Maybe William Kristol needs a Mulligan

To prove I just don’t just pick on……. I won’t say that person’s name. Today’s example of haywire punditry goes to William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard and just made a columnist at the New York Times.

By now you have probably heard of Kristol attributing a quote to Michelle Malkin instead of Michael Medved.(At least he got the initials right. Sarcastic laughter time) Did anyone however notice how high Kristol’s piece ranks on the cliche meter?

James Fallows at The Atlantic Monthly did


Suppose you had just received one of the most important opportunities in opinion journalism: a regular op-ed column in the New York Times. Suppose it was all the more important because it gave you a base in what would normally be considered enemy territory, right there alongside Paul Krugman and Frank Rich and the NYT’s own editorials. Suppose your debut column came at a moment of peak political excitement, with the surprise of the Iowa caucuses just behind us and the New Hampshire primaries one day away.

In those circumstances, would this be the best you could come up with for the very first paragraphs of your very first column? It is what the new NYT columnist William Kristol has offered to introduce himself:

Thank you, Senator Obama. You’ve defeated Senator Clinton in Iowa. It looks as if you’re about to beat her in New Hampshire. There will be no Clinton Restoration. A nation turns its grateful eyes to you.

But gratitude for sparing us a third Clinton term only goes so far. Who, inquiring minds want to know, is going to spare us a first Obama term? After all, for all his ability and charm, Barack Obama is still a liberal Democrat. Some of us would much prefer a non-liberal and non-Democratic administration. We don’t want to increase the scope of the nanny state, we don’t want to undo the good done by the appointments of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, and we really don’t want to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory in Iraq.

I’m saying nothing about the content here. Indeed the subject — how the GOP should run against Barack Obama — is one on which readers would want to hear a well-connected Republican’s views.

I am talking instead about the breathtaking banality of expression.

A single cliched phrase, like the last sentence of the first paragraph, can be effective. A whole string of cliches, like the second paragraph, is effective only in raising questions about the author’s skill and quality of thought. The passage might serve as a test for prospective copy-editors. For instance: “What is avoidably awkward about the sentence beginning, ‘After all, for all his ability..’?” Or, “How could the author express his thought without cliches?”

Content aside, I think there is no arguing what Kristol wrote was pretty bad.

Who am I to criticize Kristol? No sane person will hire me to write an opinion column for a newspaper. Nevertheless, this wasn’t a very good start from the conservative pundit. Hopefully Kristol will do better in the future.

I have some doubts about that. Kristol’s recent floating of Joe Lieberman as a Republican VP possibility, and this column trying to cheer up the GOP about 2008, had me saying Kristol needed to lay down.

Rest assured you’ll see me picking on a crazy liberal in the MSM soon enough or did this qualify? In the mean time, try again William Kristol.

For the non-golf fans out there, a mulligan is when a golfer is allowed to replay a shot.

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