Bill Kristol is (almost) always wrong: How the pundit catastrophically undermined his excellent Donald Trump argument

The Weekly Standard editor made the rare good point about Trump, then put his support behind... Dick Cheney?

Published September 17, 2015 11:58AM (EDT)

Bill Kristol                       (AP/Janet Van Ham)
Bill Kristol (AP/Janet Van Ham)

It was brief, but it really happened. Conservative editor for The Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol was actually right about something this week. Too bad he's ultimately responsible for the very phenomenon he’s attacking.

But first, by way of review, whatever Kristol says, the opposite must be true. Some of his greatest hits include:

  • "Barack Obama is not going to beat Hillary Clinton in a single Democratic primary. I’ll predict that right now."
  • 1993 was the "high water mark" of the LGBT rights movement.
  • After encouraging John McCain to invoke Bill Ayers during his campaign for president, Kristol chastised the campaign for doing exactly that, calling it "stupid" politics.
  • "[The Iraq War] will clarify who was right and who was wrong about weapons of mass destruction. [...] It will reveal the aspirations of the people of Iraq, and expose the truth about Saddam's regime."

Galactically wrong. Except for Wednesday, that is, when Kristol announced to CNN Money that if Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee for president he'd support a third party candidate in 2016:

"I doubt I'd support Donald," he said in an email, according to CNN Money. "I doubt I'd support the Democrat [nominee]. I think I'd support getting someone good on the ballot as a third party candidate," he added.

Kristol followed-up with this scathing tweet:

Again, Kristol is exactly right. Trump is absolutely not presidential material. Furthermore, anyone in the Republican Party who backs slowly away from Trump then makes a mad dash to another option is doing the right thing by helping to block the further descent of the GOP into utter ridiculousness. To be clear, it's not that I have a burning desire for the GOP to improve itself. I simply don't want this Trump nonsense and the embracing of nincompoopery to infect the broader political debate more than it already has.

Nevertheless, this third party business is where Kristol's rightness ended and his wrongness began. Who is Kristol's third party ticket of choice? Naturally, it's his colleague from Project for a New American Century (also known as PNAC, the architects of the Iraq war). You might've heard of him:

Kristol revealed on Tuesday that he believes former Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) are a much more attractive option for voters in 2016.

"[It] would be an excellent independent ticket," he said of that pairing.

Once again, Bill Kristol is almost always wrong.

Now that we're done applauding Kristol's brief flirtation with being right about something, it's critical to underscore that Bill Kristol is one of the conservative strategists responsible for the ascendancy of Trump. Kristol, for all of his smug wonkiness, actually set the table for the dumbing down of his party.

Back in 2007, Kristol was responsible for scouting for a game-changing presidential candidate who could, at that time, take on Hillary Clinton. During a conservative-themed cruise to Alaska, Kristol and several other operatives visited with a little-known governor named Sarah Palin; and, in spite of what had to have been her obvious lack of intellectual curiosity or grasp of basic sentence structure, Kristol's team enthusiastically added her name to a short-list that would eventually find its way to John McCain the following year.

Prior to the Palin ordeal, there was George W. Bush. Kristol was closely associated with the Bush administration and its strategy of political expedience over long-term policy success. The aforementioned Iraq War, for example, was so poorly conceived and so shoddily executed partly due to Kristol's neocon planning and fantastical expectations about how nation-building in the Middle East might turn out. Additionally, it was designed to all but assure a successful reelection campaign for Bush since presidencies rarely change hands in the early days of a war. Never mind the cost in lives or money, this was about fulfilling a frivolous political goal, and it was sold with all of the patriotic bubble-gum crapola and superlative pronouncements that effectively conditioned Republicans to embrace the politics of Donald Trump.

Taken as a whole, operatives like Kristol skewed the trajectory of their party from being a relatively balanced mix of populist and ideological into a political outfit that's solely interested in winning at any cost, consistent policy ideas be damned -- even if it means glaring contradictions, or nominating an empty suit like Trump, Palin or Bush, or if it means bankrupting the treasury with ill-conceived tax cuts and a harrowing war. Kristol's GOP is about stunt-casting and pandering to the basest human instincts of its voters, and he bears partial responsibility for all that. Kristol, however, will never own his wrongness, nor will he ever admit that he built this. Kristol crapped the bed and instead of running away, he should have to sleep in it. But as we've said before, the party of personal responsibility so rarely is.

One more thing. Kristol tweeted on Wednesday that Ben Carson will overtake Trump in the polls next week. Sorry, Dr. Carson.

'Republicans Are Making A Huge Mistake'

By Bob Cesca

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon. He's also the host of "The Bob Cesca Show" podcast, and a weekly guest on both the "Stephanie Miller Show" and "Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Contribute through LaterPay to support Bob's Salon articles -- all money donated goes directly to the writer.


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2016 Elections Aol_on Bill Kristol Dick Cheney Donald Trump Elections 2016 Gop Debate Gop Primary