Bill Kristol

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Bill Kristol
Bill Kristol by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Chief of Staff to the Vice President
In office
January 20, 1989 – January 20, 1993
Vice PresidentDan Quayle
Preceded byCraig Fuller
Succeeded byRoy Neel
Personal details
Born (1952-12-23) December 23, 1952 (age 69)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic (Before 1980, 2020–present)
Other political
Republican (1980–2020)
Susan Scheinberg
(m. 1975)
RelativesMatthew Continetti (son-in-law)
EducationHarvard University (BA, MA, PhD)

William Kristol (/ˈkrɪstəl/; born December 23, 1952) is an American neoconservative writer.[1] A frequent commentator on several networks including CNN, he was the founder and editor-at-large[2] of the political magazine The Weekly Standard. Kristol is now editor-at-large of the center-right publication The Bulwark.[3]

A founder and director of the advocacy organization Defending Democracy Together — responsible for such projects as Republicans for the Rule of Law, Republican Voters Against Trump and Republicans Against Putin — he is also known for playing the leading role in the defeat of President Bill Clinton's health care plan[4] and advocating the U.S. invasion of Iraq.[5][6] Kristol is a critic of President Donald Trump.[7]

Kristol, an avid "Never Trumper", has been associated with a number of conservative think tanks. He was chairman of the New Citizenship Project from 1997 to 2005. In 1997, he co-founded the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) with Robert Kagan. He is a member of the board of trustees for the free-market Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a member of the Policy Advisory Board for the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and a director of the Foreign Policy Initiative. He is also one of the three board members of Keep America Safe, a national-security think tank co-founded by Liz Cheney and Debra Burlingame, and serves on the boards of the Emergency Committee for Israel and of the Susan B. Anthony List (as of 2010[8]). He has featured in a web program of the Foundation for Constitutional Government, Conversations with Bill Kristol, since 2014.[9]

Early life and education[edit]

Kristol in 11th grade at Collegiate School, 1969

William Kristol was born on December 23, 1952, in New York City, into a Jewish family, the son of Irving Kristol and Gertrude Himmelfarb.[citation needed] Irving Kristol was an editor and publisher who served as the managing editor of Commentary magazine, founded the magazine The Public Interest, and was described by Jonah Goldberg as the "godfather of neoconservatism."[10] Gertrude Himmelfarb was a prominent conservative historian, especially of intellectual history in the U.S. and Great Britain.

Kristol attended Collegiate School for Boys in Manhattan. He received a bachelor's degree at Harvard University and, from there, a Ph.D. in political science (1979).[citation needed][11][12]


Kristol with President Richard Nixon in 1970
Kristol with Vice President Dan Quayle in 1989

In the summer of 1970, Kristol was an intern at the White House.[13] In 1976, Kristol worked for Daniel Patrick Moynihan's United States Senate campaign, serving as deputy issues director during the Democratic primary. In 1988, he was the campaign manager for Alan Keyes's unsuccessful Maryland Senatorial campaign against Paul Sarbanes.

After teaching political philosophy and U.S. politics at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Kristol went to work in government in 1985, serving as chief of staff to United States secretary of education William Bennett during the Reagan administration, and later, as chief of staff to the vice president under Dan Quayle in the George H. W. Bush administration. The New Republic dubbed Kristol "Dan Quayle's brain" when he was appointed the vice president's chief of staff.

He served as chairman of the Project for the Republican Future from 1993 to 1994, and as the director of the Bradley Project at the Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee in 1993. In 1993, he led conservative opposition to the Clinton health care plan of 1993.

In 2003, Kristol and Lawrence F. Kaplan wrote The War Over Iraq: America's Mission and Saddam's Tyranny (ISBN), in which the authors analyzed the Bush Doctrine and the history of Iraqi-U.S. relations. In the book, Kristol and Kaplan provided support and justifications for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[14]

He also served as a foreign policy advisor for Senator John McCain's presidential campaign.[15]

Media commentator[edit]

After the Republican sweep of both houses of Congress in 1994, Kristol established, along with John Podhoretz, the conservative news magazine The Weekly Standard. Rupert Murdoch, chairman and managing director of News Corp., financed its creation.

Beginning in 1996, Kristol was a panelist on the ABC Sunday news program This Week. Following declining ratings, his contract was not renewed three years later.[16]

Kristol was a columnist for Time in 2007.[17] The following year, he joined The New York Times as a columnist. Several days after he did so, Times public editor Clark Hoyt called his hiring "a mistake," due to Kristol's assertion in 2006 that the Times should potentially be prosecuted for having revealed information about the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program.[18] Kristol wrote a weekly opinion column for The New York Times from January 7, 2008,[19] to January 26, 2009.

For ten years, Kristol was a regular panelist on Fox News Sunday and often contributed to the nightly program Special Report with Bret Baier. In 2013, his contract with Fox News expired, and he became a much sought after commentator on several networks.[20] It was announced on This Week with George Stephanopoulos on February 2, 2014, that Kristol would be a contributor for ABC News and to that program.[21]

Since the summer of 2014, Kristol has also hosted an online interview program, Conversations with Bill Kristol, featuring guests from academic and public life.[9]

Political views[edit]

Kristol was key to the defeat of the Clinton health care plan of 1993. In the first of what would become many strategy memos written for Republican policymakers, Kristol said the party should "kill," not amend, President Clinton's health care plan. A later memorandum used the phrase "There is no health care crisis," which Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole used in his response to Clinton's 1994 State of the Union address.

Kristol was a leading proponent of the Iraq War. In 1998, he joined other foreign policy analysts in sending a letter to President Clinton urging a stronger posture against Iraq.[22][23] Kristol argued that Saddam Hussein posed a grave threat to the United States and its allies: "The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy."[24]

In the 2000 presidential election, Kristol supported John McCain. Answering a question from a PBS reporter about the Republican primaries, he said, "No. I had nothing against Governor Bush. I was inclined to prefer McCain. The reason I was inclined to prefer McCain was his leadership on foreign policy."[25]

After the Bush administration developed its response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, Kristol said: "We've just been present at a very unusual moment, the creation of a new American foreign policy."[25] Kristol ardently supported the Bush administration's decision to go to war with Iraq. In 2003, he and Lawrence Kaplan wrote The War Over Iraq, in which he described reasons for removing Saddam. Kristol rejected comparisons to Vietnam and predicted a "two-month war, not an eight-year war" during a March 28 C-SPAN appearance.[26]

As the military situation in Iraq began to deteriorate in 2004, Kristol argued for an increase in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq. He also wrote an op-ed strongly criticizing United States secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, saying he "breezily dodged responsibility" for planning mistakes made in the Iraq War, including insufficient troop levels.[27] In September 2006, he and fellow commentator Rich Lowry wrote, "There is no mystery as to what can make the crucial difference in the battle of Baghdad: American troops."[28]

This was one of the early calls for what became the Iraq War troop surge of 2007 four months later. In December 2008, Kristol wrote that the surge was "opposed at the time by the huge majority of foreign policy experts, pundits, and pontificators," but that "most of them — and the man most of them are happy won the election, Barack Obama — now acknowledge the surge's success."[29]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with Kristol and former DNC Chairman Howard Dean before appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on September 22, 2014

Kristol was one of many conservatives to publicly oppose Bush's second U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Harriet Miers. "I'm disappointed, depressed, and demoralized," he said of Miers. "It is very hard to avoid the conclusion that President Bush flinched from a fight on constitutional philosophy. Miers is undoubtedly a decent and competent person. But her selection will unavoidably be judged as reflecting a combination of cronyism and capitulation on the part of the president."

He was a vocal supporter of the 2006 Lebanon War, stating that the war is "our war too," referring to the United States.

Kristol was an ardent promoter of Sarah Palin, advocating for her selection as the running mate of John McCain in the 2008 United States presidential election months before McCain chose her.[30][31] However, he later recanted his support for her, saying: "I'm perfectly willing to say that given what I now know about her, she would not have been a good vice president."[32][33]

In response to Iran's nuclear program, Kristol has supported strong sanctions. In June 2006, at the height of the Lebanon War, he suggested: "We might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait?"[34]

In 2010, Kristol criticized the Obama administration and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen for an unserious approach to Iran. He wrote: "The real question is what form of instability would be more dangerous — that caused by this Iranian government with nuclear weapons, or that caused by attacking this government's nuclear weapons program. It's time to have a serious debate about the choice between these two kinds of destabilization, instead of just refusing to confront the choice."[35]

In the 2010 affair surrounding the disclosure of U.S. diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks, Kristol spoke strongly against the organization and suggested using "our various assets to harass, snatch, or neutralize Julian Assange and his collaborators, wherever they are."[36] In March 2011, he wrote an editorial in The Weekly Standard arguing that the United States' military interventions in Muslim countries (including the Gulf War, the Kosovo War, the War in Afghanistan, and the Iraq War) should not be classified as "invasions," but rather as "liberations."[37][38] Kristol backed President Barack Obama's decision to intervene in the Libyan Civil War in 2011 and urged fellow conservatives to support the action.[39][40][41]

On October 4, 2021, Kristol debated, and lost to, Scott Horton, host of Antiwar Radio, and editorial director of at the SOHO Forum. Kristol took the affirmative position on "A willingness to intervene, and to seek regime change, is key to an American foreign policy that benefits America."[42][43]

Opposition to Donald Trump[edit]

Kristol orating at Arizona State University in March 2017.

Kristol vehemently opposed the nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for president in 2016. He has continued to express animosity towards Trump's domestic and foreign policy aims, and dismay at conservative Republicans who have accommodated themselves to the Trump administration.[44]

In January 2019, Kristol criticized President Trump's planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan.[45] On December 21, Kristol and a group calling itself Republicans for the Rule of Law released an ad encouraging viewers to call their Senators to demand top Trump officials be forced to testify in his impeachment trial.[46]

In March 2020, Kristol endorsed former U.S. vice president Joe Biden for President of the United States.[47] Kristol is founding director of Republican Voters Against Trump, a project of Defending Democracy Together, launched in May 2020.[48] On October 15, Kristol voted for the Democratic ticket. He stated "Just filled out my early absentee ballot in VA for Joe Biden & Kamala Harris, Mark Warner, and Jennifer Wexton. No regrets at all about this."[49]

Kristol did an interview with Jewish Insider in 2021 where he said that he identifies as more of a former Republican.[50]

Personal life[edit]

Since 1975, Kristol has been married to Susan Scheinberg, whom he met while they were both students at Harvard. Scheinberg holds a Ph.D. in classics. The couple has three children.[51] Their daughter, Anne, is married to writer Matthew Continetti, editor-in-chief of The Washington Free Beacon website. Their son, Joseph, served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan and worked for the management consulting company McKinsey & Company before taking a job as legislative director for Senator Tom Cotton in 2018.[52][53] Kristol lives in McLean, Virginia.[54]

Published works[edit]

  • The Weekly Standard: A Reader: 1995-2005 (Harper Perennial, 2006). ISBN 0-06-088285-9
  • War Over Iraq: Saddam's Tyranny And America's Mission (Co-author Lawrence F. Kaplan) (Encounter Books, 2003). ISBN 1-893554-69-4
  • Bush v. Gore: The Court Cases and the Commentary (Co-editor E. J. Dionne) (Brookings Institution Press, 2001). ISBN 0-8157-0107-1
  • Homosexuality and American Public Life (Introduction by Kristol, Editor Christopher Wolfe) (Spence Publishing Company, 1999). ISBN 978-1-890626-23-5


  1. ^
  2. ^ "A Note From Bill Kristol". Weekly Standard. December 12, 2016. Retrieved December 13, 2016.
  3. ^ "The Bulwark Masthead". The Bulwark. Retrieved July 27, 2020.
  4. ^ Edsall, Thomas B. (January 18, 2007). "Happy Hours". The New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
  5. ^ Kristol, Bill; Kagan, Robert (January 21, 2002). "What to Do About Iraq".
  6. ^ Kristol, Bill (May 20, 2015). "William Kristol: We were right to fight in Iraq". USA Today. Retrieved May 6, 2019. We were right to invade Iraq in 2003 to remove Saddam Hussein...
  7. ^ "Political commentator William Kristol talks Donald Trump on American Forum".
  8. ^ "True North" (PDF). Susan B. Anthony List. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 16, 2013. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  9. ^ a b "Join the Conversation". The Foundation for Constitutional Government Inc. 2016. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  10. ^ Goldberg, Jonah (May 20, 2003). "The Neoconservative Invention". National Review. Retrieved July 7, 2009.
  11. ^ "William Kristol CV" (PDF). November 20, 2022. Retrieved November 20, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ "LECTURERS AT THE JEFFERSON EDUCATIONAL SOCIETY". Retrieved November 19, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ "Gang of Five".
  14. ^ Kaplan, Lawrence F.; Kristol, William (2003). The War Over Iraq: America's Mission and Saddam's Tyranny. Encounter Books. ISBN 9781893554696.
  15. ^ Strobel, William (February 8, 2008). "What would President McCain's foreign policy be?". McClatchy Washington Bureau. Archived from the original on February 10, 2008. Retrieved February 10, 2008.
  16. ^ Kurtz, Howard (December 23, 1999). "Bill Kristol Dumped in 'This Week' Makeover". The Washington Post. p. C01. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  17. ^ Koblin, John (December 18, 2007). "Kristol, Krauthammer Are Out of Time". The New York Observer. Retrieved January 16, 2008.
  18. ^ Hoyt, Clark (January 13, 2008). "He May Be Unwelcome, but We'll Survive". The New York Times. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  19. ^ Kristol, William (December 28, 2007). "The Times Adds an Op-Ed Columnist". The New York Times. Retrieved December 31, 2007.
  20. ^ Byers, Dylan (November 1, 2013). "Why Bill Kristol left Fox News". Archived from the original on November 10, 2013.
  21. ^ "'This Week' Welcome: Kristol and Navarro". ABC News. February 2, 2014. Retrieved February 3, 2014.
  22. ^ "Overthrow Hussein, U.S. group advises". February 20, 1998.
  23. ^ Hoff, Joan (2007). A Faustian Foreign Policy from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781139468596.
  24. ^ "Center for Security Policy - Open Letter to the President". Center for Security Policy. February 24, 1998.
  25. ^ a b "frontline: the war behind closed doors: interviews: william kristol". PBS. Retrieved September 13, 2010.
  26. ^ "The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, January 7th, 2013". The Rachel Maddow Show. NBC News. January 7, 2013. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
  27. ^ The Defense Secretary We Have, William Kristol, December 15, 2004
  28. ^ Kristol, William; Lowry, Rich (September 12, 2006). "Reinforce Baghdad". The Washington Post.
  29. ^ Popularity Isn't Everything, William Kristol, The New York Times, December 22, 2008
  30. ^ Mayer, Jane (October 27, 2008). "The Insiders: How John McCain came to pick Sarah Palin". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 21, 2009.
  31. ^ Horton, Scott (October 15, 2008). "Salon Radio: Scott Horton" (Transcript and link to Audio). Interviewed by Glenn Greenwald. Archived from the original on January 13, 2009. Retrieved June 21, 2009.
  32. ^ Reed, Elspeth (Aug 20, 2013). Bill Kristol Doesn't Want Any More Credit for Sarah Palin's Career. The Atlantic Monthly.
  33. ^ Chotiner, Isaac (December 22, 2017). Was Palin the Harbinger of Trump? Slate.
  34. ^ Kristol, William (July 24, 2006). "It's Our War, Bush should go to Jerusalem--and the U.S. should confront Iran". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved December 14, 2006.
  35. ^ "Mullen's Myth of Geostrategic Equivalence". The Weekly Standard. April 19, 2010. Retrieved September 13, 2010.
  36. ^ "Whack WikiLeaks". The Weekly Standard. November 30, 2010. Retrieved December 8, 2010.
  37. ^ Kristol, William (March 28, 2011). "The Party of Freedom". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved March 29, 2011.
  38. ^ Chait, Jonathan (March 21, 2011). "Bill Kristol And Neocon Newspeak". New Republic. Retrieved March 29, 2011.
  39. ^ Kristol, William (April 4, 2011). "Give War a Chance". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
  40. ^ Kristol, William (March 30, 2011). "Barack H. Reagan". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
  41. ^ Kristol, William (April 11, 2011). "The Arabs' Spring—and Ours". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved April 3, 2011.
  42. ^ "A willingness to intervene, and to seek regime change, is key to an American foreign policy that benefits America". The SOHO Forum. October 4, 2021.
  43. ^ Gene Epstein (October 8, 2021). "U.S. Foreign Policy: Bill Kristol vs. Scott Horton". reason.
  44. ^ Wallace-Wells, Benjamin (February 2, 2018). "Bill Kristol Wanders the Wilderness of Trump World". The New Yorker. Retrieved May 4, 2018.
  45. ^ "Are Democrats Hypocrites for Criticizing Trump's Troop Withdrawals?". Slate. December 21, 2018.
  46. ^ Mary Papenfuss (December 21, 2019), "Witnesses 'Must Testify' At Impeachment Trial, Declares GOP Group. 'Call Your Senators.'", HuffPost
  47. ^ Krawczyk, Kathryn (March 2, 2020). "Bill Kristol Declares Joe Biden 'The Simple Answer' for Beating Trump". The Week.
  48. ^ "About Us".
  49. ^ ""Just filled out my early absentee ballot in VA for Joe Biden & Kamala Harris, Mark Warner, and Jennifer Wexton. No regrets at all about this."". Twitter. October 15, 2020.
  50. ^ Gabby Deutch (September 13, 2021), "Bill Kristol's evolution", JewishInsider
  51. ^ "Gang of Five". The New York Times. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
  52. ^ Clifton, Eli (January 25, 2018). "Tom Cotton Appointed "Never Trump" Bill Kristol's Son Legislative Director". Retrieved July 14, 2018.
  53. ^ Delia Pais and Joseph Kristol February 16, 2014, New York Times
  54. ^ "Mike Murphy on the Trump Administration, the Midterms, and 2020". Conversations with Bill Kristol. The Foundation for Constitutional Government, Inc. February 2018. Retrieved February 11, 2018.


  • Johnson, Haynes and Broder, David. The System: the American way of politics at the breaking point. Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1996.
  • Current Biography Yearbook, 1997.
  • Nina Easton, Gang of Five, Simon & Schuster, 2002.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Chief of Staff to the Vice President
Succeeded by