The Weekly Standard went belly-up today. As usual when a publication dies, there isn’t just one reason. There are many reasons, including a changing market, competition, aging principals and bad luck. These factors were at work in this instance as well. However, the Weekly Standard was primarily doomed by the arrogance and selfish pique of the man who one would think would be the individual least inclined to harm the Standard, since it was his legacy. He went ahead and mortally wounded it anyway, for a stupid reason, if a popular one. He hated Donald Trump. That individual, of course, is William Kristol.
Kristol was one of the magazine’s founders. I knew two of the others: Fred Barnes, who lives near me, and John Podhoretz, who served for a while on the board of The American Century Theater, whose life-span was just a bit shorter than that of his magazine. Kristol was a fave of my wife, who inexplicably found him sexy before old age struck. Kristol was better than most conservatives on Sunday morning news roundtables, and is obviously smart and articulate. I had, and have, the same problem with him that I have expressed here about Tucker Carlson, another rich guy with a trust account who appears to be dabbling in punditry for fun. Kristol is smug, and seems to be meddling in public opinion regarding serious policy matters for the fun of it. If it doesn’t work out, he’s good.
…in the public mind, the name Weekly Standard is associated with one thing that’s unpopular with almost everyone (the Iraq War), and another that’s unpopular with its formerly intended audience of conservatives (opposition to Trump). The person most identified with the brand is Kristol, by far. He stepped down as editor at the end of 2016, but his public persona still defines the magazine: his bitter, flippant, or sarcastic tweets about Trump and Trump supporters are the Weekly Standard’s brand in the public’s eye. Few people look at the masthead of a magazine closely enough to realize when a prominent editor such as Kristol has been replaced by a less prominent once such as Steve Hayes — and because Kristol remains on the masthead as editor-at-large, ordinary readers have even more cause for confusion. (‘Editor-at-large’ sounds a lot like ‘editor’ to most people, but in fact usually means ‘ex-editor.’)
Fairly or not, Bill Kristol is the brand.
Kristol knows it. He is, as I said, smart. Knowing, as he did, that his high visibility comments and positions would be attributed to the magazine, alienating readers and putting the livelihood of the staff, some of whom were his friends, at risk, he shot off his mouth and keyboard anyway, because his class biases and intellectual arrogance would not allow him, as an American citizen, to accept the election as President of the kind of man, with the kind of habits and modes of speech and thought, that Kristol would never socialize with, dine with, or tolerate in his presence.In this self-indulgent NeverTrumpism, Kristol approximated the tantrum of George Will, the conservative columnist. Will, however, speaks only for himself. Kristol was tied tightly in the cognitive dissonance scale to The Weekly Standard.
Thus writing things like this infamous tweet:
…was irresponsible and inexcusable. How nice to know Kristol prefers constitutional government! So do the despicable “resistance” Democrats, when Democratic processes go their way. A conservative who is willing to surrender principle, process and democratic institutions when he doesn’t like the choices of the hoi polloi who he regards as too dumb and unsphisticated to be worthy of self-government isn’t a conservative. He’s not even a good American.
So Bill Kristol polluted the image of The Weekly Standard and alienated its readers to show that he wouldn’t sully himself by sticking to democratic principles when doing so required minimal support for an elected President he didn’t approve of.
What an ass.