Bill Kristol.(Fox News)
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Is ECI a Typical Kristol Think Tank?

Loyalty to GOP is tested on missile treaty

Marc Tracy
December 08, 2010
Bill Kristol.(Fox News)

The New Republic has a fun article on Bill Kristol’s penchant for starting think tanks, committees, and the like. And next to the fun is a harsh conclusion: Kristol “has developed a singular talent: Cooking up conservative think tanks that churn out pseudo-intellectual arguments to serve the GOP’s immediate political interests.”

I made a similar joke about Kristol’s serial founding (without the reporting and the coherent argument and that other rigorous stuff) several months ago when he co-founded the Emergency Committee for Israel. The article brings up a question raised during the campaign season: Is ECI (and J Street, for that matter, but if J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami has a Kristol-esque pattern, I’m not aware of it) designed primarily to advance certain policies regarding Israel, or to help a certain American political party?

TNR doesn’t mention ECI, and I haven’t seen ECI comment on the article (and it has not answered my inquiry). But the group is not exactly building a strong reputation for issue advocacy with its nominal non-stance on the START missile treaty. Most clear-eyed observers recognize that START, which Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitriy Medvedev signed, would, by bringing the United States and Russia closer together, make life tougher on Iran, in turn making life better for Israel; which is why pro-Israel groups of numerous stripes (J Street, yes, but also the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee) support it.

Most congressional Republicans oppose the treaty, for reasons that have at least as much to do with politics as policy (an assumption I make based on the fact that several prominent Republicans who are less electorally engaged support the treaty). Which, you know: They’re politicians, so that explains that. On the other hand, ECI is nominally an interest group. Yet its refusal to take a stand on the treaty, and its castigation of Jewish Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Carl Levin—who quite logically connected the treaty to the Israel issue in an effort, so far unsuccessful, to get AIPAC to endorse it—makes the most sense not if ECI wishes to advance its vision of a strong Israel and a strong U.S.-Israeli relationship, but if ECI primarily exists, well, “to serve the GOP’s immediate political interests.”

Bill Kristol’s Think Tank Fetish [TNR]
START, K Street, and Short Memories [Capital J]
Earlier: How Does Kristol Do It?
In an Election Month, Everyone’s a Hack

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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