My daughter Jessi and I are visiting Oberlin College in Ohio today and tomorrow because she will be applying for school here. We were walking around campus tonight getting a feel for things when we happened into the Ronald Reagan Political Lectureship Series presentation by conservative Republican William Kristol. I am not familiar with his work but the posters around campus say he is the founder and editor of The Weekly Standard and served in the administrations of two Republican U.S. Presidents.
There were clearly two sets of posters up around campus about tonight’s talk. One was the large official poster in color, complete with a photo of Ronald Reagan in front of an American flag plus a photo of the speaker. The other posters were black and white photocopies attacking Mr. Kristol. One showed a very nasty photo of a naked torture victim. Another was a list of his goals and political sins from a liberal viewpoint.
Mr. Kristol gave a funny and well considered presentation, bravely leaving more than half of the time available for questions from what seemed to be an overwhelmingly liberal audience. The auditorium was full to overflowing with at least three uniformed security guards well in evidence. Some of the questions were thoughtful and well considered but many were lightweight and reflecting badly on the questioners. Mr. Kristol answered all of them politely and intelligently, sometimes deflecting or reinterpreting aggressive or silly aspects. I was impressed with his sincerity and professionalism even if I don’t
agree with all of his conclusions and views.
Jessi even got to ask a question. She was delighted when the (big and potentially scary) security guard kindly encouraged her and then congratulated her on getting her question answered. Jessi asked Mr. Kristol if he thought the Bush administration would have been stronger in Iraq if Congress had declared war following constitutional requirements rather than declaring a military action. Mr. Kristol complimented the question but said he thought Congress knew what they were voting on politically and the formality would not have made a difference.
All in all, it was an interesting evening and enlightening, if in a disappointing way, on the liberal politics of Oberlin. I plan to look for more from William Kristol as I found his comments thoughtful and surprisingly balanced in their judgements.