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Dear New York Times,
Word has it that the Times’ publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., decided last fall that it was time to add another Republican columnist to the paper’s op-ed page, and the decision early on was to find a “lightning-rod conservative.” For reasons that I’ve never entirely understood, you picked the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol.
Now, it’s always difficult for any large institution to admit a mistake, especially on the heels of some high-profile embarrassments. I understand that. This is especially true when someone in a position of authority makes a poor employment decision, hiring the wrong person for an important job. (I suspect it’s tempting to adopt the president’s approach, and pretend that the unqualified hire is doing a heckuva job, no matter how humiliating the person’s on-the-job performance.)
But there comes a point at which the paper’s reputation matters more than the embarrassment that would come from admitting a mistake.
If Kristol were just a conservative hatchet-man, his columns would simply be predictable. After nearly five months of columns, however, the problem is more jarring — his work is that of an awful columnist, a weak writer, and a boring political observer. This isn’t about ideology; it’s about talent, or in this case, the lack thereof.
Take today’s column, for example. Without a hint of satire, Bill Kristol devoted his entire 800-word column in the nation’s most important newspaper to scrutinizing Passover press releases.
He is, in other words, making the New York Times look silly.
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