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Bill Kristol Should Name Some Names

I think it's pretty near to inarguable that William Kristol has been uniquely central to Sarah Palin's career. That's not a good thing or a bad thing. It's just a thing. And it makes his column on her recent resignation terribly, terribly weird.

Kristol begins with a very simple claim: Sarah Palin should not be physically or legally stopped from running for president. "I am convinced, though, that [Palin] should have a chance to compete and make her case." Kristol writes. "In this, I seem to differ from many of my friends in the mainstream media and the Republican establishment."

Kristol obviously knows his friends better than I know his friends. But it sounds a bit like he's hanging out with fascists. I've been keeping a pretty close eye on Palin-related commentary and haven't heard anyone say that she "should not have a chance to compete and make her case." If Kristol has heard people saying that, it would sure be useful if he named and quoted them. Then we could, you know, see if they're saying that.

But even though Kristol doesn't have any names for Palin's assailants, he does have a motive. "Palin may not even run," he writes. "But the panic among mainstream media commentators and the GOP establishment suggests real worry that if she does, she might pull off an upset." I really feel for the role "suggests" is playing in that sentence. That's a lot of work for one word to do all on its lonesome.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 6, 2009; 4:37 PM ET
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Quite the contrary, re the word "suggests." If he had said "proves", that would have put great weight on the word. May I add that the writing style of your last sentences is a bit -- baroque? The image of someone feeling pity for a word and its place in a sentence ...well, the image is forced to say the least. simplify.

Posted by: truck1 | July 6, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

@truck1's refusal to stay on subject suggests that he is an America-hating terrorist coddler.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | July 6, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Oh that man, Billy Kristol! He's a hoot.

Love that he's pointing fingers at the nameless "them" who wish to prevent Palin the Pit Bull from running for prez in 2012!

Because having a teeny, special needs baby isn't reason enough to pull back from the demands of her day job.

Nor is having an out-of-wedlock grandbaby who happens to be mothered by the daughter of the biggest "just say no to sex" advocate. That's no reason to quit the governor's post!

Ol' Billy seems to have forgotten that Palin's the one with some issues. Like that expensive wardrobe the GOP donated to her campaign the last time she ran. Or the bumbling response to the painful and totally unfair Katie Couric question - "what news media do you read/watch to inform your world view?"

Maybe Sarah Palin quit public service so she could spend time with her family. Or maybe she quit public service so she can earn the wages needed to purchase a wardrobe required of a presidential candidate.

But no way has Palin caved to the meanies in the MSM. Because if that were true - how could someone so upset with American media be expected to stand up to Putin and other foreign leaders who are not nearly as nice as Katie Couric?

Posted by: anne3 | July 6, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Truck1 - Are you sure that baroque means what you think it means? Perhaps Ezra's final sentences showed cleverness or personality, an enjoyment of language certainly, but overly ornate they were not.

Posted by: boudreaux1 | July 6, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Alright, let's say elaborate. The summoning up of an image of, not even a word, but its use in a sentence, as somehow sentient and therefore to be pitied -- come on, that's excessive. It's a gratuitous use of imagery when a more straightforward statement would have been better. Let me ask you -- can you paraphrase what he said, leaving out the image? I can't. Baroque is not simply overly ornate, but also used to describe excess. I was going to say rococco at first -- but changed my mind. Would that have been better?

Posted by: truck1 | July 6, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

@truck1, if it ain't baroque, don't fix it.

Posted by: Cynicor | July 6, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse

"if it aint baroque, dont fix it.

cynicor, well~done!

Posted by: jkaren | July 6, 2009 7:50 PM | Report abuse

well done? That joke has been around for a long time. It was not invented here. Is there no one on this site who has read anything?

Posted by: truck1 | July 6, 2009 8:35 PM | Report abuse

"is there noone on this site who has read anything?"


Posted by: jkaren | July 6, 2009 9:43 PM | Report abuse

"If she throws a fit, you must acquit."
-- William Cochran Kristol

Posted by: misterjrthed | July 7, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Probably goes without saying, but isn't Bill Kristol the epitome of the GOP establishment?

Posted by: Vaughan1 | July 7, 2009 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Truck asks: "Can you paraphrase what he said, leaving out the image?" What is this supposed to prove? The author's sentences were elegant without being excessive. The only ornate and overly elaborate words here are baroque and its cousin rococo, which add nothing to nothing, but says a lot about the pontificator.

Posted by: alexalex2 | July 7, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

I think Bill's friends are all straw men.

Posted by: ifionlyhadabrain | July 7, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, you better be careful - look what happened to the last guy who criticized Kristol. . . surprised this article passed the muster of the kristol-dors at WaPo. . .

Posted by: cymric | July 7, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Go Ezra, it's your birthday! Go, go, go Ezra!

Posted by: drewconk | July 7, 2009 6:56 PM | Report abuse

All writers have to learn some self control. They have to learn that not every cute idea or image should be thrown in. This was a case where straightforwardness in writing would have been elegant. It does prove something that you can't reword the last two sentences into simple English. Single words are not the only way writing can be overly ornate. Too much imagery, metaphors that take us away from the idea being expressed, all are ways writing can become mannered and false sounding. BTW, alex, you used the word "pontificator." Isn't that too fancy?

Posted by: truck1 | July 7, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

gee, Truck1, your test seems a little dodgy. If a metaphor will not submit to paraphrase, that would seem to suggest that the metaphor is integral and not gratuitous ornament. In any case, the meaning is clear enough. In typical fashion, Kristol has made "suggests" bear an inordinate, indeed unsustainable, burden. The more pertinent question is: what is Kristol's claim? If she runs, she'll win? Please . . .

Posted by: klander | July 7, 2009 8:14 PM | Report abuse

@truck1 complains:

>Quite the contrary, re the word "suggests." If he had said "proves", that would have put great weight on the word. [Please] simplify.

Actually, "proves" would have been a much stronger word only if Kristol's goal were to communicate, to make a concrete claim that is verifiable or disprovable. The point of the whole post is that Kristol was not doing that.

The work that "suggests" is being asked to perform is the difficult burden of (1) insinuating some sort of connection between the strong reaction to Palin's madness and the (transparently, flamingly ludicrous) idea that this strong reaction was out of fear that she might win an election, while (2) providing plausible deniability that Kristol is making such a patently absurd claim.

The role of "suggests" is not to have meaning, is to be the slipperiest possible weasel-word.

The fact that this plodding explanation is so long shows how witty the original post was. If you insist on a paraphrase in plain English: "Kristol uses 'suggests' to make the idea of Palin winning in 2012 seem both reasonable and widespread. It is neither. And alleging a 'suggestion' is a very weak substitute for making an actual argument."


Posted by: ds01 | July 7, 2009 8:30 PM | Report abuse

Respected Ezra,
Kristol is certainly a corrupter of language, and I applaud your efforts to smoke him out. However, I must point out that your own linguistic house is not yet in order.

By way of example, consider the first sentence of your column today: "I think it's pretty near to inarguable that William Kristol has been uniquely central to Sarah Palin's career." The concept of "inarguable" can not survive if shackled to the glutenous adjectival phrase, "I think it's pretty near to..." Is your assertion moot or it is not? Take a stand, man.

Further, all this modifying reads as so much padding. Dickens was paid by the word; I would wager that you are not. I would suggest this low-fat alternative: "William Kristol has been central to Sarah Palin's career."

(It pains me to note that even when thus pared down, your sentence lacks veracity; Kristol became an influence on Palin's career only in the past year, and then, only as a cheerleader).

All that aside, you are spot on.

Posted by: quietcity | July 7, 2009 8:42 PM | Report abuse

As long the panic's not among liberals, I don't give a @#$.

Posted by: daphne5 | July 7, 2009 9:54 PM | Report abuse

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