Throughout all these efforts, however, Kristol has never apologized for his own role in laying the groundwork for Trump. Kristol tirelessly advocated for the disastrous 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, which badly damaged the GOP in the minds of American voters. Less obviously, he also promoted then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as John McCain’s vice-presidential running mate in 2008 — an action that elevated anti-intellectualism to the highest reaches of the Republican Party and surely paved the way for Trump.
Though he is slightly contrite about his Palin boosterism, Kristol rejects the charge that he shares blame for helping Trump rise to the top.
“Basically, this argument is, anyone active in conservative debates over the last 15 years is responsible for Trump,” he told Politico’s Michael Crowley last year.
Any number of other factors played a role, he argued, from “political correctness” to the Barack Obama presidency to a “failure to enforce the law on immigration. … In this respect, Trump is kind of over-determined.”
Though not part of the Republican elite as Kristol is, talk radio host Glenn Beck also seems to believe that the Trump phenomenon emerged ex nihilo, with no encouragement from the conservative media and political machines.
“What have they done in the last three years?” Beck said in a September monologue in which he described what he saw was ailing the GOP.
“They’ve co-opted the alt-right. Because why? Because they’re racist? No. ‘Because every vote counts and so we’ll use them,’” Beck said. “Because it drives money and drives votes. Hate drives money and drives votes.”