Confusion over Kristol

CONFUSION OVER KRISTOL…. Perhaps the only thing more frustrating that Bill Kristol’s endless stream of jobs in the mainstream media is confusion over why this is frustrating.

After getting fired from Time, Kristol was hired by the New York Times. After getting fired from the New York Times, Kristol was hired by the Washington Post. Today, Fred Hiatt, the Post‘s editorial page editor, defended the move.

Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt called Kristol “very smart and very plugged in,” saying Kristol would be an influential voice in the coming debate over redefining the Republican Party. “It seems to me there were a lot of Times readers who felt the Times shouldn’t hire someone who supported the Iraq war,” said Hiatt, adding that he wants “a diverse range of opinions” on his page.

I don’t doubt that many Times readers disagreed with Kristol about Bush’s Iraq policy, but that wasn’t the problem. Rather, Kristol had spent much of Bush’s presidency not only touting neocon nonsense, but also becoming what Jonathan Chait described as a “thug” — directing baseless, ridiculous attacks against anyone who disagreed with him.

Around the time Kristol was hired by the NYT, A.L. published a greatest-hits package of outrageous Kristol columns; ThinkProgress had a collection of Kristol’s recent “lies, distortions, and hawkish proposals“; and Media Matters assembled a list of Kristol observations — on matters ranging from foreign policy to campaign politics — all of which are obviously, demonstrably wrong. In most professions, repeated failures on this scale are not rewarded with promotions at some of the nation’s most prestigious news outlets.

And all of this came before Kristol even started his New York Times column.

Matt Yglesias, who once described Kristol’s writing as “dangerous,” noted today:

[Hiatt] doesn’t say Kristol’s column is good! Doesn’t call it insightful, doesn’t call it informative, doesn’t call it well-written. He just says that Kristol is “plugged-in” and influential. Which no doubt he is. But as a consumer of media, I prefer to take in well-written informative commentary that’s entertaining or enlightening. Being deliberately misled by influence-peddlers or wannabe influence-peddlers doesn’t rank high on my priority list. But to Hiatt it’s the very model of a modern major political pundit.

I suspect that Hiatt, like Andy Rosenthal before him, considers these complaints petty. He probably assumes that liberal bloggers are just whining about Kristol because he’s a conservative. “Everyone knows” that Kristol is “very smart,” so critics must be wild-eyed ideologues, not to be taken seriously.

The reality, though, is far more mundane. Kristol writes predictable twaddle, riddled with routine factual errors, misguided predictions, and radical, bellicose ideas. He’s also well dressed, soft spoken, and a lively dinner companion, which gives him media credibility, influence, and career opportunities he hasn’t earned.