This fall, New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. launched a search for a new conservative columnist. It had been nearly three years since William Safire had retired from his weekly column in 2005, and Sulzberger’s initial replacement, libertarian John Tierney, lasted just 20 months before abandoning his column. David Brooks remained as the lone conservative voice on the page, and, say people familiar with the younger Sulzberger’s thinking, he wanted to hire a lightning-rod conservative, much like his father, Arthur “Punch” Sulzberger, had done in appointing Safire in 1973.
KRISTOL'S DEBUT column on January 7, a breezy dissection of Mike Huckabee’s candidacy, was roundly panned in the journalism community. (The
According to a former Times staffer, criticism from Kristol and other conservatives weighed heavily on the Times’ pre-war coverage, which turned more hawkish under then–executive editor Howell Raines and Washington bureau chief Jill Abramson. In September 2002, Judith Miller’s credulous front-page pieces on Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction began appearing with increasing frequency and were echoed in The Weekly Standard.
IN A RECENT interview with Radar’s Charles Kaiser, Sulzberger likened Kristol’s hiring to his father’s controversial appointment of Safire 35 years ago. But this claim doesn’t seem to soothe any feathers. Times staffers say both Safire’s and Brooks’s personalities endeared them to the
By contrast, Kristol is widely perceived to have only marginal allegiance to, and presence at, the paper. In addition to his Times column, Kristol edits The Weekly Standard and appears multiple times each week on Fox News. A Time magazine source complained that Kristol was known for phoning in his columns (for which he was paid roughly five dollars a word) when he wrote for the magazine last year, and his pieces in The Weekly Standard are often co-bylined.
Gabriel Sherman is a special correspondent for The New Republic.