William Kristol Articles

He's Still Alive!

Feb 15, 2016

It’s been one scary horror movie. But now, at last, the happy ending. The slasher is dead. The aliens have been defeated. The flesh-eating zombies have been disposed of once and for all. The vampires will never suck blood again. You exhale. You relax. You heave a sigh of relief.

Big mistake! As even the most casual observer of cinematic conventions knows, this is the moment of maximum peril. The moment when, suddenly, the slasher's not really dead. The aliens aren't all gone. The zombies haven't been disposed of. The vampires are stirring. They're BACK!!!!

Donald Trump lost Iowa. But he's far from politically dead and decisively defeated.

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What Might Have Been

And what still might be.
12:09 AM, Jan 29, 2016

Watching the Republican debate tonight, I couldn't help but think,

"For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: 'It might have been!'"

What we saw tonight was what the Republican race might have been without Donald Trump. The debate was substantive, the candidates were reasonable, a viewer didn't feel embarrassed to be a Republican, and indeed one felt—at least I felt—that several of the candidates, including the top two, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, would do fine against Hillary Clinton.

Could the consequence of the debate be to begin the deflation of the Trump balloon? I'll grant that I may be indulging in wishful thinking, but I think so.

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The Party of the Constitution

Feb 08, 2016

The Weekly Standard looks forward to the 58th swearing-in of a president of the United States on January 20, 2017. The oath-taking is the heart of the occasion. It’s what makes the winner of the presidential election legally and constitutionally able to execute the office of the president. All the rest is ceremony. That's why Abraham Lincoln, for example, who thought deeply about these things, begins his second Inaugural Address with these words: "At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office .  .  . "

And where does that oath come from? The Constitution. The president is the only officer of the United States whose oath is specified in the Constitution.

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The GOP in 2016 Looks a Lot Like the Dems in 2004

7:30 PM, Jan 24, 2016
The 2016 GOP race is uncannily like the 2004 Democratic one. Read more

The Confidence Man

Feb 01, 2016

Depicted by masters of American literature from Herman Melville to Mark Twain to Donald Westlake, cropping up in real life in each epoch of our great hustling and bustling and grasping commercial republic, the confidence man is a primordial American type. Many accounts treat him with some affection, as an understandable (if deformed and ultimately deplorable) product of the boredom and excesses of complacent bourgeois life, a figure who livens up our often dreary and earnest landscape. Vulgarian and climber, braggart and charlatan, he tends to be portrayed as pretty harmless in the big scheme of things, someone who does limited damage to the republic as a whole—though of course he can impoverish individuals and damage

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The Problem of Running for Obama's Third Term

8:18 AM, Jan 18, 2016

One thought on last night's Democratic debate. It seems clear Hillary Clinton has decided to wrap herself in the mantle of President Obama, and in effect run for Obama's third term.

In a way, that makes sense: Obama remains very popular among Democrats. For example, in the most recent CBS/New York Times poll, where Obama's overall approval is 46 percent to 47 percent disapprove, his numbers among Democrats are 81 to 13. On the other hand, that same poll shows a plurality of Democrats (47 percent to 45 percent) think the country is on the wrong track (the overall number is 65-27).

If Clinton can make the Democratic primary a referendum on Obama, she'll win. If Sanders can make it a referendum on the state of the nation, he

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Trump Won the Debate

11:05 AM, Jan 15, 2016

A confession: I didn't wake up at 4:00 am here in Israel in order to watch last night's Republican presidential debate. A further confession: I can't say I regret that decision. But it does mean my judgment of the debate, which follows, is based on reading the transcript rather than watching and rather than seeing others' immediate reactions to the debate.

On the other hand, there's perhaps a compensating advantage in a little geographical and temporal distance. It means I'll ignore the theater critic aspects of the evening—"A won this exchange with B," "that was a great comeback by X against Y"—which can seem interesting and important in the immediate aftermath of debate, but usually end up not mattering much over

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Neither Trump Nor Hillary

Jan 25, 2016

I’ve spent much of this week in Jerusalem discussing with young Israelis the subject of America—both the classics of our political thought and the history of modern American conservatism. I've found the seminars interesting and the conversations stimulating, not so very different from similar discussions with young Americans. I've noticed, though, one difference—not in my interlocutors but in my own attitude. At home, one is wary of seeming too solemn or earnest even in discussing weighty matters. The ponderous self-regard of so many in public life inclines one towards the opposite stance.

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'Iran's Propaganda Victory'

12:22 PM, Jan 13, 2016

I'm in Israel, where I've been leading a full-day seminar on American conservatism for twenty or so very bright young Israelis. So I've been spared (thankfully) the annoyance of watching Obama's State of the Union, and also haven't been able to follow the Iranian seizing of our sailors as closely as I might have. But one Israeli just showed me during a break this post by David French, and asked whether I didn't agree. I do, and commend it to you.

This photograph violates international law. Article 13 of the Geneva Convention (III), governing the treatment of prisoners of war, requires Iran to protect prisoners against "insults and public curiosity.

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Thank You, Donald

Jan 18, 2016

Writing in mid-June, a couple of days after Donald Trump announced his candidacy, we offered the judgment that he should not be our next president: “We're not Trump enthusiasts. We're not even Trump fellow travelers. We're closer to Trump deriders."

And so we unapologetically remain. It would be ungracious not to acknowledge Trump's remarkable standing in the polls six months later. But we see no reason to alter our conclusion that Donald Trump shouldn't be president of the United States. Indeed, Trump's behavior over this period has confirmed our judgment. If back in June we wrote that the rest of the presidential field could use "A Little Touch of Trump," it's fair to say that we've gotten more Trump than we bargained

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Happy New Year?

Jan 11, 2016

Well, we’ve endured 2015, the next to last year of the Obama administration. It's not been without damage to the country—both to its constitutional fabric and its standing in the world. But endured we have. One more year to go.

The point, though, per William Faulkner, is not just to endure but to prevail. America can prevail if today's conservatism prevails—by which we mean a conservatism that incorporates most that is good about yesteryear's liberalism and today's conservatism, and that is also willing to think and act anew, as our case is new. And conservatism can most easily prevail if the political party that is the home of conservatism prevails—the Republican party.

In fact, the prospects

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Our Opera Buffa

Dec 21, 2015

On January 15, 1787, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote proudly from Prague to his friend Baron Gottfried von Jacquin: "Here nothing is talked about except Figaro; nothing is played, blown, sung, and whistled except Figaro; no opera draws the crowds like Figaro. It's always Figaro. Certainly it's a great honor for me."

Now, after more than two centuries of human progress, in great cities supposedly more advanced and more enlightened than the Prague of 1787, we have come to this: Here nothing is talked about except Trump; nothing is reported, analyzed, praised, and denounced except Trump; no candidate draws the crowds like Trump. It's always Trump.

Certainly this is not a great honor to America.

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Not to Worry

Dec 14, 2015

You're worried. Okay, you're alarmed. Actually, you're panicked. Donald Trump will be the nominee and destroy the party. It's embarrassing for the GOP that Ben Carson has so much support. Marco Rubio will be judged by voters too young and inexperienced for the Oval Office. Ted Cruz would be a certain loser to Hillary Clinton. And it's too late for someone else to come from behind and win the nomination. All scenarios lead to disaster.

Not to worry. All will be well .  .  . probably.

First and foremost, we will likely be spared a Trump nomination. In the latest national poll, taken at the end of November by Quinnipiac, Trump leads the GOP field with 27 percent, 10 points ahead of Rubio at 17

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Liberal Sanctimony

Nov 30, 2015

It would be an interesting exercise to trace the history of the word sanctimony. In its original derivation from the Latin sanctimonia, it seems to have had the straightforward sense of sanctity or sacredness. But centuries ago, it took on its current meaning—of pretended or affected or hypocritical holiness. Already in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure Lucio remarks on “the sanctimonious pirate, that went to sea with the Ten Commandments, but scraped one out of the table”—i.e., that thou shalt not steal.

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What Will the Nixon-Reagan-Bush Republicans Do?

2:14 PM, Nov 27, 2015

How unusual is this year's GOP presidential race?

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The Self-Destruction of the American University

Nov 23, 2015

“To give oneself the law is the highest freedom. The much-lauded ‘academic freedom’ will be expelled from the German university; for this freedom was not genuine because it was only negative. It primarily meant lack of concern, arbitrariness of intentions and inclinations, lack of restraint in what was done and left undone. The concept of the freedom of the German student is now brought back to its truth. Henceforth, the bond and service of German students will unfold from this truth.”

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Was the Fight for Soviet Jewry Illegitimate?

9:28 AM, Nov 19, 2015

“It would send a demoralizing and dangerous message to the world that the United States makes judgments about people based on the country they come from and their religion.” 

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'President Obama's Cynical Refugee Ploy'

6:38 AM, Nov 19, 2015

Walter Russell Mead has a terrific piece in the American Interest on "President Obama's Cynical Refugee Ploy."


To see the full cynicism of the Obama approach to the refugee issue, one has only to ask President Obama’s least favorite question: Why is there a Syrian refugee crisis in the first place?

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BHL: 'So It's War'

2:15 PM, Nov 17, 2015

Bernard-Henri Lévy has written an intelligent and forceful, if somewhat grandiloquent, piece on Paris and its implications. Highlights:

So it’s war.

A new kind of war. A war with and without borders, with and without states, a war doubly new because it blends the non-territorial model of al-Qaeda with the old territorial paradigm to which Islamic State has returned.

But a war all the same.

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Ben Carson, Reconsidered

Nov 16, 2015

Generally speaking, The Weekly Standard is from the Edith Piaf school of second thoughts. We don’t have many. And when we do, we keep quiet about them. As the great chanteuse put it: Non, je ne regrette rien.

But on rare occasions we admit we may—just may—have a few regrets. Here’s one: We’re now inclined to think we overstated matters when we began an editorial six weeks ago by asking rhetorically, “How big a problem is it that the two leading Republican candidates for president aren’t actually qualified to be president?”

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'An American Fight?'

10:54 AM, Nov 15, 2015

During the Democratic debate Saturday night, Hillary Clinton said that ISIS "cannot be contained, it must be defeated." She also said, not once but twice, that this "cannot be an American fight" (while adding, "although American leadership is essential").

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Steyn on Paris: 'The Barbarians Are Inside, And There Are No Gates'

8:14 AM, Nov 14, 2015

Here's the most compelling and powerful reaction I've read so far to the attacks in Paris, by Mark Steyn, "The Barbarians Are Inside, And There Are No Gates."

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A Broad Freedom Agenda

11:46 AM, Nov 13, 2015

A thought-provoking email in response to my editorial, "The Self-Destruction of the American University:"

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Young Republicans, Old Democrats

2:05 PM, Nov 02, 2015

In January 2011, we at TWS had the notion that it would be good to defeat President Obama in 2012. And so in a blog post we asked the sensible question: " Wouldn't it be easier just to agree now on a Ryan-Rubio ticket, and save everyone an awful lot of time, effort, and money over the next year and a half?" We reiterated that thought in the spring  and summer.

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Enter Ryan, Exit Biden

Nov 02, 2015

‘Republicans in Turmoil!” “Chaos Confounds GOP Congressmen!!” “Catastrophic Conservative Crack-Up Imminent!!!” “Trump Likely GOP Nominee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

All nonsense.

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Cruz's Golden Moment

12:10 PM, Oct 30, 2015

Interesting political debates typically have what could be called primary effects. In Wednesday night's case, those would include the Bush-Rubio exchange, which did a lot of good for Rubio and a lot of damage to Bush, and the Cruz assault on the moderators, which was dazzling.

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Enemies List

Oct 26, 2015

Anderson Cooper’s final question in the Democratic presidential debate on October 13 led to an interesting and revealing moment. He asked:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.” You’ve all made a few people upset over your political careers. Which enemy are you most proud of? 

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The Stormy Present

Oct 19, 2015

Time flies when you’re having fun. It’s been two months since the first Republican presidential debate. How do things now stand for the party upon whose success next year rest all of our hopes for constitutional government at home and a manageable world abroad?

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Putin, Biden, and the GOP

Oct 05, 2015

Let me risk ridicule by mentioning the ruthless Vladimir Putin and the clueless Joe Biden in the same sentence: The emergence of Putin abroad and Biden at home could reshape the 2016 Republican presidential race.

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Uh-oh . . .

Sep 28, 2015

How big a problem is it that the two leading Republican candidates for president aren’t actually qualified to be president?

“Oh, come on,” you’re inclined to respond. “It’s not that much of a problem. After all, Donald Trump and Ben Carson aren’t really the leading GOP presidential candidates, are they?”

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