The New York Times has made it official: today is Weekly Standard editor William Kristol's final column for the paper. His career was brief, perhaps most noteworthy not for Kristol's conservative opinions, but for the errors he made. But hubris wasn't Kristol's problem. Rather the reverse. It seemed like his heart wasn't really in it any longer. Kristol's problem, I suspect, is that he's beginning to lose faith in the conservative movement itself, which is why his column today sounds a rather unusual note.
Instead of frothing at the mouth about Obama's perfidy, Kristol essentially acknowledges that he's the real thing. He even likens him to neocon hero Ronald Reagan. According to Kristol, "Still, there will be trying times during Obama's presidency, and liberty will need staunch defenders. Can Obama reshape liberalism to be, as it was under F.D.R., a fighting faith, unapologetically patriotic and strong in the defense of liberty? That would be a service to our country."
This is a huge concession, at least for Kristol. It suggests, indeed, that, like David Brooks, Kristol is coming around to the view that Obama's election may even be a good thing.
In my view, it's also further evidence that the right itself is cracking up and that Obama is accelerating its destruction. By peeling off leading commentators on the right, Obama has a chance -- not a big one, mind you, but still a chance -- to create the bipartisan political environment that he promised during the campaign. The real retrograde forces are among the House Republicans, who are champing at the bit to prove their ideological bona fides by voting against Obama's stimlus program. Let them. Their antics offer Obama a golden opportunity to continue to marginalize the fringe right.
For now, the comments of Kristol and David Frum, who has been highly critical of the Republican leadership, indicate that there is movement inside the GOP's cadre of thinkers. No doubt many will celebrate Kristol's exit. But after decades on the right, the neocons are returning to their liberal origins. Isn't it interesting that Kristol's most interesting op-ed came at the end and could have been titled "In Defense of Liberalism"?
So much, at any rate for the liberal media conspiracy theory. Kristol was probably let go by the Times, not because he was too conservative, but not conservative enough.