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 65)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Susan Scheinberg (m. 1975)
RelativesIrving Kristol (Father)
Bea Himmelfarb (Mother)
EducationHarvard University (BA, MA, PhD)

William Kristol (/ˈkrɪstəl/; born December 23, 1952) is an American neoconservative political analyst.[1] He is the founder and editor-at-large[2] of the political magazine The Weekly Standard and a political commentator on several networks. Kristol is a vocal supporter of the Never Trump movement. Although an ardent Republican in the past, Kristol opposes Donald Trump and has criticized what he calls the "Trumpified Republican Party."[3]

Kristol is associated with a number of prominent 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 think tank co-founded by Liz Cheney and Debra Burlingame, and serves on the board of the Emergency Committee for Israel and the Susan B. Anthony List.[4] He has featured in a web program of the Foundation for Constitutional Government, Conversations with Bill Kristol, since 2014.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Kristol was born on December 23, 1952 in New York City, into a Jewish family. His father, Irving Kristol was an editor and publisher who served as the managing editor of Commentary magazine, founded the magazine The Public Interest and has been described as the "godfather of neoconservatism".[6] His mother, Gertrude Himmelfarb, is a scholar of Victorian era literature. He graduated in 1970 from Collegiate School, a preparatory school for boys in New York City.

In 1973, Kristol received an A.B. from Harvard College, graduating magna cum laude in three years. He was a student of Harvey Mansfield. Kristol received a Ph.D. in government from Harvard in 1979. During his first year of graduate school, Kristol shared a room with fellow government doctoral candidate Alan Keyes.


Kristol with Vice President Dan Quayle in 1989

In 1976, Kristol worked for Daniel Patrick Moynihan's U.S. Senate campaign, serving as deputy issues director during the Democratic primary. Later, in 1988, Kristol 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 Secretary of Education William Bennett during the Reagan administration, and then 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 rose to fame as he led conservative opposition to the Clinton health care plan.

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 war in Iraq.[7]

He also served as a foreign policy advisor for Senator John McCain's presidential campaign.[8]

Media commentator[edit]

After the Republican sweep of both houses of Congress in 1994, Kristol established, along with conservative John Podhoretz, the conservative newsmagazine The Weekly Standard. Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and Managing Director of News Corp., financed the 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.[9]

Kristol was a columnist for Time in 2007.[10] He joined The New York Times as a columnist the following year. 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.[11] Kristol wrote a weekly opinion column for The New York Times from January 7, 2008[12] 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.[13] 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.[14]

Since the summer of 2014, Kristol has also hosted an online interview program, Conversations with Bill Kristol, featuring guests from the academy and public life.[5]

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 memo 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.[15][16] 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."[17]

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."[18]

After the Bush administration developed its response to September 11th, 2001, Kristol said, "We've just been present at a very unusual moment, the creation of a new American foreign policy."[18] 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 CSPAN appearance.[19]

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. In 2004, he wrote an op-ed strongly criticizing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, saying he "breezily dodged responsibility" for planning mistakes made in the Iraq War, including insufficient troop levels.[20] In September 2006, he wrote, with fellow commentator Rich Lowry, "There is no mystery as to what can make the crucial difference in the battle of Baghdad: American troops."[21]

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."[22]

Kristol was one of many conservatives to publicly oppose Bush's second U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Harriet Miers. He said of Miers: "I'm disappointed, depressed, and demoralized. [...] 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 U.S. Presidential Election months before McCain chose her.[23][24] However, he later recanted his support for her saying that "I'm perfectly willing to say that given what I now know about her, she would not have been a good vice president."[25][26]

In response to Iran's nuclear program, Kristol supports 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?"[27]

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."[28]

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."[29] 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".[30][31] Kristol has also backed President Barack Obama's decision to intervene in the 2011 Libyan civil war and urged fellow conservatives to support the action.[32][33][34]

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 alarm at Trump's nativist policies, and dismay at conservative Republicans who have accommodated themselves to the Trump administration.[35][36]

Personal life[edit]

Since 1975, he has been married to Susan Scheinberg, whom he met while they were both graduate students at Harvard. Scheinberg holds a Ph.D. in classics. They have three children.[37] Their daughter Anne is married to writer Matthew Continetti, editor-in-chief of The Washington Free Beacon. 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.[38][39] Kristol lives in Northern Virginia.[40]


  • 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 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. 2016-12-12. Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  3. ^ "Political commentator William Kristol talks Donald Trump on American Forum".
  4. ^ "True North" (PDF). Susan B. Anthony List. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-06-16. Retrieved 2013-03-19.
  5. ^ a b "Join the Conversation". The Foundation for Constitutional Government Inc. 2016. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  6. ^ Goldberg, Jonah (2003-05-20). "The Neoconservative Invention". National Review. Retrieved 2009-07-07.
  7. ^ Kaplan, Lawrence F.; Kristol, William (2003). The War Over Iraq: America's Mission and Saddam's Tyranny. Encounter Books. ISBN 9781893554696.
  8. ^ Strobel, William (2008-02-08). "What would President McCain's foreign policy be?". McClatchy Washington Bureau. Archived from the original on 2008-02-10. Retrieved 2008-02-10.
  9. ^ Kurtz, Howard (December 23, 1999). "Bill Kristol Dumped in 'This Week' Makeover". Washington Post. p. C01. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  10. ^ Koblin, John (December 18, 2007). "Kristol, Krauthammer Are Out of Time". New York Observer. Retrieved 2008-01-16.
  11. ^ Hoyt, Clark (January 13, 2008). "He May Be Unwelcome, but We'll Survive". The New York Times. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  12. ^ Kristol, William (December 28, 2007). "The Times Adds an Op-Ed Columnist". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
  13. ^ Byers, Dylan (November 1, 2013). "Why Bill Kristol left Fox News". Archived from the original on November 10, 2013.
  14. ^ "'This Week' Welcome: Kristol and Navarro". ABC News. 2014-02-02. Retrieved 2014-02-03.
  15. ^ "Overthrow Hussein, U.S. group advises". February 20, 1998.
  16. ^ Hoff, Joan (2007). "A Faustian Foreign Policy from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush". Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781139468596.
  17. ^ "Center for Security Policy - Open Letter to the President". Center for Security Policy.
  18. ^ a b "frontline: the war behind closed doors: interviews: william kristol". PBS. Retrieved 2010-09-13.
  19. ^ "The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, January 7th, 2013". The Rachel Maddow Show. NBC News. January 7, 2013. Retrieved 2014-01-30.
  20. ^ The Defense Secretary We Have, William Kristol, December 15, 2004
  21. ^ Kristol, William; Lowry, Rich (September 12, 2006). "Reinforce Baghdad". Washington Post.
  22. ^ Popularity Isn’t Everything, William Kristol, The New York Times, December 22, 2008
  23. ^ Mayer, Jane (October 27, 2008). "The Insiders: How John McCain came to pick Sarah Palin". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2009-06-21.
  24. ^ Horton, Scott (October 15, 2008). "Salon Radio: Scott Horton" (Transcript and link to Audio). Interviewed by Glenn Greenwald. Retrieved 2009-06-21.
  25. ^ Reed, Elspeth (Aug 20, 2013). Bill Kristol Doesn't Want Any More Credit for Sarah Palin's Career. The Atlantic Monthly.
  26. ^ Chotiner, Isaac (December 22, 2017). Was Palin the Harbinger of Trump? Slate.
  27. ^ Kristol, William (2006-07-24). "It's Our War, Bush should go to Jerusalem--and the U.S. should confront Iran". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved 2006-12-14.
  28. ^ "Mullen's Myth of Geostrategic Equivalence". The Weekly Standard. 2010-04-19. Retrieved 2010-09-13.
  29. ^ "Whack WikiLeaks". The Weekly Standard. November 30, 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-08.
  30. ^ Kristol, William (March 28, 2011). "The Party of Freedom". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved March 29, 2011.
  31. ^ Chait, Jonathan (March 21, 2011). "Bill Kristol And Neocon Newspeak". New Republic. Retrieved March 29, 2011.
  32. ^ Kristol, William (April 4, 2011). "Give War a Chance". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
  33. ^ Kristol, William (March 30, 2011). "Barack H. Reagan". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
  34. ^ Kristol, William (April 11, 2011). "The Arabs' Spring—and Ours". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved April 3, 2011.
  35. ^ Wallace-Wells, Benjamin. "Bill Kristol Wanders the Wilderness of Trump World". The New Yorker. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  36. ^ Hains, Tim. "Bill Kristol: Tucker Carlson and Fox News Have Become "Ethno-Nationalist" (video and transcript)". Real Clear Politics. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  37. ^ "Gang of Five". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-01-30.
  38. ^ Clifton, Eli (25 January 2018). "Tom Cotton Appointed "Never Trump" Bill Kristol's Son Legislative Director". Retrieved 14 July 2018.
  39. ^ Delia Pais and Joseph Kristol FEB. 16, 2014, New York Times
  40. ^ "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
Craig Fuller
Chief of Staff to the Vice President
Succeeded by
Roy Neel