The first political campaign I volunteered for was the Bush-Quayle race in 1992. I had graduated from college a few years earlier and had big dreams of someday being the White House press secretary (I’m still available!). I worked phone banks, registered voters, and put up yard signs in my very Republican suburban area of DuPage County, Illinois.
The loss that night to Bill Clinton was heartbreaking. The only post-election bright spot was the emergence of rising political star Bill Kristol, Dan Quayle’s chief of staff. Kristol caught my eye during the campaign and I developed a big crush on him; he was smart, measured, and policy-driven.
In January 1993, I flew to Washington DC to attend National Review’s first conservative summit. I had reached out to Kristol’s office and he graciously agreed to meet with me at the event. He was very polite and encouraging of my nascent political career. It was a brief meeting, but I was thrilled nonetheless. The next day, I saw him again and he literally walked over a coffee table or some type of decorative plant to avoid me. I’m pretty sure he thought I was a stalker—and he might have been right.
Bill Kristol Used to Be So Great
For several years, I followed Kristol closely. I had started working for a very conservative state senator who was also a Kristol fan. There’s no question Kristol helped Republicans find their voice during the early Clinton years and it contributed to Republicans winning control of Congress in 1994. I subscribed to his new magazine, The Weekly Standard, and even read Irving Kristol’s book, “Two Cheers for Capitalism.” (Jeez, I was a stalker). I was really happy when he started appearing on the Sunday morning shows because he was feisty and a fierce defender of conservative principles.
Sometimes I did not agree with him, such as when he promoted Sarah Palin for vice president, whom I considered woefully inexperienced and unprepared. (See, even stalkers have moments of lucidity.) When I joined Twitter about two years ago, his was one of the first accounts I followed.
But it was not the same Bill Kristol. I, like Kristol, did not support Donald Trump in the primary. I never thought he would win the primary. But he did, and after considering my options, I decided I would vote for Trump.
As the presidential campaign heated up, Kristol’s rants against Trump became more intolerable and his judgement more skewed. He weirdly promoted the candidacy of Evan McMullin, a political lightweight with a thin resume, grating style, and massive ego. Kristol completely flipped out on MSNBC a few weeks before the election, calling Trump a “failed, fluke candidate” who should be ignored on election night because he would lose. He fought with MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, who accused Kristol of being bitter and “practically crying” about Trump’s candidacy.
Now It’s Crazy Time
Sadly, this brilliant man has become a bit unhinged. His Twitter timeline now is fuel for the deranged anti-Trump tribe. He’s openly trolling the president in a middle-school fashion like this:
He actively promotes the Trump-Russia conspiracy. His January 14 tweet, “It’s telling, I’m afraid, that Donald Trump treats Vladimir Putin with more respect than he does John Lewis,” was retweeted nearly 52,000 times, presumably mostly by liberals. That’s straight out of Paul Krugman’s playbook.
His comments since Inauguration Day have disintegrated into a pettiness unbefitting a man of Kristol’s intellectual heft and influence. Kristol said it was “depressing and vulgar to hear an American president proclaim America First” in Trump’s inauguration address, and that it was the most un-American address ever.
One day into Trump’s administration, Kristol declared he would not get used to the “unprecedented vulgarization” of the presidency. He’s mocked Sean Spicer, Kellyanne Conway, and Ivanka Trump. He referred to Trump’s immigration executive order as “Breitbart-like boob bait for the bubbas” and compared Trump’s presidency, less than one month old, to President Nixon’s second term. He made some odd comments about the lazy white working-class clipping coupons and how immigrants, not Americans, are really the hard workers.
Then this shot a few days ago: “Honest Q for conservatives who aren’t just working with or around Trump, but rationalizing him: In your heart, don’t you know you’re wrong?” Wrong about what? Nominating an education secretary who supports school choice? Rolling back burdensome, costly federal regulations? Prioritizing national security? These are all things conservatives support.
Please Get Mugged by Reality Soon
It’s totally fair and necessary to hold President Trump accountable. Some of his comments and behavior are disconcerting and worthy of thoughtful criticism. But for someone like Kristol to openly advocate bureaucratic subversion—“Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state” as he tweeted on February 14—is inimical to everything conservatives believe.
Maybe Kristol has some grand strategy I don’t see. Or maybe he is David Brooks 2.0. In one Twitter poll he initiated last month, Kristol asked which event, the inauguration, the March for Life, or the Women’s March, gave people the most hope for the future. After nearly 40,000 people voted, the Women’s March won with 63 percent of the vote. That should tell you who Kristol’s new fan base is.
So I have to break up with him for now. I hold out hope that this very smart man will be mugged by reality (as his father famously said), emerge from his Trumpian-Nixonian dystopia, and once again play a valuable role as a thought leader instead of a sore loser still trying to prove he was right.
Bill, it’s not me. It’s you.