“Mitt in Talks for 3rd Party Bid” ran the Boston Herald‘s headline this Sunday. “Jesus Christ,” I thought to myself, “what’s Bill Kristol up to now?”
That’s what I like about Bill: He’s predictable. The problem, I guess, is that he’s predictably batshit crazy. If you see a headline that says “Top Conservative Calls for War with Russia,” you can be sure it’s Bill. “Republican Journalist Defends NSA”? That’s Bill, too. “Fall of Saddam Caused “Very Healthy” Chain Reaction”? Yep, Bill.
Sure enough, Mitt’s in talks with none other than Bill“and literally no one other than Bill. It was just Romney and Kristol, having a chat at a Washington Marriott “over a couple of glasses of water.” This is what it’s come to for Billy Boy, I guess. He doesn”t even get the dignity of a smoke-filled back room”just a tap-water-soaked hotel tryst.
Bill Kristol’s kind of like Matthew McConaughey. Everyone seems to hate his work, and yet he keeps getting more of it. For years he was the butt of every cheap joke in the industry, but now you can”t help but feel bad for him, knowing his professional career has amounted to virtually nothing. And the worst part is that he doesn”t even realize it. He struts on stage with that toothy, arrogant grin like he’s a singular act of God and it’s our privilege to be alive at just this moment in history to witness him practice his craft.
The worst part is that The Weekly Standard, on the whole, isn”t a bad magazine. Steven Hayes is a decent commentator, albeit in the way David Brooks is a serious conservative thinker: He uses a lot of words to say nothing in particular, so he’s never really wrong. Kristol, to his credit, has been more forthright in his opinions; but he’s never been right about any subject he’s weighted in on. He said the Iraq War would last two months. He said it would cow Syria and bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table with Israel. And it goes on and on.
But now it looks like Kristol is using his role as the right’s dupe-in-residence to his advantage. Republican strategist Ford O”Connell is quoted in the Herald piece as saying, “There’s no way a third party candidate can win or have anyone but Hillary Clinton win.” That’s obvious to everyone. It must be obvious even to Bill Kristol, to whom nothing is obvious. He told Joe Scarborough in December 2015 that Trump had peaked. He repeated his claim again in late January, accepting the risk of “further and repeated ridicule.” (You always do, Bill.) He was certain Trump’s downfall was nigh when he attacked The Weekly Standard, that venerable publication so revered by the Republican base. (Average Weekly Standard reader: men in their 60s worth $2 million.) And Kristol maintained consistently that The Donald wouldn”t win the GOP nomination”until he basically did, at which point Kristol started floating names for a third-party anti-Trump run. (My favorite: Likud.)
But again, he must know that it’s never going to work. Which is where the rare brilliance of Bill Kristol reveals itself. In March he went on record saying that he”d prefer a President Hillary Clinton to a President Donald Trump. This is how he gets his wish. God knows why, but people do listen to Bill Kristol. If he says there’s a shot at a third-party victory, precedence tells us that a sizable chunk of the Establishment will believe him. The third-party bid will siphon votes away from the Republican nominee and hand the election to Hilldawg”just as Kristol would have it.
The only question remaining is whether Romney and the party elite are dumb enough to fall for this ruse. Alas, precedence tells us that they will be. “History repeats itself,” Marx quipped, “first as tragedy, then as farce.” Forty-five hundred dead American soldiers and the complete destabilization of the Middle East were the tragedy of Republicans heeding Bill Kristol’s word. Everything subsequent has been farce after farce after farce.
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