In which a villager (h/t Digby) explains more than they meant to about how their business works
A source close to the Times familiar with the decision not to renew Kristol’s contract makes clear that his neoconservative ideology and viewpoints were not a problem—Kristol’s proximity to key Washington players ranging from Bush and Cheney to John McCain (whom he supported in 2000) was considered a distinct plus. His leading advocacy of the Iraq War also added to his appeal. Kristol was viewed as a mover and shaker whose ideas had ready impact on the political firmament in Washington.
The problems that emerged were more fundamental. Kristol’s writing wasn’t compelling or even very careful. He either lacked a talent for solid opinion journalism or wasn’t putting his heart into it. A give-away came in the form of four corrections the newspaper was forced to run over factual mistakes in the columns, creating an impression that they were rushed out without due diligence or attention to factual claims. A senior writer at Time magazine recounted to me a similar experience with Kristol following his stint in 2006-07. “His conservative ideas were cutting edge and influential,” I was told. “But his sloppy writing and failure to fact check what he wrote made us queasy.”
Mover! Shaker! Impact! Fresh! Important!
And that, in microcosm, is what’s wrong with the way "influence" is handed out these days. Opinion columnists are supposed to approach the facts through a partisan filter. William Kristol doesn’t approach them at all. His career arc has been unaffected by his lack of intellectual rigor because he’s not there to think. He’s there because his name is Kristol, and his family connections impress the people who hire him (or, sometimes, like Sulzberger fils, are the people who hire him), and he pisses off liberals. This, clearly, amuses the usual suspects sufficiently to keep him in work.
Unfortunately for him, his mid-life crisis Sarah Palin episode caused him to turn the spite-hose on a significant portion of his own party – and arguably help to take it down – and I guess his friends at the Times don’t find it charming any more.
As ever, though, he’s failing upwards. Mr. Kristol will be helping to fill the bleeding ideological wound left by the departure of the similarly-qualified Deb Howell at the Washington Post.