Sept 30, 2008
We liberals and progressives (I count myself one of the latter) were shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you, when The New York Times took on one of the Far Right’s loudest barking dogs, Bill Kristol, as a weekly columnist. “How could they do that?” the question was asked. After all, he’s got his own weekly right-wing Republican ScreamPaper, Rupert Murdoch’s The Weekly Standard. And he is a standard feature of the Fox “News” Channel’s flock of “political analysts,” otherwise known as Republican flacks. How could they? Well, now we know.
It has been becoming increasingly obvious that the reason The Times took on Kristol has nothing to do with “balance.” They’ve got their resident right-winger, David Brooks (although admittedly somehow he does manage to say something sensible every now and then). And they are suppressive/censorial of certain types of real news such that the highly estimable Media Matters does go after them every now and again. So “balance” it ain’t. Actually, with the publication of Kristol’s latest column, “How McCain Wins” (The New York Times, Sept. 29, 2008) it has become clear that what The Times had in mind was nothing but exposure — exposure of what a fatuous, outdated, head-in-the-sand “thinker” (if one can actually use that term to describe Kristol) the man is.
First, a little background. Bill Kristol’s dad was Irving Kristol, one of the most prominent of the neo-right-wingers, the predecessors of the current generation of “neo-conservatives,” better entitled “neo-cons” for the great con jobs they have run on the American people over the last 30 years. They started out life as left-wingers of a sort, going back to the 30s and 40s. But they were a special sort. While they supported much of the New Deal domestically, on foreign policy, they were known as “Trotskyites.”
Leon Trotsky (born Lev Bronstein) was one of the lions of the Russian Revolution. He was one of the most prominent leaders of the failed 1905 Revolution. After serving a prison term, he was exiled and actually came to The Bronx, where he supported himself and his family in part by working as a tailor. He returned to Russia at the outbreak of the 1917 revolution. (It has been said that a New York newspaper headlined: “Bronx Tailor Makes Revolution in Russia,” or some such.) Lenin asked him to organize what came to be known as The Red Army, the fighting force that eventually won the Russian Civil War (the opposition having been heavily supported by Western powers lead by the U.S. and the UK). In addition to his remarkable organizing skills (for he was not a military man), he also had an outsized intellect and was one of the great 20th theorists of socialism. One of his principal dicta was that “socialism could not succeed in one country.” A rival of Stalin’s, he famously said in 1926 that if Stalin ever came to power in the USSR, he would become “the grave-digger of Communism.” How prophetic he was, on both counts.
Irv Kristol’s generation became interested in Trotsky’s thinking during his second exile, at the hands of Stalin, in the 1930s. But they quickly moved from a focus on his revolutionary theories to become a center of anti-Sovietism. Domestically in the United States that was soon turned into anti-Communism, beginning in the 1940s. Pre-McCarthyite crackdowns on civil liberties for U.S. Communist Party members lead by Martin Dies’ House Un-American Activities Committee (which had been created before WWII as a political focus for anti-New Dealers) began before the outbreak of World War II. Prominent “Trotskyites” such as the Kristol compatriot Sidney Hook proclaimed that Communists were somehow “different” as people and thus were not entitled to such protections. The essence of this kind of “Trotskyism” was to be against something: The Soviet Union under Stalin, “international communism,” domestic communism. Always against, never for, anything (other than, since Reagan, unrestrained capitalism).
And so, when the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 90s, these folks were left at a loss. By golly, they would seem to have won. But actually, they were adrift. All of their focus had been on the Soviet Union and how terrible it was, and now they had no enemies. Oh dear. And so came the Project for the New American Century, which, proposing to establish American hegemony over the whole world, sort of made the whole world the new enemy. Being a bit too generic, however, the focus first fell on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, a former U.S. ally against Iran. These folks were proposing an Iraq Attack beginning in the mid-90s. Well, they got their wish. But while their men in the White House got rid of Saddam, by golly they had that problem again: no enemy.
Al Qaida was a good stand-in for a while, but for whatever reasons it hasn’t stood the test of time. Amorphous as it is, the “War on Terror” doesn’t seem to be grabbing too many people in the U.S. any more, as its costs in U.S. lives and treasure keep mounting, with no end in sight. The neo-cons have tried to gin up Islamophobia, hatred of all Muslims, but that isn’t going too well either. The bulk of Muslims in the U.S. that non-Muslim U.S. citizens know seems like pretty ordinary people, and indeed they are. So, oh my what-to-do? Well, Bill Kristol tells us, in the aforementioned column.
How is McCain to win? By going after the “liberals,” “liberalism,” and “liberal orthodoxy.” Kristol doesn’t bother to mention that the latter includes such elements as some sort of national health insurance, rescuing our failing educational system, doing something real about global warming before it overwhelms our species and numerous others at the same time, ending nuclear proliferation, developing a rational energy policy, returning to a diplomacy-first/shoot-later foreign policy, and so and so forth, actually taking as the Statement of Purpose for the U.S. Federal Government the Preamble to the Constitution, which is nothing if not liberal.
No, “liberalism” is to be condemned without defining it, as Limbaugh/Hannity/O’Reilly and their clones in the Republican Scream Machine have been doing for years now. “Liberal” is to be equated with “Commie.” The solution to all of the nation’s ills, as Limbaugh tells us every day (and yes, I do force myself to listen to him now and again) is to “get rid of the liberals,” who are, naturally, the cause of all of the nation’s problems. Just how this is to be done, Limbaugh does not yet specify. And so here is Kristol, always needing to be against, never for, showing just what a member of the Scream Machine crowd he is: “The core case against Obama is pretty simple: he’s too liberal.”
Thank you, The New York Times. For those of us who do not have the time or patience to read him in The Weekly Standard or listen to him on the Fox “News” Channel, we now can find out exactly who this man is and what he stands for, without spending more than a few minutes a week doing so.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor of 30 books. He has also published numerous articles and reviews in both the academic and the lay literature on health policy, health and wellness, and athletics. On politics Dr. Jonas is a www.TPJmagazine.us Contributing Author; a regular Columnist for the webmagazine Buzz Flash; a Special Contributing Editor for Cyrano’s Journal Online; a Contributing Columnist for the Project for the Old American Century, POAC; and a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad.