The Huffington Post has learned that, in a move bound to create controversy, the New York Times is set to announce that Bill Kristol will become a weekly columnist in 2008. Kristol, a prominent neo-conservative who recently departed Time magazine in what was reported as a "mutual" decision, has close ties to the White House and is a well-known proponent of the war in Iraq. Kristol also is a regular contributor to Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume.If the report is accurate, and Kristol is joining the Times' roster, this is an embarrassment from which the paper of record will not soon recover. If Kristol were merely wrong about matters of national significance, this decision would merely be a mistake. But in recent years Kristol has become far more -- gone are the "soothing tones" that made him a mainstay on the DC cocktail circuit, replaced with a bitter, sycophantic belligerence.
Over the summer, when Kristol started blaming American liberals for Khmer Rouge's crimes, and arguing that the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam also created the conditions for the Islamist revolution in Iran in 1979, I started wondering if Kristol actually believes his own nonsense. Except, as Jonathan Chait explained, it may not matter: "Kristol's good standing in the Washington establishment depends on the wink-and-nod awareness that he's too smart to believe his own agitprop. Perhaps so. But, in the end, a fake thug is not much better than the real thing."
True, except now, one of the world's most prestigious news outlets has apparently given this thug space on the most valuable media real estate in existence.
Kevin Drum captured Kristol's clownish persona perfectly back in June:
The Bill Kristol phenomenon is a stellar example of what a nice suit and a sober tone of voice can do for you. When Curtis LeMay suggested bombing North Vietnam into the Stone Age and getting over our fear of using nuclear weapons, everyone saw him for what he was: a bellicose nutcase. Kristol is barely any less bloodthirsty, but he's smart enough to talk in more soothing tones. As a result, he gets columns in Time magazine, edits his own widely-read magazine, and shows up constantly on television.Underneath it, though, he's every bit the bellicose nutcase that LeMay was. His answer to every foreign policy problem is exactly the same: a proposal to use the maximum amount of force that he thinks elite opinion can tolerate. But Kristol is well dressed, soft spoken, and a lively dinner companion. So everyone just sort of shrugs their shoulders at the fact that he basically wants to go to war with the whole world. It's a nice gig.
Standards and consequences be dammed, it's a gig that seems to keep getting better.