The New York Times has announced that Bill Kristol, a leading prowar neo-conservative and Zionist supporter of Israel, will assume the Bill Safire mantle of robust conservatism in a weekly column beginning January 7, 2008. Perhaps they thought David Brooks, who left Bill Kristol’s The Weekly Standard to join the Times op-ed coterie, would satisfy their need to have one fully credentialed right-wing conservative but he is perhaps more centrist than they had envisioned.
On December 2, 2002, twenty-one days after I was suspended on Veterans Day for an e-mail response to an Air Force Academy cadet solicitation, Mr Kristol’s Weekly Standard ran a piece that was most critical of my correspondence. It questioned my capacity to teach, questioned my patriotism and suggested I should be fired from academia for my robust and angry denunciation of the military and its “aggressive baby-killing tactics of collateral damage.” Jed Babbin, a militant neo-con was deputy undersecretary of defence during the George Herbert Walker Bush presidency and wrote the sweeping diatribe. At that time I was reeling from the national and even international thought police that were not satisfied with various apologies but wanted to purge my ideological progressivism from the sacred halls of academic conformity. I realised then and have spent the last five years asserting that this was not about an outburst in an e-mail but an effort to marginalise and force me to abandon my progressive views for a more centrist, patriotically correct posture.
One of my first efforts to respond to all this vitriol was to submit an op-ed piece to the Weekly Standard. To my amazement and astonishment, Mr Kristol not only published it but also gave it a rather prominent piece of journalistic real estate by placing it next to a column by conservative Fred Barnes. On January 20, 2003 I published this full-page response in this influential weekly magazine of neo-conservative, prowar opinion. It represented a major moment in avoiding possible blacklisting and overcoming fears of not having the opportunity to resist forces of oppression who construe academic freedom as a threat and not as an essential ingredient in advancing the quality of higher education in the United States.
While I did not directly correspond with Bill Kristol, as the editor he obviously approved of giving me the opportunity to challenge and respond to Undersecretary Babbin’s impassioned denunciation of my position. That suggests journalistic integrity, fairness and inclusiveness. While I abhor and reject his ideological positions as a threat to international peace and security and as representing a selfish, extremist nationalism, I would be hypocritical if I did not appropriately acknowledge his helpful and gracious actions in allowing me to respond to Mr Babbin’s article and defend myself in his Weekly Standard.
Nota bene: The New York Times does not allow its columnists to endorse directly political candidates. Will Mr Safire be able to circumvent that proscription by doing so in The Weekly Standard? He is leaving Time and replacing that gig with the Times and I think it would be a double standard if he can endorse candidates elsewhere even if not in his weekly column. The other op-ed writers do not endorse candidates in other media and I think Mr Kristol should be carefully monitored to avoid the appearance of an inconsistent application of an important journalistic policy.