Monday, January 26, 2009

Krazy Bill Kristol heads to WaPo

By Michael J.W. Stickings

If you haven't yet, make sure to check out Mustang Bobby's great post from this morning on Krazy Bill Kristol and the occasion of his last column for The New York Times. The Times, like Time before it, dumped Kristol following a relatively brief op-ed tenure writing what Steve Benen rightly calls "misguided, predictable, and dull columns" -- not to mention blooper-filled.

But it looks like we'll still have Kristol to kick around -- and not just because he still has The Weekly Standard and his regular gig on Fox News, platforms of right-wing prominence that allow him to spew his misguided and predictable, not to mention dull, views. No, Kristol, it seems, is taking his neocon delusions to the Post -- The Washington Post, that is -- where he'll be an "occasional contributor," perhaps even a monthly columnist.

Benen: "In what universe does the nation's second most prominent newspaper decide it wants to pay and publish the failed cast-off of its chief rival? In most careers, falling up isn't this easy. If you keep getting fired for poor performance, it's usually difficult to find new companies willing to pay you to do the same job."

Not so for Kristol, who has not just right-wing media outlets but some of the country's (and the world's) most prominent publications lining up for his services (and providing a safety net time and time again).

But, then, should we be surprised by his latest career development? No. After all, while the Post is without doubt one of America's leading newspapers, its op-ed page is hardly a bastion of balance, let alone of liberalism, and its editorial content has shown a similar, if less blatant, tilt to the right. Even in a more minor role, Kristol joins two of the right's leading commentators, George Will (twice-weekly) and Charles Krauthammer (weekly), as well as ex-Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson (twice-weekly). Another giant of the conservative punditocracy, Bob Novak, was a prominent figure at the Post until his recent illness, Kristol's fellow neocon Robert Kagan was a sometime contributor, Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt has been an establishmentarian Bush apologist (and is a pretty awful pundit generally), David Broder (twice-weekly), the so-called "dean" of the Washington press corps, is a GOP-friendly centrist, if not right-leaning altogether, David Ignatius (twice-weekly) is an establishmentarian insider, and Robert Samuelson (weekly) is a right-leaning economist.

And who do the liberals have? Richard Cohen (weekly), a blithering idiot? Anne Applebaum (weekly), a sober analyst who writes about foreign affairs? Okay, there's E.J. Dionne (twice-weekly), who's pretty good, if very much a centrist (the Dems need to expand their appeal to the right), and Eugene Robinson (twice-weekly), a solid liberal and frequent MSNBC talking head, as well as Fareed Zakaria, the CNN host/commentator, who runs the Post's PostGlobal with Ignatius and who is somewhat liberal in foreign policy terms, but that's about it. Michael Kinsley doesn't even write there anymore.

The problem with the Post is not just that it tilts right editorially but that, editorially, it is part of -- and, indeed, at the very center of -- the Beltway media machine. And, contrary to the right's rhetoric of victimization, that media machine is driven not by liberal bias, which is a myth, but by conservative spin (and the almighty dollar, that is, by the twin interests of media conglomerates who run the machine and the well-paid, sometimes millionaire members of the machine, the celebrity hosts and journalists and commentators and analysts who populate the major outlets, print and TV alike). And that spin, that aggressive push for "fairness" and "balance," pulls the media machine ever more to the right, so that what we end up with, or at least what we have now, for it seems to be getting worse, is what we find at the Post -- and that is, a major newspaper with an abundance of conservatives and conservative-leaning voices, a few centrists who pass for liberals in a right-leaning climate, and a couple of genuine liberals who aren't nearly as prominent as their conservative counterparts (nothing against Robinson, but he's hardly a Will or a Krauthammer, or a Kristol, in terms of stature).

And now, as if to drive the point home, the Post has hired Kristol, the fired failure of Time and the Times, for no other purpose at all, it would seem, other than to do what he does best, which is to spew Republican partisanship and neocon delusions and to pollute our minds with more misguided, predictable, and dull columns.

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