This was a bad year for people named "Bill."
Bill Kristol has always been a smirking jackass with a record of making claims unrelated to fact and predictions as accurate as the average $2.99/min phone psychic. This year, however, he left the sheltered fantasy world of the right-wing print media and took his idiocy to the New York Times. A weekly gig with the Grey Lady put a stamp of mainstream legitimacy on Kristol's fact-free brand of commentary. Unfortunately for Bill it also took away his home field advantage. He would be exposed to an audience that would actually care if his incessant, off-cuff predictions turned out to be wrong every week and a publication that would check his facts. The world waited to see if Kristol could make himself a real commentator rather than a print version of Rush Limbaugh. Was he up to the challenge?
No. No he wasn't. He brought the same old shit to a medium that was unequivocally uninterested in putting up with his shit.
Kristol misattributed a quote in his very first NYT column, something that would earn a sophomore journalism student an F and a serious opprobrium. If there's anything more pitiful that quoting Michelle Malkin in a major publication it is misquoting Michelle Malkin in a major publication. Oh, and his welcome-to-the-big-leagues world premiere column in the Times (entitled "President Mike Huckabee?") also showcased his preternatural understanding of politics. Aside from the brilliant premise that Huckabee's campaign was going somewhere, the column opens with Kristol's first words as a Times author:
Thank you, Senator Obama. You’ve defeated Senator Clinton in Iowa. It looks as if you’re about to beat her in New Hampshire. There will be no Clinton Restoration.
If that isn't the most fitting and appropriate way to start his new gig, I don't know what is. His editors would need to bail him out again two months later when he based a column on an Obama anecdote that never happened. Correction #2. Before his job was six months old he necessitated a third correction with a double-whammy of errors on May 19th. Heckuva job, Billy.
Most of us would be satisfied to be a shitty journalist, unreadable columnist, and moronic pundit. Not Bill Kristol. In 2008 he decided that he is also a (shitty) political strategist. We are all familiar with the story of how a 2007 Neocon Love Boat cruise resulted in Sarah Palin becoming Kristol's project, protege, and bright hope for the future of conservatism. While it may be an overstatement to claim that Kristol is responsible for McCain's choice of Palin, it wouldn't be entirely wrong either. He was at the very least her talent scout and salesman, using her name in an astounding 57 Weekly Standard pieces in the next year. Having convinced the flagging GOP to accept Palin, he publicly masturbated about her for weeks without disclosing his role in her selection. He noted that gas prices would immediately fall when the grateful world heard of her nomination and that she reminded him an awful lot of FDR. He objectively covered her selection with a post-convention Times column entitled 'A Star is Born', a paean every bit as nauseating as the title leads one to believe. After her televised campaign to convince the electorate that she is the biggest idiot on the planet succeeded Kristol proved to be a loyal dead-ender, defending her to the death and accusing the McCain campaign of mishandling its amazing asset. Everyone was to blame for the trainwreck except the conductor.
Kristol's gig with the Times represents the worst, most cynical kind of tokenism among legitimate media outlets. "Fairness" and "objectivity" require that at least one person must be kept around to represent the conservative "viewpoint" – not to make logical arguments or deal in facts, just to represent the opinions of the talk radio crowd. If Kristol was the paper's effort to move beyond tokenism and add a real, serious, intellectual conservative in the mold of Buckley or Safire it is difficult to overstate how overwhelmingly the plan failed. He humiliated himself and his paper, although it can be argued quite easily that the latter got exactly what it deserved. Wrong-about-everything conservative columnists are abundant. Bill Kristol separated himself from the pack, sucking just a few extra inches, by deciding that he was the new kingmaker of the conservative movement. A person can be a token right-wing windbag at a major newspaper without being right about anything. The same cannot be said for the role of political Godfather, a fact that Bill and the people who took his advice failed to appreciate with predictably disastrous results.