This past week’s revelations about the National Security Agency millions of Americans’ phone records (without suspecting any of them of a crime), plus news of secretive data-gathering program called PRISM, has seemingly drawn a rough dividing line between civil libertarians (libertarians, less-hawkish conservatives, anti-war progressives) and establishment types in both major parties.
Even before that rift became clear, it was obvious who would be leading the charge to defend the government’s expansive surveillance program:
Weekly Standard editor . Bill Kristol
If the security/warfare state is ever in question, you can always count on Kristol to run cover. And he certainly did not disappoint this weekend. Urging Republicans not to “conflate” the ongoing Internal Revenue Service scandal with the NSA snooping, Kristol declared it a “huge mistake” to suggest the NSA’s actions were intrusive and thus politically leverageable.
In other words: Bill Kristol rightly finds the IRS’s targeting to be exemplary of abuse, overreaching government. But the NSA? Not really a concern.
Before the GOP goes ahead and listens to Kristol (as they are unfortunately wont to do), here’s a helpful and cautionary reminder of several ways in which the commentator has been laughably wrong (and yet somehow still gets a platform as a “serious” voice):
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Wrong On The 2008 Democratic Race
Kristol won a lot of mock-awards for this one. More than a year before the 2008 Democratic Iowa caucuses, Kristol had the self-confidence to
declare that Hillary Clinton would win the party's nomination without any fight from John Edwards and a guy named Barack Obama.
"Barack Obama is not going to beat Hillary Clinton in a single Democratic primary. I’ll predict that right now," he claimed.
Okay then. Perhaps that unwarranted self-assurance and perpetual underestimation of Obama was partially what led to the GOP's inability to beat the guy come November 2008.
Wrong On Gay Marriage
As polling shows a steady increase among
all generations in support for same-sex marriage, Kristol went on the air to declare that it would be "pathetic" for the GOP to liberalize its views in order to "embrace the views of some 26-year-old who doesn't know anything."
That assertion is especially interesting because, based on Kristol's own expert soothsaying from 1993, it would seem that it is he who doesn't know anything about the same-sex marriage issue. You see, in the early 90's, Kristol told that '93 would be the “high water mark” of the gay rights movement, and that it was “all downhill from there." And that has turned out to be spectacularly incorrect.
Kristol's 2013 expert advice on SSM below, via Fox:
Expert In Self-Contradiction
There's a reason Kristol smirks so widely when on TV every day. Because he has the confidence to never correct himself or implicate himself in a mistaken prediction. There are countless examples of the pundit directly contradicting himself without a nod of self-awareness (even
Glenn Beck pointed out some of these), but here's one winner:
In October 2008, Kristol urged McCain/Palin to ramp up the Ayers-related attacks against Obama. Less than a week later, Kristol was on TV chiding the GOP for running a “stupid” and “pathetic" campaign because the attacks ”haven’t worked” and the McCain ticket is “doing things that don’t work and they keep doing them." All of this, of course, without once mentioning that he himself had encouraged the ticket to wage those exact attacks.
Divorced From Reality
Within his March 2013 column decrying the ascendancy of #StandWithRand, Kristol made a statement
The American Conservative accurately described as "divorced from reality":
"That decade of not policing the world ended with 9/11," he wrote.
Well, sure... except for, you know, an entire war known as "Operation Desert Storm." Or... umm... military interventions, missile strikes, and/or bombings in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sudan, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Kristol didn't entirely ignore those military actions, but rather, dismissed them as "weak" -- i.e., not initiated by a Republican (save Desert Storm)?
AmCon's Daniel Larison so eloquently put it: "Do Republicans really want to take their foreign policy guidance from someone whose response to the last twelve years of war is to insist that the GOP lash itself even more tightly to hard-line and aggressive foreign policy?"
Iraq's Biggest Cheerleader
Presented without comment below, Kristol on the eve of invading Iraq [emphasis added]:
"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."
Two Words: Sarah Palin
Kristol's heart led him to lobby the McCain ticket to select his "heartthrob"
as the VP candidate. Regardless of whether you like Palin or not, we all know how that disastrously that pick turned out. But hey, Kristol Sarah Palin did predict correctly.
What's especially odd about how intensely Kristol lobbied for Palin is that, given how his day job is to lobby for militarism abroad, he somehow fell head-over-heels for a VP pick who turned out to have little-to-no knowledge of global politics. His blind eye to her specific inadequacies came at the same time he was scorning then-Senator Obama for not having sufficient foreign policy cred.
It's not entirely fair to saddle the blame entirely on Kristol. But the GOP did make the mistake of listening to the likes of Kristol, it seems.
The Party of Victory!
In late 2005, Kristol made the bold prediction that Nancy Pelosi just ceded the House to the Republicans by endorsing an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. He claimed that her actions would likely prevent a "Speaker Pelosi" from happening [emphasis added]:
[Her statement] 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."
Self-Contradiction, Part Deux
In 2006, Kristol told Charlie Rose that "we are at risk of a sectarian civil war [in Iraq], and I’m extremely worried about that. I don’t quarrel about that." And even though
that proved to be correct, within a year later, Kristol went ahead and directly contradicted himself: "We’re not in a civil war. This is just not true. American troops are attacking al Qaeda. They’re attacking some elements of the Shi’a militias. They’re doing other things, helping with reconciliation. They are not in the middle of a civil war. It’s not true."
And history says otherwise, Bill Kristol 2.0.
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