The Dream Palace of Bill Kristol

William Kristol of the Weekly Standard on NBC’s Meet the Press April 15, 2001, in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Alex Wong/Newsmakers

Hand it to Bill Kristol: He’s a mighty good begger. In the Weekly Standard, for the umpteenth time, he takes his knees and beseeches some dream candidate to rise and save his party.

[I] is a moment, as you prepare to cast your vote, for others to reflect on whether they don’t owe it to their country to step forward. As this is no time for voters to choose fecklessly, it is no time for leaders to duck responsibility. Those who have stood aside—and who now may have concluded, as they may not have when they announced their original decision, that the current field is lacking—will surely hear the words of Thomas Paine echoing down the centuries: “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

I keep saying “umpteenth,” but we can count. How many times has Kristol done this? From the Dec. 25 issue of the magazine, he invoked the “ghosts of Lincoln and FDR” to dream of a savior in Tampa.

[I]t might well happen that no candidate will have a majority of pledged delegates when Republicans enter the doors of the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa in late August. And a deadlocked convention, which then became a deliberative convention, could be a good thing, because most sentient Republicans, and most conscientious conservatives, suspect we can do better than the current field.

One week earlier:

Unless one candidate runs the table in January, there will be time in February for second thoughts, and for new entrants. Presidents’ Day weekend of 2012​—​still more than eight months from Election Day in November​—​would presumably be an appropriate time, if circumstances warrant, for a non-Hughes, non-Dewey, non-Nixon, non-Dole Republican candidate to present himself. A presidential election is a terrible thing to waste.

On Dec. 8:

The key, I think, would be if both Romney and Gingrich stumbled during January. If that were to happen, there would be a window of opportunity in February—during the gap between the first spurt of January primaries and Super Tuesday on March 6. The window probably closes around Valentine’s Day—Tuesday, February 14—so let’s call the late entry the Valentine’s Day option. That could be the last chance (unless there’s a deadlocked convention, which isn’t totally outside the realm of possibility either) for Republicans to throw off the old suitors and run into the arms of a new Prince Charming. Or two. And Valentine’s Day is for the young.

So (as I argued a year ago—and several times subsequently), why not the best? Ryan-Rubio 2012?

On Nov. 28, arguing that Mitt Romney was no sure thing:

Bachmann and Santorum could still have a run in Iowa. If they continue to trail badly, it’s not out of the question that someone else could still present himself in mid-December to the citizens of Iowa (Hi there, Mike Huckabee! Hello, Sarah Palin!). Or, if Iowa (January 3), New Hampshire (January 10), and South Carolina (January 21) produce fragmented results, and the state of the race is disheartening to Republicans, a late January entry by another candidate isn’t out of the question, either. Couldn’t Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio win the January 31 Florida primary as a write-in candidate in such circumstances?

On Oct. 25:

The race seems to be more open and fluid than conventional wisdom has it. In particular, it strikes me that as everyone focuses (understandably) on Romney, Cain, and Perry, Gingrich is increasingly well positioned for a serious challenge. And mightn’t at least one of Mitch Daniels, Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, or Jeb Bush be rethinking his decision not to run?

Did I mention that Kristol wrote all of this after Chris Christie decided not to run for president? Before Christie made that official:

You don’t have to “feel deeply in [your] heart” that you’re called to run for president. You have to think you’re the right man for the job. And, if that’s the case, you have a duty to your country to step forward. It’s not about you. It’s about your country.

Days earlier:

[W]e do ask (again!), with a month left before filing deadlines: Is that all there is?

Watching this week as Mitch Daniels intelligently promoted his book and Paul Ryan cogently explained why crony capitalism is inconsistent with the rule of law, we of course lamented that neither of them had stepped up to the challenge. Jeb Bush apparently isn’t getting in. That would seem to leave Chris Christie.

What brought this on? Days before this, Kristol had been acknowledging that a dream candidate was “not to be in the cards.” He’d seemed to have closed the book on his spring and summer punditry about how Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan should run, because they said they wouldn’t. The biweekly, then weekly exercise that has followed that is a remarkable act of willpower—Kristol as a mighty war horse, charging through no man’s land, Hans Zimmer swells and strings booming all around him.