JONATHAN CHAIT AUGUST 5, 2011
Ralph Nader advocates a left-wing primary challenge (though not by himself) to President Obama, apparently unaware that his credibility to make this case might be limited by certain electoral events. Bill Kristol catches a whiff and fans the flames, arguing that such a challenge will aid the left-wing cause:
So what of the Democrats? Surely they’ll produce a primary challenger to their Wall Street coddling, Afghan war prosecuting, drone assassination ordering, and debt ceiling deal-signing occupant of the Oval Office! That opponent might perhaps not be “serious,” but his effort could be attention getting, issue raising, and meaningful for the future. Far be it from me to give advice to the professional left. But it has been a sign of the health and vitality of the right over the last forty years that it could at least produce primary challengers to moderate and establishment Republican officeholders. For the left to roll over totally for Obama, after giving Clinton a pass in 1996, would be a sign of a massive failure of conviction and imagination and nerve.
So, Russ Feingold or Dennis Kucinich, Robert Reich or Paul Krugman: Won’t one of you be willing to raise the progressive banner high? Across the ideological chasm, THE WEEKLY STANDARD will salute you!
I think I detect an open wink here, signalling to the reader that Kristol understands full well that a primary challenger would not actually wind up pushing American policy leftward over the long run. But of course Kristol actually is an operative who uses his perch to wage political campaigns rather than honestly describe the world as he sees it. It's genuinely unclear whether this particular item is the Machiavellian Kristol, or Kristol openly satirizing his Machiavellian style.