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