War-Monger vs. The Porn King: Is Bill Kristol Respectable?

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The Rocky Mountain News (Colorado)

War-Monger vs. The Porn King: Is Bill Kristol Respectable?

by
Paul Campos

Until I recently moved, my next-door neighbor was an extremely successful pornographer. He's made a fortune by transmitting pay-per-view satellite broadcasts of hard-core sex films to many of America's best-known hotel chains. (One of the curiosities of the age is that while it is a crime for a man to pay a woman for sex, it's perfectly legal for a man to pay an 18-year-old girl a few hundred dollars to have sex simultaneously with a half-dozen strangers, and then sell a film of the event to millions).

The Porn King built himself an impressive mansion here in beautiful Boulder (this is just one of his several residences I'm given to understand), and it towered above my modest home. Like Nick, the narrator of The Great Gatsby, I was both bemused by the splendor of my neighbor's abode, and somewhat puzzled by just what sort of relations I ought to have with a man who, although exceedingly rich, could not be considered respectable.

All of New York knew that Jay Gatsby was a gangster; all of Boulder knows the Porn King is essentially a glorified pimp. Yet just as much of fashionable society came to Gatsby's splendid parties, many an eminently respectable Boulderite enjoyed the generous hospitality of the Porn King's table.

I myself was more than once invited to partake of his food and drink, but politely declined. Still, I occasionally found myself engaged in a friendly stop-and-chat with my amiable neighbor. I always came away from these trivial moments of social intercourse with a slightly confused feeling. Was it, after all, a bit cowardly on my part to treat him as if I didn't know or care who he was?

All this came to mind last week when I glimpsed Bill Kristol's smooth and amiable face on the television, where it appears so often. Kristol - editor of The Weekly Standard, Fox News contributor, co-founder of the key neo-conservative group the Project For the New American Century, and current visiting professor at Harvard - is the very definition of a well-respected man about town, doing the best things so conservatively.

But how respectable is Kristol, really? Anyone who pays the least attention to him soon discovers that the ruling passion of Kristol's life is to involve the United States in as many wars as possible, with as many enemies as he can find or create.

In short, Kristol thinks about war in much the same way the narrator of Lolita thought about 12-year-old girls: with a constant, obsessive, perverse longing.

I choose this analogy with some care. An overwhelming lust for violence seems to be the common vice that links together Kristol, the various Kaplans (Lawrence, Fred, Robert), and other leaders of the contemporary neo-conservative movement.

All these men appear to genuinely love the idea of war for its own sake. The thought of their countrymen - not they themselves of course, as not one of them has ever come within a thousand miles of a live bullet - inflicting the horrific violence of modern warfare on various hapless foreigners is something that clearly excites these gentlemen quite a bit.

And that, when you think about it, is rather disturbing.

When he says goodbye to Gatsby for what turns out to be the last time, Nick suddenly realizes that, although Gatsby is a criminal, he isn't, at bottom, nearly as great a scoundrel as many of the pillars of polite society who circulated on his perfectly clipped lawn on those starry summer nights.

" 'They're a rotten crowd,' I shouted across the lawn. 'You're worth the whole damn bunch put together.' "

For my part, I'd rather give the Porn King the Presidential Medal of Freedom than shake Bill Kristol's hand.

Paul Campos is a professor of law at the University of Colorado. He can be reached at paul.campos@colorado.edu.

© 2007 The Rocky Mountain News

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