Kristol Shares Thoughts on Election
“I’ve never been introduced with a note on noise…it’s good to be in Oberlin — I think,” said Ronald Regan Political Lectureship Series speaker William Kristol this past Thursday. He was referring to an introduction made by Assistant Professor of Philosophy Tim Hall, who reminded the audience that Oberlin bylaws demanded a respectful audience.
The Oberlin Republicans were concerned about how Kristol’s political views and prominence would be received by the predominately liberal Oberlin public. Kristol, who is currently editor of The Weekly Standard, is best known for his tenure as political advisor to Ronald Regan, Dan Quayle and George W. Bush.
“Responding vocally, simultaneously and temperately is generally accepted…but sustained and repeated noise is not permitted,” said Hall before the lecture.
President of the Oberlin College Republicans and College senior Jonathan Bruno informed the Review that vandalism of posters advertising the event, as well as rumors of public protest during the speech, made the comments necessary.
Dissent continued until shortly before the speech, as the Info Shop, a student group committed to raising political awareness of the left perspective, passed out anti-Kristol information packets and posted banners and posters in the same vein. A long white banner, splattered with red that was posted in West Lecture’s back wall, said, “We’ve got to win this War.” It reframed a Kristol quote. Smaller signs were posted which read, “Peace is the way,” “Bring the troops home now!” and “Investigate 9/11.”
Taking these political sentiments into account, Kristol opened his speech with a series of comical anecdotes. They were well received.
He described an election in which he voted for the “Republican” running against Tip O’ Neil only to find out later that there was no Republican candidate and he had inadvertently voted for a communist.
Talk of elections led to Kristol’s predictions of the 2006 midterm and 2008 presidential elections. He confirmed that Republicans would take a hit, but questioned how bad the hit would be.
“[Historically] if one party controlled House and presidencies, that party lost part in the next possible off-year election,” Kristol said. “[Off-year elections] tend to be retrospective…voters punish the party in power for failings.”
Kristol highlighted a number of Republican shortcomings he thought would negatively effect this midterm election. Conservative in-fighting and lack of solidarity would prove problematic. He cited the failure of Bush’s immigration and social security initiatives issued after his re-election to a second term, despite a Republican Senate and House, as an example. He noted that Republican scandal and a poorly executed war in Iraq would further hurt the GOP.
Kristol predicted that this year’s midterm election would not prove indicative of the upcoming 2008 election.
“Whereas off-year elections tend to be retrospective, presidential elections are forward looking,” Kristol said.
Still, he recognized that the future is uncertain.
“Election of 2008 is the first election since 1956 where there is neither incumbent nor vice president stepping up. It will be an open election with an open primary,” Kristol said.
The Republicans usually have a candidate groomed and lined up for the presidential race by this time, Kristol said, but not this time. Candidates like John McCain and Rudy Giuliani will fight for the presidential bid.
Kristol said the Democratic primary would be “vigorous,” citing Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, John Edwards, Barack Obama and Russ Feingold as probable candidates. He added that Gore would prove a formidable challenge to Clinton and the other candidates because of his stance against the war in Iraq.
“During the Democratic debates Gore will be able to look at his candidates and say, ‘You voted for the war in Iraq whereas I didn’t.’ That’s a strong appeal,” said Kristol.
Kristol went on to comment on the issues he thought would be pertinent to the ’08 election.
“The Supreme Court will be important to this election. At least one if not three seats will be nominated by the next president election,” he said.
Kristol feels confident that voters will look for a foreign policy candidate next election. He explained that foreign policy would be the primary issue of this election, as America is in a new era. The 1970s saw the cold war, the 1990s saw years of American peace and prosperity, and now we are in the post-9/11 era.
He said that the current era is one of great uncertainty, and good leadership is necessary to address growing international threats such as terrorism and the nuclear proliferation of Iran and North Korea.