The Plank

Kristol's Chutzpah

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Bill Kristol's column today lectures Democrats for lacking moral seriousness, putting politics ahead of the national interest, thinking of politics as just a game, and so on. I won't say the point is totally unfair -- there are always some people in any party who get caught up in partisanship. But, my God, do have to hear this from Bill Kristol?

Kristol charges that "the quality of thought of the Democrats’ academic and media supporters a permanent and, as it were, pensioned opposition seems to me to have deteriorated." Kristol's idea of high quality of thought is to assert that anybody who doesn't support the Bush administration's foreign policy does not "support the troops," to insist that war critics believe that the United States is winning but actually want their own country to lose, and to embrace the metaphor of the "stab in the back" to illustrate this notion.

Kristol goes on to call the Democrats "an opposition party that takes no responsibility for the consequences of the choices involved in governing."

Does Kristol not remember his role in defeating health care reform in 1994, in which he told Republicans:

"At bottom this debate is now a political one," he wrote in a strategy memo on July 26. "Sight unseen, Republicans should oppose [the new Democratic bills]."

and in which he warned that successful passage of reform would "revive the reputation of the party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests"? Please, Mr. Kristol, tell us more about how liberals should make highbrow intellectual arguments and take responsibility for responsible governance in opposition.

It's bad enough that the Times gave a weekly column to a partisan operator and thoroughly mediocre writer instead of the many competent conservative writers who would have jumped at the role. But does this hack also have to lecture the rest of us on our responsibilities as intellectuals? Were no members of the Gambino family available to write the ethics column?

--Jonathan Chait

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