October 7, 2017


The Man Who Would Be Kempton : The undiminished quality of George Will's stuff. (ANDREW FERGUSON, 10/16/17, Weekly Standard)

George Will is part of the furniture of Washington life and as close to a national celebrity as punditry will allow. He has been famous for so long--he's figured in episodes of Seinfeld and The Simpsons ("The George Will?" says an awed friend of Lisa's) and has been the subject of a sketch on Saturday Night Live and made a character in Doonesbury, back when both were sort of funny--it's sometimes easy to forget he's here. But you don't forget for long.

For instance: His column this May asserting that President Trump suffered from a mental "disability" was one of the most republished columns of his career, propelled by the combined accelerant of Twitter, Facebook, and vast clouds of anti-Trump animus. His columns are routinely among the top five "most read" stories on the Washington Post website the day they appear. When, last year, he offhandedly told a meeting of the Federalist Society that he had dropped his Republican party registration, political outlets from the Post to Politico wrote it up as news. Under contract to Fox News, he engaged in a televised argument with Bill O'Reilly, then the network's premier star, that became, as the kids don't say but should, a YouTube sensation.

It also got him fired. Will called O'Reilly a liar and O'Reilly saw his liar and raised him a hack, and the spectacle of two of his stars squabbling so unnerved Roger Ailes, the overlord of Fox News, that he phoned Will and instructed him to declare a truce. Recall President Muffley's famous reproach in Dr. Strangelove. "Gentleman, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!"

"I think he didn't think I was a good team player," Will says, "and he was right. I'm not a good team player." Will left Fox and joined the other team, MSNBC, where he can unfurl his anti-Trump colors to cheers instead of dirty looks.

"The usual trope about Fox is that it's been bad for journalism but good for conservatism, and that's exactly wrong," he says. "They've got some really first-class journalists over there. But it's been calamitous for conservatism. When Sean Hannity is the face of conservatism you're in deep trouble."

Posted by at October 7, 2017 12:56 PM