KRISTOL’S FUTURE…. I’ve been working under the assumption that Bill Kristol would lose his New York Times column as soon as his contract is up. It’s never occurred to me that any other outcome is even possible. Kristol has not only been a breathtakingly bad columnist, but he’s bashed his own employer on national television.
It’s not just that Kristol isn’t another Safire (although an absence of verbal playfulness and wit is a consistent hallmark of the Kristol prose style). It’s not just that his views are utterly predictable (if that were firing grounds, close to half the Times columnists would lose their jobs). It’s not just that he was fundamentally wrong at least every other week throughout the year (misattributing a quote in his first column, counting Clinton out after Iowa, placing Obama at a Jeremiah Wright sermon that Obama didn’t attend, predicting the imminent return of a McCain adviser named Mike Murphy who ended up staying off the campaign, all but predicting a McCain victory, sort of predicting that McCain would oppose the bailout, praising McCain’s “suspension” of his campaign as a smart move, preferring fake populism to professional excellence and Joe the Plumber to Horace the Poet, urging Ayers-Wright attack tactics as the way for McCain to win, basically telling McCain to ignore all the advice Kristol had given him throughout the year, but above all, vouching again and again and again, privately and publicly, for Palin as an excellent Vice-Presidential choice). What the hell — it was an unpredictable year.
The real grounds for firing Kristol are that he didn’t take his column seriously. In his year on the Op-Ed page, not one memorable sentence, not one provocative thought, not one valuable piece of information appeared under his name. The prose was so limp (“Who, inquiring minds want to know, is going to spare us a first Obama term?”) that you had the sense Kristol wrote his column during the commercial breaks of his gig on Fox News Sunday and gave it about the same amount of thought….
Kristol’s performance on the Op-Ed page during the most interesting election in a generation is a historical symptom, not merely a personal failure. He wrote badly because his world view had become problematic at best, untenable at worst, and he had spent too many years turning out Party propaganda to summon the intellectual resources that a difficult situation required. Now the Times owes it to its readers to find someone better.
Kevin noted that he gave up on even reading Kristol’s columns a while ago, not because of Kristol’s conservatism, but because Kristol is just boring, offering little more than “the tritest conservative conventional wisdom on the subject at hand.”
I wish I could give up on Kristol’s misguided missives as easily, but like a car crash, I find it difficult to look away. Besides, most of the time, they make for entertaining targets for blog posts.
But that’s not a good reason to give Kristol one of the premier pieces of real estate in American media. He’s embarrassed the paper with his predictable sophistry, and one can hope the Times will put an end to the farce fairly soon.