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The Kristol Whose Crystal Ball Never Works

The New York Times' right-wing columnist isn't just wrong in his ideology -- he is simply wrong.
 
 
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As Eric Alterman has written, he's the "journalist" of "perpetual wrongness" (as well as an "apparatchik" of the first order and a "right-wing holy warrior"). And for that, he's perpetually hired or published: Fox News , the Washington Post op-ed page, Time Magazine , and most recently, the New York Times where, in his very first column, he made a goof that had to be corrected at the bottom of column two (and where, with his usual perspicacity when it comes to the future, he predicted an Obama victory in the New Hampshire primary). Liberal websites devote time to listing his many mistakes and mis-predictions. In a roiling mass of neocons, right-wingers, and liberal war hawks, he's certainly been in fierce competition for the title of "wrongest" of all when it came to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. ("Iraq's always been very secular ... ") I hardly have to spell out the name of He Who Strides Amongst Us, the editor of Rupert Murdoch's Weekly Standard. But, okay, for the one person on the planet who doesn't know -- it's Bill Kristol. The notorious Mr. Kristol, the man whose crystal ball never works.

But isn't it the essence of American punditry that serial mistakes don't matter and no one is ever held to account (as in this primary season) for ridiculous predictions that add up to nothing? As New York Times editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal put it after his paper signed Kristol to a one-year contract, "The idea that the New York Times is giving voice to a guy who is a serious, respected conservative intellectual -- and somehow that's a bad thing ... How intolerant is that?"

How intolerant indeed! Since no one in the mainstream is accountable for anything they've written, the management of the Times can exhibit remarkable tolerance for error in its gesture to the neocon right by hiring a man who's essentially never right. His has been a remarkable winning record when it comes to being right(-wing) by doing wrong. Former Saturday Night Live contributor Jonathan Schwarz pays homage to that record in "The Lost Kristol Tapes, What the New York Times Bought." Here's just the beginning of that piece, already a small classic, as a teaser:

"Imagine that there were a Beatles record only a few people knew existed. And imagine you got the chance to listen to it, and as you did, your excitement grew, note by note. You realized it wasn't merely as good as Rubber Soul , or Revolver, or Sgt. Pepper's . It was much, much better. And now, imagine how badly you'd want to tell other Beatles fans all about it.

"That's how I feel for my fellow William Kristol fans. You loved it when Bill said invading Iraq was going to have 'terrifically good effects throughout the Middle East'? You have the original recording of him explaining the war would make us 'respected around the world' and his classic statement that there's 'almost no evidence' of Iraq experiencing Sunni-Shia conflict? Well, I've got something that will blow your mind!

"I'm talking about Kristol's two-hour appearance on C-Span's Washington Journal on March 28, 2003, just nine days after the President launched his invasion of Iraq. No one remembers it today. You can't even fish it out of LexisNexis. It's not there. Yet it's a masterpiece, a double album of smarm, horrifying ignorance, and bald-faced deceit. While you've heard him play those instruments before, he never again reached such heights. It's a performance for the history books -- particularly that chapter about how the American Empire collapsed ... "

Tom Engelhardt, editor of Tomdispatch.com, is co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The End of Victory Culture .