The Corner

Not Sure I Agree With Your Police Work There, Yuval

Re: Bill Kristol and “big government.” Yuval, I’m not sure Bill Kristol’s as easy to defend on the issue of “big government” — nor am I sure that he would welcome too much defense from the small government crowd. During the 1990s, I recall more than a few debates, panels and lectures where Kristol was far more nuanced about this sort of thing. He objected vociferously to the Grover Norquist school of government shrinking for shrinking’s sake. He promoted Colin Powell for president (which I think in retrospect would have been best for everyone, but not necessarily for the reasons Bill laid out). He and David Brooks pushed “national greatness conservatism” quite sincerely. The Standard was cool to social security privatization. And, if you read Kristol’s op-ed closely, he sounds like he’s picking up an argument made by his dad many times that conservatism should be anti-left, but not anti-State. Irving Kristol — a hero of mine, even if we differ on some things — was a champion of the conservative welfare state (something most of us are by default these days, I should add). I think you’re largely right about what Bill’s doing in that op-ed, he is talking about tactics. But I’m just not sure that the tactics don’t jibe pretty closely to his principles.

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