Take away the severed head, and Bill Kristol is starting to sound a lot like Kathy Griffin.
Kristol has attacked President Trump in every way possible, even going so far as to try to recruit presidential candidates to run against him after Trump secured the Republican nomination. He has become so anti-Trump that he has decamped from Fox News to MSNBC and resigned as head of the Weekly Standard.
But like Griffin, his efforts have largely failed. After Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Tom Coburn, Ben Sasse and even Gen. James Mattis turned down his entreaties to run against Trump, he convinced David French, a lawyer and political blogger at the National Review, to take a look. But French soon realized Kristol had no money, organization or groundswell of support, and he, too, dropped out.
And now, with Trump gaining strength in the polls and being greeted like a rock star on his trip to Davos, Kristol has lashed out as did Griffin – by attacking the president, then holding it against him when the attacks don’t stick.
“He broke me,” Griffin said after her career went south following the severed head incident.
“I’m a conservative who has been mugged by Trump,” Kristol said in an interview with CNBC’s John Harwood.
Kristol attacked not only the president but Fox News, saying he was phased out at the network because he refused to spread dirt on someone at the request of Roger Ailes. The network was appropriately conservative in the 10 years he was there (2002-2012) but since has veered into sycophancy when it comes to covering the president.
“Fox was always, of course, somewhat conservative,” Kristol told Harwood. “But it was one thing when it was the somewhat conservative alternative to somewhat liberal MSNBC, and to some degree CNN and mainstream media. … Now Fox is sort of – 75 percent of it seems to be birther-like coverage of different issues. That’s been, I think, bad.”
But he saved his worst shot for Tucker Carlson, whose largely pro-Trump show’s ratings have skyrocketed.
Carlson was “one of the most gifted 24-year-olds I’ve seen in the 20 years that I edited the magazine,” even though he’d always “had a little touch of Pat Buchananism, I would say, paleo-conservativism. But that’s very different from what he’s become now. I mean, it’s close to racism, white – I mean, I don’t know if it’s the racism exactly – but ethno-nationalism of some kind, let’s call it. A combination of dumbing down, as you said earlier, and stirring people’s emotions in a very unhealthy way.”
Carlson dared Kristol to come on Carlson’s show and defend his statements but said he doubted Kristol would have the courage to do so. He referred to Kristol as a “former intellectual who now exists primarily on Twitter.”
Kristol said he has gotten a new and surprising respect from the left for his anti-Trump dogma, but not all of the left is on board.
“Woke Bill Kristol is among us once more,” wrote Matt Gertz at Media Matters under a headline that read: “Woke Bill Kristol pines for the days when Fox was a ‘little tilted right’ (and paid him).”
“The neoconservative founder of The Weekly Standard and one of the leading promoters of the Iraq War during the 2000s and opponents of health care legislation during the 1990s is in the process of reinventing himself for the new political reality.”
Much of Kristol’s activities these days amount to “being able to convince MSNBC hosts that he remains relevant,” Gertz said. “And it’s true – like many of his ilk, Kristol has seen a steady decline in his own power over the past few years, as Trump took over the Republican Party and media figures who were willing to support him rose in prominence.”
“Trump himself is a huge phenomenon,” Kristol told Harwood. “We’ve always been susceptible to demagoguery … that’s why the Founders wrote about it. And it just turned out Trump is a very effective demagogue who came along at the right time.”