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BEICHMAN: To be Kristol clear

- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 16, 2008

COMMENTARY:

It's 2012 and President Barack Obama is running for re-election. He has had a moderately successful presidency, no big scandals, no big failures and a few triumphs. The big, global success of the Obama administration? A handsome African-American and his handsome family in the White House. What Republican will run against him with any hope of success?

My candidate to oppose Mr. Obama's second term bid is William Kristol, 56, editor of the Weekly Standard (circulation 84,000). Add to that distinction a Harvard doctorate, if you will. Plus an equally weighty consideration, a record as a Republican Party champion. In other words, an intellectual of the center-right who could stand up to Mr. Obama, a center-left intellectual. If visibility is wanted, Mr. Kristol is a regular commentator on the Fox News Channel and is a New York Times op-ed columnist. In other words, he's great with the laptop and great on the tube and knows the issues forward and backward.

Mr. Kristol's quarter-century career in government service is outstanding. It began as chief of staff for then Education Secretary William Bennett in the Reagan administration, then as chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle under the first Bush administration. He then moved into idea projects dealing with the GOP's future, based on what he called a "Contract with America":

"The fact that government is no longer going to be so generous with taxpayers' money may be Scrooge-like, but it strikes me as rather responsible behavior. For too many years, some liberals have felt they were doing good by generously spending taxpayers' money. Now Americans want to take a much harder look at what really does good and what does harm."

Mr. Kristol is not joined at the hip with President Bush. When the White House nominated Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court, he spoke up in one of his harshest criticisms of the administration:

"I'm disappointed, depressed and demoralized. ... It is very hard to avoid the conclusion that President Bush flinched from a fight on constitutional philosophy.... Her selection will unavoidably be judged as reflecting a combination of cronyism and capitulation on the part of the president."

One of Bill Kristol's most important contributions was the uncompromising stand he took in the fight against the Clinton health-care bill. In a strategy memo to Republican legislators, he called on them to kill, not amend or compromise on, the health-care plan. He warned that if that plan were enacted it would "relegitimize middle-class dependence for 'security' on government spending and regulation [and] revive . .. the Democrats as the generous protector of middle-class interests."

If there is be a successful campaign to deny President-elect Obama re-election in 2012, the time to begin that campaign is not in 2012 but right now and the man to lead that political offensive against Mr. Obama is Bill Kristol.

Arnold Beichman, a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, is a columnist for The Washington Times.