The Kristol Ball Update (week One)

by TNR Staff | May 19, 2008


 

Last Friday, we tried to predict what today's Bill Kristol column would be about. To refresh:

Using Bush's Knesset speech as the peg, he'll consider the possibility that Barack Obama just might be a terrorist appeaser who totally hearts Iran and Hamas. (Bonus points if he references the Great Flag Pin Flip-Flop of 2008.)

Now, Kristol didn't make the point so artlessly today (though a strong case could be made that he was implying it), but towards the end of his multi-pronged, logic-straining, and fact-challenged column, he did say this:

It was also on Thursday that President Bush spoke before Israel's Knesset. He denounced those who "seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along." This "foolish delusion," Bush claimed, yields "the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."

Obama took Bush to be alluding to Obama's willingness to meet, without preconditions, with Iran and North Korea, and attacked Bush. The conventional view in Washington is that Obama was smart to pick a fight with the unpopular Bush. And when McCain intervened, Obama was able to attack Bush and McCain in the same breath. But over the longer term, it can't be in Obama's interest to divert voters from a focus on gas prices or health care to the question of what he hopes to achieve by negotiating with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. [Italics added]

Two points in response: 1) When he writes that "Obama took Bush to be alluding to ... ," he hits on the "Obama is an egotist who makes everything about him" theme that many of you saw coming in the comments section. Bravo. 2) In the last portion of the excerpt, Kristol suggests that Obama should stick to domestic policy issues, like the gas tax and health care--easy political winners. But Barack should tread carefully, because a piece of Kristol advice today could easily turn into a bludgeon in a Kristol column tomorrow. Here's guessing that if Obama doesn't talk enough about foreign policy (according to Kristol, of course) for a week or two over the next six months, the columnist won't applaud the candidate's political savvy, but will instead bemoan his lack of "security credentials" and his "unseriousness in the face of grave danger." He might even write the words "Obama's kissy-face approach to America's enemies," though that's probably hoping for too much. What will the future bring? It's hard to say, but we're going to keep peering into ... the Kristol ball!

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