By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The trouble with Bill Kristol

In my latest for the Guardian, I take a look at the New York Times’ decision to give an op-ed-page column to William Kristol. The problem, I argue, isn’t that he’s a neocon who was wrong about Iraq and who’s being irresponsible about Iran. Rather, it’s that the Times has bent its ethical rules to give a platform to someone who sees journalism as just another form of political partisanship.

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  1. Peter Porcupine

    I read your piece, and it seems to me that there will be plenty of caveat for the emptors.He isn’t becoming a journalist – he’s doing a one year gig writing opinion, which will probably have more warning labels affixed than a pack of cigarettes. At least, his work should have a disclaimer that he is a temporary columnist, involved with the GOP, and may make your eyes burn if you look directly at his work.If he takes a genuine staff position, then yes – he should be bound by the non-partisan policies and donation policies of other employees. But he isn’t becoming an employee, he is a subcontractor, and should not have to assume responsibilites if no commensurate treatment and benefits are offered.(The stuff about George Will and Krauthammer – now THAT is wrong!)

  2. Brian F.

    But many of the Times columnists use their column for political partisanship: Maureen Down, Tom Friedman, and Frank Rich come to mind.

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Brian: Taking a strong political point of view is what a columnist is supposed to do. It doesn’t make you or her a political partisan. Making campaign contributions and offering private advice to politicians (including the president) makes you a partisan.David Brooks and William Kristol hold similar points of view. Brooks is not a partisan. Kristol is.

  4. Dan Kennedy

    PP: What’s the value? Either hire Kristol and make him follow the code of ethics, or don’t hire him. There is zero value to pursuing this in-between, winky-winky one-year gig.

  5. DJS

    The public square desperately needs a strong, articulate conservative voice to argue for restraint — in spending, the application of American power and citizens’ expectations of what government can and should accomplish.You can imagine the disappointment, then, among many of my friends and me (all of us under 40) when the Times named Kristol its newest ‘conservative’ columnist. He and his Neocon “apparatchiks” have driven the conservative movement into intellectual and moral bankruptcy, and have left us without a means of sounding our political voices.Thank god we’ve got Andrew Sullivan.That Dan should also question Kristol’s willingness to observe journalistic ethical standards — or to restrain himself — should surprise no-one.Doug

  6. Peter Porcupine

    DK: There are professional journalists, and there are what might be termed gifted amateurs. Professional journalists abide by the Canon, espouse objectivity, are relentlessly fact checked, etc. Gifted amateurs, however, are good opinion writers who HAVE a day job elsewhere. Usually, they are limited to an occasional ‘My View’-type guest editorial; but really, why not have a limited run engagement? As long as it is properly noted that the person has other entanglements, and is strictly writing their own opinion, and is not subject to the paper’s ethics policy – it allows readers to enjoy good writing, perhaps from fresher sources and new perspectives.

  7. Anonymous

    A former chief of staff to Quale is compared to Frank Rich? I found it odd and disappointing that the NYT would use the word “intolerant” to describe the anti-Kristol voices out there. Were we also intolerant, of Judy Miller after the tubes fiasco? If Kristol’s surname were say Kane, he wouldn’t have got this gig.

  8. Anonymous

    A former chief of staff to Quale is compared to Frank Rich?I think you’re missing the fact that Peter Porcupine, the most pro-Kristol voice on this thread, is a member of the Mass. Republican State Committee. “Fresher sources and new perspectives” are relative, especially when you’re talking manure. So is ethics.

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