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:
We will fight Bannon for control of the Republican Party. And if we lose the party, we will fight for the country.https://t.co/7UqQDCg8aZ
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) October 10, 2017
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.