Monday, January 14, 2008

Praising with Faint Damns

The New York Times took a lot of flack for hiring William Kristol as an op-ed columnist, including a lot of harsh e-mail and blog postings. Yesterday, Clark Hoyt, the public editor (that is, ombudsman) for the Times, responded to the outcry, saying that the hiring of Mr. Kristol was greeted with shock and angry disbelief by a lot of the newspaper’s staff, but, in his words, “he may be unwelcome, but we’ll survive.”

Kristol would not have been my choice to join David Brooks as a second conservative voice in the mix of Times columnists, but the reaction is beyond reason. Hiring Kristol the worst idea ever? I can think of many worse. Hanging someone from a lamppost to be beaten by a mob because of his ideas? And that is from a liberal, defined by Webster as “one who is open-minded.” What have we come to?

That said — the Grey Lady’s version of “chill out, man” — Mr. Hoyt went on to pretty much agree with the complaints about Mr. Kristol’s record, including that of accusing the Times of treason and calling the paper “irredeemable.”

This is a decision I would not have made. But it is not the end of the world. Everyone should take a deep breath and calm down. [William] Safire was greeted with jeers and got off to a rocky start, calling Watergate “a tempest in a Teapot Dome” before eventually acknowledging that he had been “grandly, gloriously, egregiously wrong.” He went on to a distinguished, 32-year career at The Times and, agree or disagree with him, he was a compelling presence on the Op-Ed page. (He still writes a column on language in the Sunday magazine.)

Kristol was hired on a one-year contract for what amounts to a mutual tryout. He will continue as editor of The Weekly Standard and on Fox, but Rosenthal said Kristol would not advise candidates or take any other active part in the presidential campaign. If Kristol is another Safire, he has the chance to prove it. If not, he and the newspaper will move on, and the search will resume.

In other words, Bill, don’t get too cozy in your little cubicle.

For the record, I didn’t object to the hiring, operating on the premise that Mr. Kristol’s own work would prove that he was a poor choice. In his very first column he miscalled the results of the New Hampshire primary and mis-attributed a quote, mistaking Michael Medved for Michelle Malkin. (For the record, Bill, Mr. Medved is the one with the mustache.)

Today he continues his winning streak by reassuring America that the surge in Iraq worked and that the Democrats got it all wrong, much to their chagrin. Actually, 2007 was the bloodiest year in Iraq for America, and while the violence may have decreased in Baghdad, it’s up in other places. And one of the points of the surge was to give the Iraqi government a chance to get its act together and start to actually, y’know, govern. So far, that hasn’t happened. (Oh, wait…they passed one law. Wow! Champagne and caviar all around!)

0 for 2, Mr. Kristol. Keep this up and you’ll become the Miami Dolphins of punditry.