The NYT's latest Kristol embarrassment

Their newest Op-Ed writer makes yet another sloppy, factually false claim in service of his trite partisan agenda.

By Glenn Greenwald
May 19, 2008 8:47PM (UTC)
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(updated below - Update II - Update III)

In the short time since he was named an Op-Ed columnist at The New York Times, Bill Kristol has written a series of sloppy, error-plagued and incomparably hackish columns. He has already had to issue two factual corrections -- including one for the very first column he wrote -- and even his former comrades in war cheerleading, The New Republic Editors, said on Friday that Kristol's columns are "[b]landly written, intellectually lazy, and -- worst of all -- hopelessly predictable," and asked: "does Bill Kristol have to be this bad at it?"


But it just keeps getting worse. With today's column -- devoted yet again to hailing John McCain's greatness and Barack Obama's grave weaknesses -- Kristol makes yet another painfully slothful factual error. As this blogger at Room Eight notes, Kristol today wrote:

On Tuesday night, while the G.O.P. Congressional candidate was losing in a Mississippi district George Bush carried in 2004 by 25 points, Barack Obama was being trounced in the West Virginia Democratic primary -- by 41 points. I can't find a single recent instance of a candidate who ultimately became his party's nominee losing a primary by this kind of margin.

As is typical for Kristol, he just spits out factual claims without caring if they're remotely true, and apparently his NYT Editors -- if such a thing exists -- share his indifference. As Room Eight notes:

It took me all of 2 minutes to find what Kristol couldn't find --

Utah [Primary] Updated 11:02 a.m. EST, Feb 14, 2008

Romney 255,218 -- 90%

McCain 15,264 -- 5%

Paul 8,295 -- 3%

Huckabee 4,054 -- 2%

The NYT should be very proud of itself. Of course, Kristol was hired at the NYT because his dad, Irv, was really good friends with former NYT Executive Editor Abe Rosenthal, whose son, Andy, currently runs the NYT Op-Ed page. Andy and Bill followed in their dad's footsteps by becoming good friends (and in every other sense), and Andy then hired his friend, Bill (son of his dad's friend), as the new NYT Op-Ed writer. So this is typically what one gets -- and deserves -- when driven by nepotistic impulse.


Rosenthal actually claimed when he hired Kristol that he did so to achieve "balance" and to create diversity on the Op-Ed page. Indeed. Last Monday, Kristol's column compared Americans who don't want to fight for Israel to Neville Chamberlain appeasers. Then, on Wednesday, Tom Friedman declared a "cold war" whereby Israel and the U.S. fight together (along with Sunni Arab dictators) against Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. Then, on Friday, David Brooks declared Obama suspect when it comes to hating Hezbollah enough, writing that Obama's statements bear "the whiff of what President Bush described yesterday as appeasement" and that "if Obama believes all this, he's not just a Jimmy Carter-style liberal. He's off in Noam Chomskyland." Obama then had to call Brooks, demonstrate his commitment to hating Hezbollah, and was cleared by Brooks (for now) of the charge of insufficient devotion to fighting Israel's enemies.

So as one can see, Bill Kristol really brings great diversity on every level to Andy Rosenthal's NYT Op-Ed page. And he brings great journalistic skill and factual accuracy as well.

UPDATE: As chasm3 notes in comments, Hillary Clinton lost Kansas to Obama by 49 points; lost DC by 51 points; lost Hawaii by 52 points; and lost Idaho by 62 points. So by Kristol's reasoning, Hillary Clinton -- just like Obama -- couldn't possibly be a strong candidate because she lost some primaries by more than 41 points (granted, some of those were caucuses).

Somehow, though, that reasoning doesn't apply to John McCain, who lost Utah by 85 points. In addition to his 85-point loss in Utah, McCain lost Arkansas by 40 points to Mike Huckabee and lost Kansas by 36 points to Huckabee. For some reason, those facts didn't make it into Kristol's column either.

UPDATE II: Keith Olbermann on Kristol's column last night:

UPDATE III: I received the following email from the NYT's Andy Rosenthal this morning:

Mr. Greenwald:

I read your posting about Bill Kristol's column and wanted to point out a factual error. Bill Kristol and I are not longtime friends. My father and Irving Kristol knew each other in the 1960's. I did not know Bill growing up. Before we hired him, our contacts were reportorial, when I was covering the Bush 41 White House and he was working for Dan Quayle. We hired him for the reasons we stated, to give our readers a diversity of opinion. If you want to write about me in the future, I can be reached at xxx-xxxx. My email address is on this message.

Thank you,

Andrew Rosenthal

I'm not sure that's anything other than a semantic objection, since the Radar Magazine article to which I linked described the Bill-Kristol/Andy-Rosenthal relationship in exactly those terms, but for what it's worth, that's his response. He didn't address the issue of how it can possibly be that Kristol adds diversity to the Op-Ed page.

After I received this, I did take Rosenthal up on his offer to inquire with him before writing by asking whether Kristol will correct the factually false claim in his column. I will post the response if I receive one in a separate post.

Glenn Greenwald

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