Monday, January 28, 2008

Omygod, I agree with Bill Kristol---and another thing

The hiring of William Kristol to lend greater ideological diversity to the NY Times lineup of regular columnists was met in some quarters with consternation. Unlike William Safire, who was generally conservative but in a principled way that led him to criticize Republicans no less than Democrats, Kristol has generally been more closely associated with a partisan style of opinionating (which is not to say that he doesn't sometimes criticize Republicans too). Thus, liberal-to-moderate readers of the NY Times worried that Kristol might be the "wrong kind" of conservative.

Whatever the merits of that worry, Kristol's column today is spot on, and but for the absence of her characteristic snarkiness, could have been penned by Maureen Dowd or (the never-snarky) Bob Herbert. Kristol correctly argues that former President Bill Clinton's effort to downplay Obama's (at that time merely) projected big victory in South Carolina by comparing it to Jesse Jackson's victories there in 1984 and 1988 is transparent racial politics. And he goes on to say (echoing Mitt Romney's nice line) that Americans are wary of putting Bill back in the White House. The only thing that disturbs me about the column is how much I agree with it, leading me to think that Kristol, in trying to help Obama, thinks the good Senator from Illinois would be an easier candidate for the Republicans to defeat in November. I disagree with that calculation (if it is one), but I so respect Kristol's evil genius that it causes me great concern.

Meanwhile, speaking of the Op-Ed page, I usually skip the little paid box in the lower right-hand corner of the Opinion Page, but for some reason today I was drawn to Washington Legal Foundation Chairman Daniel Popeo's rant. (The Times website does not appear to post these ads. The WLF website does, but the page at which it archives them, doesn't yet have today's. Check back here soon and follow the link.) It's really a piece of work. I don't begrudge the WLF its view that all left-of-extreme-right political activity is a plot to destroy free enterprise, but what's truly impressive about this essay is its use of assertion after assertion purporting to be fact, without any acknowledgment that many of these assertions are highly controversial.

My favorite from today is the claim that Ralph Nader is a hypocrite for having made a "very substantial living[] off capitalism." Now there's one gigantic reason to despise Ralph Nader. (Hint: It rhymes with "He put George W. Bush in the White House.") But to accuse Nader---famous for sleeping on friends' couches when he travels---of limousine liberalism is a bit much. As a fun game, readers are encouraged to pick random sentences in Popeo's ad and figure out what would be needed to show them to be true (or more likely, false).

Posted by Mike Dorf

13 comments:

Paul said...

I agree. That was a fair and from what I can tell, accurate, column. The thing I really do not get is the approach to this entire thing by the Clinton campaign. I do not accept that President Clinton is some loose cannon. The only thing that makes sense is that he is acting as part of a bigger picture for Hillary.

Whether it is clear attempts (failed, I am sure) to pander to to black voters with style, rather than substance, such as her talking in a poorly imitated black southern accent or claiming that Frederick Douglass was her life-long hero or whether it is Pres. Clinton's blunt race-based attacks on Obama, the entire approach seems foolish.

Hillary cannot possibly think that she represents a reasonable choice over Obama to black voters. Though stupid to say so, part of what Pres. Clinton said is correct - Obama's race is certainly helping him get votes, at last among black voters. And it should. Minorities of all sorts have largely voted with the Democratic Party even though their concerns are largely marginalized by that Party.

Likewise, Hillary cannot possibly think that white voters receptive to the racially charged message of Pres. Clinton (which, essentially, is "don't vote for a black man.") could be persuaded. Anyone not voting for Obama on the grounds of his race is both convinced and energized to vote by the Obama campaign itself. No additional help from the President is needed.

I thus see nothing but down-side to this approach. It baffles me to see it continue.

Carl said...

The only thing that disturbs me about the column is how much I agree with it, leading me to think that Kristol, in trying to help Obama, thinks the good Senator from Illinois would be an easier candidate for the Republicans to defeat in November.

I haven't read Kristol's editorial, but I'd be surprised if his primary motive were to help Obama rather than to harm the Clintons (which, I grant, will at least indirectly help Obama). I think many conservatives hate the Clintons so much that they'd be willing to face a tougher candidate in the general election if it means Bill and Hillary get nowhere near the Whitehouse.

If Kristol's motives need to be impugned, I'd question whether he really cares about racist campaigning or whether he just sees this as an opportunity to attack the Clintons and derail Hillary's bid for the nomination. I suppose the real test case then would be how he would respond to the use of race that would inevitably arise among some conservative elements if Obama did in fact get the nomination.

Trevor Morrison said...

A true cynic might think that Kristol's comment is a way of continuing to play the race card while denouncing it. At the same time as he criticizes Bill Clinton for his remarks, Kristol reminds us time and again of Obama's race. If one thinks (1) Obama is the stronger candidate in the general, (2) Obama can be hurt by the race card, and (3) the psychological effects of the race card can be achieved simply by focusing on how others have played it, then Kristol's column does exactly what a Republican would want, while seeming to take the moral high ground. I don't know whether I buy this theory (the key, obviously, is (3), and I frankly don't know what to think about it), but I offer it as a possibility.

Tam said...

I take exception to Kristol's Superbowl prediction.

NY 21, NE 20 (Tynes 52-yard FG bounces off cross bar and over, as clock expires). You heard it here first.

cindy said...

Get over Ralph Nader. The dems did it to themselves. And the Supreme Court was helpful but to keep blaming just shows inability to grow and move on.

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