The Conservation of Chait

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One of the fundamental laws of political punditry is that for every post praising Jon Chait on domestic issues, an equal and oppose post must attack his views on foreign policy. To wit, his TRB column about Bill Kristol's shameful and dishonest attacks on TNR and its editors. His critique is sound, but his framing of the issue is way off. Here's the first graf:

It's hard to believe that, not so long ago, neoconservative foreign policy thinking overflowed with ideas and idealism. The descent has been steep, and nowhere is it more apparent than in the pages of The Weekly Standard--particularly in William Kristol's editorials, which have come to consist of stubborn denials of any bad news, diatribes about internal enemies, and harangues against the cowardice of Republican dissenters.

And here's the penultimate one:

There was a time when neoconservatives sought to hold the moral and intellectual high ground. There was some- thing inspiring in their vision of America as a different kind of superpower--a liberal hegemon deploying its might on behalf of subjugated peoples, rather than mere self-interest. As the Iraq war has curdled, the idealism and liberalism have drained out of the neoconservative vision. What remains is a noxious residue of bullying militarism. Kristol's arguments are merely the same pro-war arguments that have been used historically by right-wing parties throughout the world: Complexity is weakness, dissent is treason, willpower determines all.

But this is silly -- neither Kristol nor The Weekly Standard has changed. It's just that The New Republic used to join up with neoconservatives to bully people who disagree with its foreign policy views and now TNR is being bullied. It wasn't The Weekly Standard that this article calling John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt un-American. Nor was in The Weekly Standard that published this article about how liberals don't want to invade Iraq because they don't like advancing America's interests. Nor was it The Weekly Standard that analogized MoveOn to Stalin-controlled Communist agents.

Seeing criticism of Kristol's tactics is great, but this is just a new target not a new game for Kristol.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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