Kristol Walks The Tightrope: Tries To Defend Both McCain And The New York Times

Today on Fox News, right-wing pundit and New York Times columnist Bill Kristol discussed the New York Times’s damaging story on Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) unethical relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman. Kristol tried to have it both ways, juggling his support for McCain with his allegiance to his new employer.

Defending McCain, Kristol said that he is not sure whether the NYT story “is fair” and went on to suggest it wasn’t very consequential:

— “There’s no one showing that McCain did anything.”

— “This is no big deal and no blow to the McCain campaign.”

— “The McCain campaign could be heaving a big sigh of relief…it’s a one day story.”

— “No one’s really accusing him of anything.”

— “At the end of the day there’s nothing there that proves or suggests any wrong-doing by Sen. McCain.”

— “There’s nothing in it that’s really damaging to McCain. … [He] has really put this story to rest.”

At the same time, Kristol was careful not to criticize his new employer, the Times. When Fox anchor Trace Gallagher told Kristol that the story is “almost blatently unfair,” Kristol hedged. “Well I don’t know, they’re reporting on turmoil within the McCain campaign,” he said. Kristol made similar defenses of the Times throughout the segment:

— “The Times is entitled to print a long story about McCain advisers going to a lobbyist and saying she was dropping McCain’s name too much.”

— “I’m not going to criticize [NY Times executive editor Bill] Keller or the Times for publishing it.”

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2008/02/kristolmcnyt.320.240.flv]

The new Kristol seems to be a much more tepid critic than the old Kristol, who once argued the NYT “isn’t a first rate newspaper” and “should be prosecuted.”

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