Still more ideological diversity at Time: Kristol and Kinsley signed up

Time magazine has reportedly hired William Kristol, who has advanced misleading attacks on Democrats and opponents of the Bush administration's policies, as a “part-time columnist” and Michael Kinsley, who has used his columns to dismiss evidence that the administration manipulated intelligence to support its case for war, as a biweekly columnist.

In his December 18 column, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz reported that Time magazine has hired Weekly Standard editor and Fox News contributor William Kristol as a “part-time columnist” and founding editor and the Guardian's (U.K.) American editor-at-large Michael Kinsley as a biweekly columnist. A Media Matters for America review of recent op-eds by both Kristol and Kinsley showed that the former has a track record of repeatedly getting it wrong on Iraq; Kristol has also advanced misleading attacks on Democrats and opponents of the Bush administration's policies. For his part, Kinsley has used his columns to dismiss evidence that the administration manipulated intelligence to support its case for war, defend the Republican leadership's handling of the Mark Foley scandal, criticize House Democrats, and attack the validity of the Iraq Study Group.

As Media Matters documented, Kristol was chief among a handful of conservative commentators who offered highly optimistic predictions regarding the Iraq war's duration, difficulty, and human and financial costs -- even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Prior to the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, Kristol predicted that “restructuring Iraq may prove to be a less difficult task than the challenge of building a viable state in Afghanistan,” and that “American and alliance forces will be welcomed in Baghdad as liberators.” Kristol declared in April 2003 that the “battles of Afghanistan and Iraq have been won decisively and honorably.” That same month, he maintained that there is “almost no evidence ... at all” that “the Shia can't get along with the Sunni, and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime.” Among Kristol's optimistic appraisals of the Iraq war:

  • “The larger question with respect to Iraq, as with Afghanistan, is what happens after the combat is concluded. [...] And, as in Kabul but also as in the Kurdish and Shi'ite regions of Iraq in 1991, American and alliance forces will be welcomed in Baghdad as liberators. Indeed, reconstructing Iraq may prove to be a less difficult task than the challenge of building a viable state in Afghanistan.

”The political, strategic and moral rewards would also be even greater. A friendly, free, and oil-producing Iraq would leave Iran isolated and Syria cowed; the Palestinians more willing to negotiate seriously with Israel; and Saudi Arabia with less leverage over policymakers here and in Europe. Removing Saddam Hussein and his henchmen from power presents a genuine opportunity -- one President Bush sees clearly -- to transform the political landscape of the Middle East." [Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; 2/7/02]

  • “The United States committed itself to defeating terror around the world. We committed ourselves to reshaping the Middle East, so the region would no longer be a hotbed of terrorism, extremism, anti-Americanism, and weapons of mass destruction. The first two battles of this new era are now over. The battles of Afghanistan and Iraq have been won decisively and honorably. But these are only two battles. We are only at the end of the beginning in the war on terror and terrorist states.” [Weekly Standard column; 4/28/03]
  • “There's been a certain amount of pop sociology in America ... that the Shia can't get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There's almost no evidence of that at all. Iraq's always been very secular.” [National Public Radio, 4/1/03]

Media Matters has also documented numerous instances in which Kristol has advanced misleading attacks on Democrats and others who disagree with the Bush administration's national security and terrorism policies, including:

  • On the December 6 edition of Fox News Live, immediately following the release of the Iraq Study Group's report, Kristol dismissed it as “an evasion” and repeatedly called it “not a serious document.” Kristol also described himself as “angry” after “read[ing] through” the report “because it's ... deeply irresponsible.” Kristol warned Fox News host E.D. Hill that “if we follow the recommendations of this report, we would lose the war.”
  • On the September 10 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, Kristol attacked Democrats for “turn[ing] every event, including now the fifth anniversary of 9-11, into a partisan fight” and claimed that it is “a totally false charge that [President Bush] has played the politics of fear.” In fact, the White House had reportedly acknowledged that the timing of President Bush's September 6 announcement that 14 terror suspects had been transferred from CIA-run secret prisons to the Pentagon's detention facility at Guantánamo Bay was an attempt to capitalize politically on the then-upcoming anniversary of the attacks and frame the debate over the fight against terrorism in the White House's terms.
  • During the April 9 edition of Fox News Sunday, Kristol attacked special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's investigation into the 2003 leaking of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity as “absurd” and a “politically motivated attempt to wound the Bush administration.” He also asserted that Fitzgerald's case “is crumbling” and criticized Fitzgerald for “refusing to close ... his investigation of [White House senior adviser] Karl Rove and other people,” concluding that Fitzgerald is “out to discredit the administration.” However, in 1998, Kristol attacked as “Nixonian” critics of independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who, as Media Matters noted, sought and obtained authorization to expand the scope of his original mandate to investigate the Whitewater deal, which yielded no charges of wrongdoing by former President Bill Clinton, into an investigation of the Monica Lewinsky controversy.
  • On the January 29 edition of Fox News Sunday, Kristol claimed that Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, during an interview on the program, had asserted that the controversial warrantless domestic surveillance program was “probably some kind of domestic spying on political enemies.” But Dean made no such allegation. Rather, he expressed concern that the National Security Agency -- having been authorized by Bush to intercept the international communications of U.S. residents without a warrant -- was eavesdropping on innocent Americans. He further criticized the program's lack of legal oversight as infringing on “the rights of ordinary Americans not to be intruded on by their government.”

As Media Matters previously noted, media critic Eric Alterman (now a Media Matters senior fellow and columnist) lamented in an April 11 Altercation post that the “most liberal columnist at ... America's largest weekly newsmagazine,” referring to Time magazine senior writer Joe Klein, “pretends that the message of liberals for the past twenty years has been that they 'hate America,' just as if he were reading from talking points issued by Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter.” Alterman was commenting on Klein's remarks at an April 11 event that Democrats would not be successful in upcoming elections “if their message is that they hate America -- which is what has been the message of the liberal wing of the party for the past twenty years.” Meanwhile, Kinsley, who will join Klein as a columnist for Time, has criticized Democrats and opponents of the Iraq war and the Bush administration's Middle East policy, while defending Republicans in his recent Washington Post, Slate, and Los Angeles Times columns:

  • As Media Matters noted, following the publication of the Downing Street Memo, a secret British intelligence memo suggesting that the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to support its case for war in Iraq, Kinsley published an op-ed that was among several that downplayed or dismissed its significance. Kinsley wrote in June 2005: “But even on its face, the memo is not proof that Bush had decided on war. It states that war is 'now seen as inevitable' by 'Washington.' That is, people other than Bush had concluded, based on observation, that he was determined to go to war. There is no claim of even fourth-hand knowledge that he had actually declared this intention. Even if 'Washington' meant administration decision-makers, rather than the usual freelance chatterboxes, [the head of British foreign intelligence] was only saying that these people believed that war was how events would play out.”
  • In his Washington Post column published on November 7, Election Day, Kinsley, in response to the “New Direction for America” election-year platform released by House Democrats, wrote:

    Democrats call for ending the “Disabled Veterans' Tax” and the “Military Families' Tax.” The what? There cannot be any such thing as a Disabled Veterans' Tax. It is a label dreamed up by people wanting special treatment, like the Republicans' brilliant 'death tax' for the estate tax. Maybe they deserve it, maybe they don't. But why can't we leave this bullying-by-terminology to Newt Gingrich?

According to a December 4 Marine Corps Times article, the “Disabled Veterans' Tax” refers to the “reduction in retired pay that is still required of many [military] retirees who also draw veterans' disability benefits.” The article reported that Democrats have proposed allowing “full and immediate concurrent receipt of retired and disability pay for everyone who served 20 years.”

  • In his November 14 Post column, Kinsley concluded, “It's a nutty and not very attractive idea to turn an urgent issue of war and peace over to a commission,” weeks before the Iraq Study Group had released its report on recommendations for a stable Iraq.
  • In his October 20 Post column about the House Republican leadership's handling of inappropriate electronic messages allegedly sent by former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) to underage former House pages, Kinsley wrote that House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) “is suspected, probably falsely, of being willing to sacrifice a child for the good of his party, and now the other party reaps the benefit.” Kinsley then asked, “Do you think that if the devil told [House Democratic Leader] Nancy Pelosi [CA] she could undo the scandal, save these 17-year-olds from the trauma of electronic messages from a sicko congressman and give up her hopes of being speaker, that she would find such an offer tempting? I don't.”