that he's has been wrong about everything! or did I miss the sound of democratic dominoes falling neatly into place all over the Middle East? And it's not as if he's a great prose stylist, either. At least David Brooks can occasionally turn a phrase. Kristol just churns out whatever the argument of the moment happens to be, adds jeers, and knocks off for lunch.”

Pollitt offers a long ~ but surely not exhaustive ~ list of examples of the erroneous and offensive pronouncements Kristol has made. In the role of right-wing ideologue he is a repeat offender. (Let's be clear - there is no one on staff of columnists at The Times who stands nearly as far to the left as Kristol does to the right. He is, simply put, an extremist.) What the hell are the criteria for getting a columnist position at The Times? If we take Bill Kristol as an example, competence surely cannot be among them.

Second, perhaps the folks who hire at The Times are impressed by Bill's resumé. Here is where the inbreeding ought to be apparent. What has Bill Kristol ever done outside of the secure network of Mom and Dad's* well-heeled and well connected chums? Answer: nothing. His incompetence never gets noticed simply because he is swaddled in the warm blanket of nepotism. What matter if you're consistently wrong or offensive? Someone will come along and
pay for another glossy venue from which Bill can spout inanities. So, hiring Bill Kristol makes it clear that The Times mustn't be looking at merit any more than competence when they cast about for columnists.

What is the point here? Consider the defensive, self-serving rationalizations of Andy Rosenthal the Ed Page Chief at The Times, who accuses critics of the decision to hire Kristol of hypocrisy grounded in a "weird fear of opposing views." Rosenthal goes on:

"The idea that The New York Times is giving voice to a guy who is a serious, respected conservative intellectual and somehow that's a bad thing, how intolerant is that?"

The notion that Bill Kristol is "a serious, respected" intellectual of any stripe simply is a howler. So, this is not about liberal intolerance and hypocrisy. After all, it is not like Kristol lacks for venues; and nobody is calling for The Weekly Standard and so forth to be closed down. It is about The Times hiring a writer who turns tricks for conservative politicians (whether they be in power or out) and who has compensated for consistent incompetence by drawing down on his reserves of good will and financial connections from conservative family and friends.

What scares me are not folks with "opposing views" but people like Bill Kristol who regularly are disastrously and dangerously wrong and who are unable or unwilling to reflect on that fact. By hiring Bill Kristol The New York Times is simply lending credibility to the crackpot right and, in the process, further diminishing its own.
* Dad being neocon-in-chief Irving Kristol, mom being Gertrude Himmelfarb, conservative historian.

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Anonymous Dawei from Beijing said...

Jim, you're so on the money here. Kristol is a complete and total hack, much like his butt buddies, David Frum and Charles Krauthammer. What blows my mind though is how publications and television shows, even respectable ones like CPSAN's Book TV, give these monkeys airtime to express their worthless opinions. That, to me, is the real crime. I also am in total agreement with you about the notion that this has nothing to do with political ideologies. If someone like, say, Greenspan, got a column, no one would be protesting because his credentials and experience are beyond dispute. There are plenty of smart, right-leaning folks that are worth listening to, so that this numb-nut got a column in The New York Times is truly a curious event.

31 December, 2007 14:05  

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