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I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Bill Kristol: Pundit Superstar

By Anonymous Liberal

By Anonymous Liberal--On March 17, 2003, on the eve of our invasion of Iraq, Bill Kristol wrote the following:

We are tempted to comment, in these last days before the war, on the U.N., and the French, and the Democrats. But the war itself will clarify who was right and who was wrong about weapons of mass destruction. It will reveal the aspirations of the people of Iraq, and expose the truth about Saddam's regime. It will produce whatever effects it will produce on neighboring countries and on the broader war on terror. We would note now that even the threat of war against Saddam seems to be encouraging stirrings toward political reform in Iran and Saudi Arabia, and a measure of cooperation in the war against al Qaeda from other governments in the region. It turns out it really is better to be respected and feared than to be thought to share, with exquisite sensitivity, other people's pain. History and reality are about to weigh in, and we are inclined simply to let them render their verdicts.

Well, it's been almost four years since Kristol penned those smug, taunting words, and I think it's fair to say that history and reality have indeed weighed in. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Our invasion has destabilized the entire region (and not in a positive way) and has actually exacerbated the overall terrorist threat our country faces. We are no longer feared or respected, at least nowhere near the degree we were before the invasion. Over 3000 American soldiers have lost their lives (with many thousands more badly injured). Tens of thousands of Iraqis (perhaps hundreds of thousands) have been killed and millions more displaced. We've squandered billions of dollars, as well as our national credibility and mystique. And our armed forces are currently bogged down and stretched to the limit as they undertake the thankless task of policing an escalating civil war.

Now, you would think that being so incredibly wrong about such an important subject might hurt your career prospects, and that would probably be true in any other field. But in the world of Washington punditry, being consistently and catastrophically wrong about everything is apparently not an obstacle to advancement. As David Corn reports, TIME Magazine has invited Kristol to become one the magazine's new "star" columnists.

I can see why TIME wanted Kristol so badly. His track record over the last few years is rather remarkable. Here's a sampling of some of Kristol's most impressive contributions to our political discourse over the last few years:

August 26, 2002:
Reading the Scowcroft/New York Times "arguments" against war, one is struck by how laughably weak they are. European international-law wishfulness and full-blown Pat Buchanan isolationism are the two intellectually honest alternatives to the Bush Doctrine. Scowcroft and the Times wish to embrace neither, so they pretend instead to be terribly "concerned" with the administration's alleged failure to "make the case."
April 4, 2003:
"There's been a certain amount of pop sociology in America ... that the Shia can't get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There's almost no evidence of that at all. Iraq's always been very secular."
April 28, 2003:
The United States committed itself to defeating terror around the world. We committed ourselves to reshaping the Middle East, so the region would no longer be a hotbed of terrorism, extremism, anti-Americanism, and weapons of mass destruction. The first two battles of this new era are now over. The battles of Afghanistan and Iraq have been won decisively and honorably. But these are only two battles. We are only at the end of the beginning in the war on terror and terrorist states.
March 22, 2004:
[T]here are hopeful signs that Iraqis of differing religious, ethnic, and political persuasions can work together. This is a far cry from the predictions made before the war by many, both here and in Europe, that a liberated Iraq would fracture into feuding clans and unleash a bloodbath. The perpetually sour American media focus on the tensions between Shiites and Kurds that delayed the signing by three whole days. But the difficult negotiations leading up to the signing, and the continuing debates over the terms of a final constitution, have in fact demonstrated something remarkable in Iraq: a willingness on the part of the diverse ethnic and religious groups to disagree--peacefully--and then to compromise. This willingness is the product of what appears to be a broad Iraqi consensus favoring the idea of pluralism.
July 26, 2004:
What the Bush administration did say--and what so many reporters seem to have trouble understanding--is that Iraq and al Qaeda had a relationship that, by its very existence, posed a potential threat to the United States.
October 29, 2004 (column titled "Politicizing the bin Laden Tape"):
Is there any development in the war on terror, however grave, that the Kerry campaign won't try to exploit for partisan advantage?
November 1, 2004: (column titled "Bin Laden v. Bush")
Osama bin Laden's videotape is an attempt to intimidate Americans into voting against President Bush.
March 7, 2005:
Just four weeks after the Iraqi election of January 30, 2005, it seems increasingly likely that that date will turn out to have been a genuine turning point. The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, ended an era. September 11, 2001, ended an interregnum. In the new era in which we now live, 1/30/05 could be a key moment--perhaps the key moment so far--in vindicating the Bush Doctrine as the right response to 9/11. And now there is the prospect of further and accelerating progress.

April 4, 2005 (re: Terri Schiavo)
After all, we are a "maturing society," as the Supreme Court has told us. Perhaps it is time, in mature reaction to this latest installment of what Hugh Hewitt has called a "robed charade," to rise up against our robed masters, and choose to govern ourselves. Call it Terri's revolution.
November 7, 2005:
Last week the Bush Administration's second-term bear market bottomed out.

November 30, 2005 (column titled "Pelosi's Disastrous Miscalculation"):
All this made me think the 2006 elections could result in a Speaker Pelosi. I now think that unlikely. Pelosi's endorsement today of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq makes the House Democrats the party of defeat, the party of surrender. Bush's strong speech today means the GOP is likely to be--if Republican Congressmen just keep their nerve--the party of victory. Now it is possible that the situation in Iraq will worsen over the next year. If that happens, Bush and the GOP are in deep trouble. They would have been if Pelosi had said nothing. But it is much more likely that the situation in Iraq will stay more or less the same, or improve. In either case, Republicans will benefit from being the party of victory.
December 26, 2005 (column titled "Happy Days!"):
If American and Iraqi troops continue to provide basic security, and if Iraq's different sects and political groups now begin to engage in serious, peaceful bargaining, then we may just have witnessed the beginning of Iraq's future.

April 4, 2006:
What was striking, following the mosque bombing, was the evidence of Iraq's underlying stability in the face of attempts to undermine it. The country's vital institutions seem to have grown strong enough to withstand even the provocation of the bombing of the golden mosque.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. If you want to succeed as a conservative pundit in Washington, the key appears to be amassing a mile-long track record of wildly inaccurate predictions and disastrously bad advice. Congratulations, Bill Kristol. You truly are a "star".

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