Jane Smiley: Bill Kristol in the NY Times Means I'm Done With the Paper
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
Next week, I am really going to miss The New York Times. For years now, I have spent at least part of every morning reading the Times, and I love its variety. In addition, I have had a long and enjoyable writer's relationship with the Times. I've written for the magazine, the Travel Section, the Book Review, and the Op-Ed page (once I wrote in favor of divorce, and they received a gratifying hail of shocked, shocked shocked! letters in response). On the day I heard the first rumor about my Pulitzer Prize, I was working with one of the Book Review editors. In a state of disbelief, I asked her if she had heard anything. She said "No, but here at the New York Times, we have a saying that eighty percent of rumors are true." I liked that. It agreed with my experience as a gossip. Just a couple of months ago, I wrote a sidebar for the magazine. The piece was fun, the editor was fun, and they embedded me in an article about Daniel Day-Lewis. Who could ask for more?
Given my attachment to the Times over the years, I have to say that I even forgave them for Judith Miller, difficult as that was. But after the advent of Bill Kristol on the editorial page next week, that's it for the Times and me.
I cannot imagine why the Times has hired Kristol. Kristol is not merely some rightwing loose cannon like David Brooks or even William Safire, and his hiring by the Times is not a free-speech issue. Kristol has plenty of opportunities to speak, and if he didn't he could blog, like the rest of us. Kristol is a war-monger and a hate-monger, and his lies have been exposed over and over in the last four years. If you think that the Iraq War is a crime, as I do, it is bad enough that he was one of the primary cheerleaders for it, even after every single one of the reasons that the Cheney/Bush/right wing gave for the attack was exposed. But he is worse than that. Until the NIE report, he was actively advocating bombing Iran, preferably with nuclear weapons, even though the civilians in Iran who would be bombed have nothing at all to do with whatever the Iranian government is doing, or as it turns out, not doing to develop nuclear weapons. In Iraq alone, Kristol has the blood of hundreds of thousands on his hands. He is unrepentant and eager for more.
William Kristol is a man whose time has come and gone. There was a moment, in, say 2002, when some of his arguments sounded prudent, if not reasonable. Now, he only sounds crazy. Nothing has turned out as Kristol said it would, and the process of finding this out has cost the American people a great deal, and not only money and lives. Why the New York Times would hire such a person boggles the mind to think of. The announcement even made no sense, pointing out, as it did, that "Mr. Kristol, 55, has been a fierce critic of the Times. In 2006, he said that the government should consider prosecuting the Times for disclosing a secret government program to track international banking transactions. In a 2003 column on the turmoil within the Times that led to the downfall of the top two editors, he wrote that it was not 'a first-rate newspaper of record,' adding, 'the Times is irredeemable.'" Why would the Times hire such a person? Stockholm Syndrome? Some kind if inside-the-beltway joke? An attempt to lure that bloc of American newspaper readers who listen to Rush Limbaugh? Earth to Times! Maybe they can't read!
Day after day, I read the letters to the editor column. After almost every column by David Brooks, I am struck by how few readers agree with a single thing he says, how many cogently disagree with him. Judging by the letters column, readers of the Times are liberal to moderate, and, most importantly, they have a well-developed sense of decency and responsibility. Has the Times now decided just to stick it to us, willy nilly, by giving Kristol a platform and a paycheck? Who's next, A--- C---, who suggested that the Times building be bombed? Even the Times editors themselves, in an editorial printed yesterday, lament that the U.S. has become unrecognisably lawless and inhumane. Earth to Times! William Kristol is as much to blame for this as anyone on the planet!
So, as of next Monday, the Times feed disappears from my home page, and when I get that 1-111-111-1111 number on my caller I.D., the one that reveals how the Times really thinks of itself, I won't pick up. When they send me the money they owe me for my piece, I will divide it between a charity that benefits Iraq veterans and one that benefits displaced Iraqis. You would have thought that remorse for the Judith Miller debacle would have taught them something, but clearly not. Sadly