The New York Times' announcement that Bill Kristol will become a weekly columnist has had predictable reactions. Establishment conservatives were thrilled. In National Review Online, Mark Hemingway called the decision "a gutsy, welcome editorial move that will definitely get me to peruse the Grey Lady more," while Stanley Kurtz said "I can't think of a better choice."
In contrast, the Left showed its usual undignified outrage. Writing in the Huffington Post, Jane Smiley declared she will not only unsubscribe to the NYT, she won't even read their online newsfeed because, "Kristol is not merely some rightwing loose cannon like David Brooks or even William Safire" but a "hatemonger." [Jane Smiley: Muddle-Headed, Fear-Mongering, BushCo Shills Still Have a Right to Shout "Fire" in a Crowded Theater]
New York Times editor Andy Rosenthal told the Politico that his left wing critics had a "weird fear of opposing views," and that "The whole point of the op-ed page is to air a variety of opinions." [Times defends hiring conservative Kristol, December 29, 2007]
Lost in this shadow boxing between the far Left, the Respectable Right, and the Establishment Left is the fact that Kristol isn't a real conservative and that Rosenthal's support for "opposing views" and a "variety of opinions" is limited to his chosen opponents.
Take the issue of immigration. Just like Bill Kristol, David Brooks, John Tierney, and William Safire—the current and two previous token conservative columnists at the Times—all support some form of amnesty for illegal aliens. Having these writers creates a façade of debate, while pushing out serious conservative views off the table completely.
That being said, Kristol is much worse. Both David Brooks and John Tierney have acknowledged that there were very understandable reasons why Americans were outraged over amnesty and mass immigration. John Tierney even used the semi-taboo field of evolutionary psychology to explain why people are naturally averse to foreigners. Throwing Hawks a Bone, May 16, 2006, also here
(Indeed, Tierney's mysteriously short tenure on the op-ed page—he hasn't appeared since 2006—was probably due to his occasional ventures outside of liberal/neocon orthodoxy on matters like sociobiology, a trip Kristol has never taken. Tierney has even quoted Steve Sailer, getting into trouble even when the subject was golf).
Kristol, in contrast, professed to be perplexed by why anyone would oppose illegal immigration. He asked "What damage have they done that's so great in 20 years?" and even dismissed concerns about the massive demonstrations with Mexican flags. He is openly hostile to opponents of amnesty, whom he called "yahoos" who will turn the GOP into an "anti-immigration, Know Nothing party." [Y is for Yahoo, April 10, 2006]
Kristol does not even attempt to call his stance conservative. He admitted to Chris Wallace that, "I'm a liberal on immigration" and that "I am pro-immigration, and I am even soft on illegal immigration." [VDARE.COM NOTE: Kristol, like the Editors of National Review, came out against amnesty when it became plain that amnesty was so unpopular that support for it would destroy any foreign policy influence he had—see Peter Brimelow's blog here.]
In 1992, Kristol fought to eliminate the pro-life plank—which he said was "anachronistic"—from the GOP platform. When it comes to dismantling the Great Society, let alone the New Deal, Kristol told Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne that
"Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy and, for that matter, Lyndon Johnson are big facts in American history. Are we willing to say that the country is worse off because of FDR or JFK or LBJ? I'm not willing to say that." [The End of an Era of Bashing Government, Washington Post, [Pay archive] September 19, 1997]
And Bill Kristol stands with the Left in denouncing the Southern strategy that made the GOP the majority party in the country. During the Trent Lott mess that he helped create, he gloated that Lott's removal meant that they were clearing out the "last of the products" of the Southern strategy who, according to him, "have a somewhat compromised image to the country as a whole." [Divisive Words: The Consequences; A Nixon-Era Distraction Steps Out Of Limelight, By Todd S. Purdum, New York Times, December 21, 2002 ]
Even on the issue of foreign policy—which is what is currently outraging the Left—Kristol not too far off the reservation. In 2004, he told The New York Times that he'd take,
[John] Kerry over [Pat] Buchanan or any of the lesser Buchananites on the right. If you read the last few issues of The Weekly Standard, it has as much or more in common with the liberal hawks than with traditional conservatives. [Lack of Resolution in Iraq Finds Conservatives Divided, by David D. Kirkpatrick, April 19, 2004:]
Sure enough, the NYT's Andy Rosenthal said, "We have views on our op-ed page that are as hawkish or more so than Bill."
Yet to the loud Left, Kristol is still unacceptable. Nation columnist Katha Pollitt complained that if the New York Times really wanted to have balance, "Let's have a true leftist on the op-ed page—someone as far to the left as Kristol is to the right. Noam Chomsky, anyone?"
In the lead up to the war in Iraq, the Left discovered neoconservatives, and the many of the Old Right welcomed the attacks on their bête noire. But what ended up happening is the neocons went from being thought of as "Scoop Jackson liberals" who had moved slightly to the Right (and into the GOP) to being thought of as right wing extremists.
Nowhere in this equation were authentic conservative voices factored in.
In effect, the whole political spectrum has moved to the Left. If Bill Kristol is now a "hatemonger" and the right wing equivalent to Noam Chomsky, you can only imagine what a real conservative like Pat Buchanan is.
One thing's for sure: he's not a columnist for the New York Times.
Marcus Epstein [send him mail] is the founder of the Robert A Taft Club and the executive director of the The American Cause and Team America PAC. A selection of his articles can be seen here. The views he expresses are his own.