Put Up or Shut Up: Bill Kristol in 2018

In 1994, I ran for precinct committeeman in DuPage County, Illinois. At the time, it was one of the strongest Republican counties in the nation. I handed out my petitions, knocked on doors, made up little flyers, and phoned voters to ask for their support. I eked out a small victory over my opponents (two white men, no less!) and proudly represented my precinct at Republican political events for the next few years.

It was the only time my name has appeared on a ballot. But that is one more than the number of times Bill Kristol’s name has appeared on a ballot.

Kristol is the founder and editor-at-large of The Weekly Standard and inarguably the most anti-Trump of the NeverTrump Republicans. He has cleverly carved out a niche for himself as the Left’s go-to guy for a nasty comment or tweet about the president. Kristol’s criticism also extends to the president’s staff, family, and voters. He rants about Republicans in Congress who support Trump and smugly doles out advice about how they can usurp the president’s power and agenda. For all of Kristol’s invective, somehow Democrats have emerged untouched. It’s sad, really.

He is also a prolific political loser, notoriously backing unqualified, unappealing candidates with no chance of winning. This includes Alan Keyes, Sarah Palin, and Evan McMullin to name a few. He repeatedly said Trump would lose the primary; when he didn’t, Kristol insisted Trump would lose the general election in a landslide. Scores of articles catalog his lousy policy ideas, laughable endorsements, and failed predictions.

If you are running for office, beware the Curse of Kristol.

Yet none of this has dented Kristol’s ego or curbed the media’s appetite for his impulsive and petulant musings about Donald Trump. He makes one accusation after another, mocks every misstep, and pushes far-fetched conspiracy theories.

He even purports to know people’s innermost thoughts. On Sunday, Kristol devoted five tweets to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s interview on CNN and questioned why Tillerson won’t deny he called the president a moron. Clairvoyant Kristol concluded it was because Tillerson “wants it out there. He wants the world to know that’s what he thinks of Trump.”

Okayyyy, Bill. You do you.

Since Trump won the Republican nomination, Kristol has screeched about the GOP’s pending destruction. In an article in this week’s Weekly Standard, Kristol warns:

The GOP is now torn between demagogues who appeal to the lowest-common-denominator concerns of voters and establishment types who roam like zombies on a terrain they can no longer navigate, among citizens for whom they have little in the way of answers.

In a tweet promoting his article, Kristol threatens both demagogue and zombie with this:

As Tonto said to the Lone Ranger, “What do you mean ‘we,’ Kemosabe?” Kristol represents everything the Trump base (and every Trump voter I know) detest in politics: an entitled, out-of-touch prig who is part of an impotent Republican establishment that repeatedly caved to Barack Obama, watched our cultural institutions burn without lifting a finger, and is now devoid of energy, ability, or ideas. Kristol is King of the Zombies.

If Kristol wants to “fight for control,” he should stop launching grenades from behind his Twitter timeline. After three decades of making calls from the dugout, it’s time for Kristol to get off the bench and get into the game himself. After all, he is only 64-years-old. He presumably has plenty of personal wealth. He is not tethered to family obligations or a real job. He has name recognition, a loyal following on social media, and plenty of media IOUs. This is his shot.

There are great opportunities for Kristol to run in 2018. He could challenge Kirsten Gillibrand in New York, Tim Kaine in Virginia, Ben Cardin in Maryland, or Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and “fight for control of the Republican Party” from the world’s most deliberative body. (As a U.S. senator, Kristol would have, as he claimed of Tennessee’s Bob Corker on CNN last week, “the same status . . . in a certain way, as even the president.”)

Now it won’t be easy for a man of letters to run for office but someone as erudite and skillful as Kristol should manage easily. Just a few pointers:

  • Start your campaign by going to a public place, such as a Walmart or Target. Walk up to total strangers and ask them to sign your nominating petitions. When they ask why you are running or what your qualifications are, just throw out a few Dan Quayle references, mention how you started a magazine, or that you sometimes appear on CNN and spend most of your time on Twitter.
  • Make lots of phone calls to raise money. This is a humiliating exercise that few politicians enjoy but you should have no problem because you are accustomed to hobnobbing among the well-heeled in the Acela corridor. Just be sure none of the money can be traced to the Koch brothers, fossil fuel interests, or the Russians.
  • Develop your policy papers. You will need actually to come up with some ideas and solutions on your own, not just criticize the opposition. See if you can do it in more than 140 characters. Also, try to remember the “conservative” you once were because if any of your positions have changed, you will get nailed, bigly.
  • Vet your staff fully. You will probably be good at this since you have some kind of Spidey sense about what people think, want, and do. Oh, and no family members, either, because we know how much you disapprove of this.
  • Be prepared to have your entire life examined for every little misstatement and miscalculation. Talk about why you still think the TV character Murphy Brown should have been ashamed for having a child out of wedlock, the Iraq War was a great idea, and even why your wife just donated money to the Democratic candidate for Virginia governor, saying “I don’t think we should keep feeding the Republican pipeline with new officeholders if all they are going to do is toe the line and agree with every one of [Trump’s] policies.”
  • Go door-to-door, kiss babies at parades, work phone banks, shake hands with deplorables (ewww, gross, right?), answer stupid questions from reporters every day, and practice for debates.
  • Win. For once.

Now, of course, this exhortation could apply with equal force to any number of NeverTrump conservatives, and all political commentators regardless of party affiliation. But Kristol has set himself apart with his unending stream of damaging rhetoric and useless advice. If the stakes are as he claims, then he needs to put up or shut up.

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65 responses to “Put Up or Shut Up: Bill Kristol in 2018”

  1. Bill Kristol is a Bush republican…and we ALL know where that got us. No More…Bill Kristol

  2. Alan Keyes and Sarah Palin were fine candidates. Either of them would bring to bear decency, patriotism, and intelligence to the task of running the government. Your criticism is misplaced. We should be so lucky as to have thousands of such capable people in office around the country. Your article is a good one but I wish you’d lay off the gratuitous snark about people who aren’t even close to being the in the category of Kristol.

    • I also thought this was a significant flaw in an otherwise fine piece.

      And how did the whole pathetic David French episode escape mention?

      • That Dr. Strangelove instinct to throttle oneself seems to lurk deeply in the hearts of some conservatives. Not badly here in Ms. Kelly’s case but certainly in the ranks of erstwhile (read “pseudo”) conservatives. So much of the pathology of our politics and culture has come to light when someone who isn’t a member of the club enters unexpectedly from the sky. I looked up French and I only dimly remember his contribution. Another desperation candidate like “McMuffin” to whom geokstr refers below. That guy was a piece of work and clearly intended to play a spoiler role.

      • Same here. I absolutely hate when alleged “conservatives” buy into the media narrative of Sarah Palin. Such nonsense. She did a hell of a job as Governor in Alaska and was the only positive thing about the latter stages of the McCain campaign.

        Typically, if you want to know who the opposition fears, see who they attack most vociferously. For Democrats, that was obviously Sarah Palin. And then, after she was ousted from the Governorship in Alaska by over zealous Democrat lunatics, she did an awesome job with the Tea Party and getting great candidates nominated and elected that reflect ACTUAL conservative values, like Ted Cruz.

    • I was taken aback as well when she called Keyes and Palin “…unqualified, unappealing candidates with no chance of winning.”

      Both are solid conservatives and outstanding speakers. Neither requires a teleprompter to make great speeches.

      Palin is a flat-out energy policy expert and the most popular governor in the US at that time. She fought and beat the GOP establishment. She energized the conservative base when she was nominated: McCain took the lead in the polls for the first time just after he picked her. She clobbered Biden in their debate despite his dozens of falsehoods and half-truths.

      The Republican Party stood back and did nothing to help her when she and her family were subjected to the most nasty, scurrilous and dishonest character assassination campaign by the left in modern history, unrivaled in its viciousness until Trump and
      his supporters did the same to Cruz and his family in the primary.

      And “unappealing? She’s gorgeous.

      I know little about this Ewan McMuffin guy, except that he played Obi-Wan in the prequels.

      • It was a vicious pile on. I did not like Brit Hume’s disrespectful interview with her soon after her nomination.

        As with the Islam issue, feminists are hypocrites when real women’s issues are at issue. Palin was a woman of extraordinary accomplishment but she got no support from them.

        Alas, I don’t remember the campaign against Cruz and his family to which you refer. I don’t consider him a natural born citizen and Cruz was being coy about it. He seemed fair game for that but perhaps you refer to something else . . . .

        McMuffin was an odd duck and seemed intent only on playing a spoiler role.

      • McMuffin was McCain. Both are for themselves first in the political arena.

      • You didn’t follow Breitbart after Bannon took it over and the alt-right slime infested it from the white supremacist and conspiracy sites, and left thousands of sleazy foul-mouthed comments about Cruz and his family there and on every other conservative site?

        They said his father was working with Oswald to kill JFK based on a blurry picture in the Nat’t Enquirer, owned by Trump’s BFF, and known for stories like “My Baby was a Two-Headed Alien from Arcturus”.

        They called his wife ugly, a globalist and a pawn of Goldman-Sachs and much more, some of it extremely sick and nasty..

        The same Nat’l Enquirer “reported” on 5 women rumored to have affairs with Cruz in an “exclusive” that even leftwing wouldn’t touch. They all denied it and it quickly faded away, but the alt-right kept it going on-line for a long time.

        Trump made sure he was asked about both JFK and the mythical affairs at all his pressers, so he could coyly answer “I don’t know anything about that, but it was “reported” in the “papers” so it should be investigated.”

        Trump is on record that he had no problem with Cruz’ citizenship because courts had looked into it and found him to be a citizen, as had state election boards, who all put him on their ballot. Until Cruz starting showing well in the polls and suddenly, both he and his hate-filled shock troops went crazy over it.

        For at least seven months,very time he mentioned Cruz, including on national TV shows he called him “lyin’ Ted” and instead of following up by asking what Cruz lied about, the host would just chuckle and move on. Trump would never say specifically what Cruz lied about. It was a juvenile insult based on nothing, repeated over and over using the Big Lie tactic, a favorite of the left.

        On every post on the web that mentions Cruz even now, the alt-right white supremacists still show up and inundate it with calls of “traitor”, “RINO”, “globalist” and threats to primary him in 2018. If they do, Trump might as well say he’s not running in 2020, because of millions of conservative votes will go bye-bye.

        Although he won’t admit it, I think Trump couldn’t condemn them by name after Charlottesville because he owes his stormtroopers a LOT.

      • I think I have to issue a hyperbole alert on this play. “White supremacist,” “filth,” and “storm troopers” is language that doesn’t merit a serious response other than to say that it wasn’t a question of Cruz’s citizenship but whether he was a natural born citizen. He wasn’t and he was anything but forthcoming on even his citizenship. I don’t remember the particulars but ISTR that he published only his mother’s birth certificate. His statutorily-based claim to citizenship required more than that. So, I’ll say that the “lyin’ Ted” characterization was accurate.

        The Constitution is a joke to the political class in these times. Obama himself was put on the ballot by all the states and he, with his foreign father, most assuredly wasn’t a NBC. No one cared though. It’s all about who has the votes. The unconstitutional, aggressive war against Syrian and Libya proceed without objection from the Congress and the press. Cruz was part of this multifacted denigration of the Constitution. He belongs in the Senate and God bless him for the good work he does there.

  3. Never-Trumpers are the worst. Bill Kristol is their queen.

  4. How about “serve in the military before you gleefully send others off to die in your quixotic neo-conservative warmongering ventures.”

  5. Snort. Love the retort to Mr. Kristol. Yes, easy to criticize the game when you sit in a luxury box…

  6. Seems that once a name-brand `conservative’ of various flavors makes a Bigly wrong call, as Kristol, Brooks (NYT), Rubin & Will (WaPo) all did, their egos won’t allow them to simply confess that they went Bigly stupid to declare that they will be TRAITORS if Trump becomes the POTUS!

    Regardless of how crazy Trump seems or is, actually for that matter, ANYBODY running for POTUS (even a Al Sharpton or Harvey Weinstein), if such a person IS finally elected, for these `conservatives’ to continue to be Never-ANYBODY is simply TREASON!

    About 2 years since the rise of Trump, did anyone notice that the Never-Trumpers are now, Never-Relevant???

    • Peak Kristol was 1993 when he helped defeat Hillarycare. After that, pretty much all downhill.

  7. Corker the same status as POTUS? Corker is the corrupt former of Chattanooga that knows he will be primary’d OUT. So he “retired”. Kristol is the moron. His hate has rendered him so.

  8. Can’t decide who is a bigger always-wrong war-mongering prig: Kritol or David Frum?

  9. He made the list of 25 *conservatives* that liberals should be following on Twitter from Salon. Not for their great ideas, but for their relentless Trump bashing.

    • That’s like making the list of Stalin’s favorite NYT journalists.

  10. Thank you Julie for your trenchant observations. I was a huge fan of the prior generation of neo-cons, since I came from the same background as Bill’s father Irving, whom I revered, even though I am one of Bill’s contemporaries (but I went to CCNY like Irving). Unfortunately Bill and his ilk grew up in comfort and have little empathy with their parents’ struggles. They have become the “New Class” their parents warned us against.

    I let my subscription to the Weekly Standard lapse last year. From what you report, it looks like I made the right decision.

  11. Wow – that’s going to leave a mark! You knocked that one out of the park, J.K.!!

    • Curb-stomped that sanctimonious bed-wetter is what she did! Wow! Does anyone have a more punchable face than this smarmy, pompous buffoon?

  12. Well done, Julie Kelly. Here’s hoping that you revisit public service and aspire to a higher office.

    Bill Kristol is an elite, pompous ass.

  13. If not for his father, Bill Kristol would be teaching grade school civics somewhere.

    • If even that. Irving, he ain’t… not by a longshot.

      Of course, on looks, he could be Bob Woodward’s kid. But the math probably rules that out

  14. Good article, thanks for writing it.

    After listening to Kristol (whom I used to enjoy), I cancelled Weekly Standard and refuse to support him OR his magazine. People like this would rather have smooth talkers who pee our country away instead of rougher-around-the-edges guys like Trump. Who the hell cares if the policy, generally speaking, is good for the country?

  15. The best thing Kristol ever did was his excellent choice of parents. After that, it’s been all downhill.

  16. As Scott Adams, Dilbert cartoonist, explained shortly after the election and still holds true for many:

    “The setup is that during the Presidential campaign Trump’s critics accused him of being Hitler(ish) and they were sure other citizens would see it too, thus preventing this alleged monster from taking office.

    They were wrong. The alleged monster took office.

    Now you have literally millions of citizens in the United States who were either right about Trump being the next Hitler, and we will see that emerge from him soon, or they are complete morons. That’s a trigger for cognitive dissonance. The science says that these frightened folks will start interpreting all they see as Hitler type behavior no matter how rediculous it may seem to the objective observer. And sure enough we are seeing that ….”

    Bill Kristol’s has cognitive dissonance in spades.

  17. Bill Kristol can’t even get his toxic invective over-the-top anymore.
    He’s just tedious.


  18. You have 3 wishes. I wish these 3 people would just go away: Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Oba- NO, wait, Elizabeth War- NO, wait, got it! Bill Kristol!

  19. Thank you for writing this. Share with @therealrickwilson

  20. We all know people like Kristol don’t fight for Americans unless you’re a big corporate business owner or a illegal immigrant or a fake ass republican like Kristol. People like him make fun of Trump supporters and in his mind and the mind of others like him he got all he could get out of us Americans and now he will do the same to all the illegal immigrants until there fed up with it and say no more.

  21. My hat is off to President Trump for being able to go about his business with a pack of rabid Chihuahuas hanging on his pants cuffs. Even with all the constant obstruction, he’s a great president.

  22. Bill Kristol has me blocked. Before Trump won I sent him a picture of a dingy and said his cruise ship had been reduced to a dingy….Blocked. Kristol attracts liberals….My in-laws have went on the yearly cruise and think he’s nuts now. I say well done Kristol you’ve made yourself completely irrelevant.

  23. Thanks Julie Kelly. Bill Kristol will never leave the sanitized, sterile environment of cable shows, ship cruises, & the rag-mag he sells. I’ve watched this guy before & during the Bush and Obama presidencies, and now quickly switch channels when he’s on a show. That was then time I wasted.

  24. Bravo, Julie Kelly. Bill Kristol is truly a despicable example of hubris.

  25. Kristol is the founder and editor-at-large of The Weekly Standard and inarguably the most anti-Trump of the NeverTrump Republicans

    It is arguable. I think David Frum is worse, but it’s interesting you bring up Palin as a lose for Kristol. She was more than that. It could actually be argued that Kristol advising McCain to choose Palin was the earthquake that sent the tsunami surging towards 2016, a tsunami Trump surfed to the White House.

    In 2008, 2008!, Christopher Caldwell wrote this:

    “But the Palin pick was the electoral equivalent of an atomic bomb. It was one of those tactics that turns into a strategy. What the Palin pick did was to unleash a latent class tension in American life and turn the two parties, previously somewhat socially mixed, into vehicles of social classes. Prominent intellectuals who once leaned rightward sorted themselves into the Obama camp. So did most north-eastern Republicans. The party has focused on its proletarian rump. Rallies have grown more strident, with howls of ‘Communist!’ when Obama’s name is mentioned. McCain singled out an Ohio man — ‘Joe the Plumber’ — who had buttonholed Obama as he canvassed his neighbourhood. Soon McCain and Palin were
    building a following of tradesmen with sobriquets out of children’s books: Tito the Builder, Suzanne the Sandwich-Maker. There have been a lot of books lately urging Republicans to think more about the interests of their lower-middle-class base.”

    Kristol did himself in. Funny as heck, IMO!

  26. The whole POINT of being a famous pundit is that you never have to get down in the mud and get dirty. And no matter what happens to the proles down there under your ivory tower as a result of your idiotic political positions, it will never affect your phony-baloney job.

  27. Didn’t conservatives always say something like “I’d support a Filipino drag queen with pink hair if he/she fought for conservative principles”? Well, Trump is far from perfect, but he’s better than a Filipino drag queen with pink hair.

  28. Don’t underestimate Bill Kristol: Evan McMullin tipped the Minnesota race to Hillary, as his 53076 vote total was greater than Hillary’s 44,765 margin. Official results.