Kristol’s Latest Moment

If you aren’t familiar with the career of William Kristol, who will without doubt be the most quoted and televised opponent of Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as Defense Secretary, do check out Kenneth Vogel’s long profile of the man for Politico. As with any piece giving Kristol and his friends an opportunity to self-promote, there’s ridiculous stuff there, like the claims that Kristol is on the brink of creating the long-awaited Republican version of the DLC, which will give “reformers” like Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan a platform to denounce the stale orthodoxies of conservative interest and activist groups (which would require denouncing their own selves and all their supporters). That is so not happening.

But Vogel offers a good drive-by tour of Kristol’s public career, beginning with his gig with Dan Quayle and his profitable partnership with Rupert Murdoch, and accentuating his role in the Neocon movement that is still the closest thing this side of Paulandia to a coherent foreign policy perspective within the GOP.

It’s easy to see why Kristol is making the fight against the Hagel nomination a signature moment. It enables him simultaneously to fight for his views on Israel and the U.S. role in the Middle East, smite the hated Barack Obama, take down the first major conventional Republican critic of Kristol’s cherished Iraq War, and distract Republicans and the media from the fiscal issues he thinks the GOP is mishandling. But the idea, as reflected in Vogel’s lede, that Kristol is “charting the future of the Republican Party” as some sort of eminence grise controlling things behind the scenes is incredible. He’s been useful to the Powers That Be in the conservative movement and the GOP, but the idea that your average GOP county chairman in East Calcium Deposit, Arkansas, is taking orders from or shares the views of a guy like Kristol, who is never convincing when talking about the cultural or constitutional issues that gave the Tea Party life, is pretty funny. There’s something about Kristol, though, that attracts media attention almost infallibly, no matter how often (and it is very often) he’s wrong in his political predictions and no matter what happens to his latest cause. So no matter what happens to Hagel we’ll see a lot of Kristol over the new few weeks.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.