William Kristol: Future Imperfect

12/25/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

"It's dangerous to make predictions, especially about the future," said Sam Goldwyn or Will Rogers or maybe both. Still, it is hard to imagine any prognosticator being so stunningly wrong as William Kristol in "Why Bush Will Be a Winner," a Washington Post op-ed 15 July 2007.

Kristol divides Bush's "successes" into heroic domestic and international feats.

"The economy first: After the bursting of the dot-com bubble, followed by the attacks of Sept. 11 2001, we've had more than five years of steady growth, low unemployment and a stock market recovery." I am not making this up. Kristol credits the tax cuts.

At the time, the Dow Jones was around 14,000. Last week it dropped to 7,500 and oozed back over 8,000 only because of action by President-elect Obama: he appointed Tim Geithner as Treasury Secretary. The news rocketed up the DJ 500 points in a single day. Some have called for Bush to let Geithner take over now. The nation lost 1,200,000 jobs this year alone (so far, two months to go -- November numbers are not in). The unemployment rate just hurdled 6.5% and is 6.9% in Silicon Valley. Some projections run as high as 10% before the debacle starts to abate.

"Bush has also resisted domestic protectionist pressures, thereby helping sustain global economic growth." That's sure to be a knee-slapper in slumping Germany and Japan and basket case Iceland. Bloomberg News the other day said the entire euro area was in recession. A friend in England wrote, yesterday, "It is very grim here."

Kristol lauds the Medicare drug program which, so far as I know has been a boon mostly to Big Pharma.

With the "success" of the tax cuts and Medicare-D, Kristol contends Bush has been "vindicated" on his two biggest domestic programs. As for his two biggest domestic failures, immigration and privatizing social security, Kristol expects "that something similar to what Bush proposed will end up as law over the next several years."

Kristol has not one word about the detested No Child Left Behind.

As for international affairs, Kristol finds, "no second terrorist attack on U. S. soil." Well, OK, but Why was there a first attack? If Bush, and Cheney and Rice had paid any attention to the available intelligence, the skyscrapers would still be standing. Will they ever be held accountable for their utter irresponsibility in not preventing the demolition of the WTC?

Kristol says that if we had not gone in, Hussein "might well have restarted his nuclear program, and his connections with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups would be intact or revived and even strengthened." So! There is at least one other person on the globe besides Dick Cheney who still thinks that Hussein and al-Qaeda were dancing in the dark. Kristol apparently dismisses the fact that before the invasion bin Laden called Hussein an "infidel" and urged Muslims to support the Iraqi people, not the government.

But, says Kristol, Bush has to win in Iraq to have any hopes of being judged successful, but he thinks we can and that "we can probably begin to draw down in mid- to late 2008." That gives Bush 38 days to become successful, 58 if you include the time to Obama's inauguration. Don't expect any major policy announcements.

"The war in Afghanistan has gone reasonably well." One wonders if Kristol was munching on some derivative of the Taliban's poppies when he wrote that. All I hear is "Send us more troops! Send us more troops!" But there are no more troops to send! Unless you take them out of Iraq. Hell, send Halliburton, KBR and the Carlyle Group to do the fighting; let 'em do something other than suck up money. People from Bear Stearns and IndyMac, and Lehman Brothers have nothing to do. Given 'em AK-47s and a one way ticket to Baghdad.

"I assume Bush will deal with them (Afghani Taliban hiding in Pakistan) with a combination of air strikes and special operations." This he has done, although we can't know much about the special ops except that we seem to have a knack for bombing weddings. But in the November 23 New York Times, Nicholas Kristof writes, "people from those areas (of Pakistan) tell me that these strikes just antagonize tribal leaders and make them more supportive of the Taliban." Kristof also writes, "Barack Obama's most difficult international test next year will very likely be here in Pakistan. A country with 170 million people and up to 60 nuclear weapons may be collapsing."

So much for Bush's international triumphs.

"What it comes down to is this: If Petraeus succeeds in Iraq, and a Republican wins in 2008, Bush will be viewed as a successful president." One down, one to go.

Kristol's last comment: "I like the odds." Mr. Kristol, could I interest you in a few rounds of Texas Holdem?