Frisking Bill Kristol

ABC-WKristolWeekly Standard editor William Kristol has been a fixture on Fox News Sunday for the past decade or so, but apparently he’s out of that contract and is free to appear on other network chat shows.

Now in a rational media world we wouldn’t hear much from him, unless it was to apologize for all of his bogus Iraq War claims and predictions.

But we live with a corporate media system that is very forgiving of certain kinds of pundits. Kristol happens to be that kind of pundit, so ABC‘s This Week welcomed him back on August 18, with host George Stephanopoulos saying it’d been 14 years since his last appearance: “It’s been a long time since you have been on the roundtable. Welcome back.”

Kristol soon enough weighed in on the the politics of New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program, which had just been declared unconstitutional and amounted to, in the words of federal Judge Shira Scheindlin,  a “policy of indirect racial profiling.”

Unsurprisingly, Kristol isn’t happy with this. He claimed:

In 1990, there were 2,200 murders in New York. Last year there were 414. We’re not talking about a trivial accomplishment. The Giuliani/Bloomberg accomplishment of cutting crime–radically cutting crime–way beyond what anyone thought was possible in New York–has made possible the economic revitalization of New York and an awful lot of other good things, as well as saving a lot of lives. And it’s typical of liberal judges, if I might say, and liberal policy makers, that they go after one of the most successful policies actually in place in a real city in tough circumstances.”

The first problem with stop-and-frisk is that it is unconstitutional; whether a police tactic that violates fundamental rights might “work” is irrelevant; plenty of outrageous violations of civil rights could theoretically lower crime rates.

_64472269_new_york_murders_464_2But Kristol’s argument is flimsy anyway. He starts by citing a New York murder rate from 1990–a high that has nothing to do with stop-and-frisk, which was not a significant part of NYPD policy until around 2003. At that point, the murder rate had already dropped significantly, as this chart from the BBC shows pretty clearly.

As Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union pointed out (Daily News, 5/25/12):

The 11 percent drop in murders from the start of the Bloomberg administration in 2002 to 2011 is good news, but it pales in comparison to other large cities that do not rely on aggressive street stops. According to the FBI, murder rates plummeted in some of those cities far more than in New York: 50 percent in Los Angeles, 43 percent in Washington D.C. and 35 percent in Chicago.

So the truth is that declining murder and crime rates were a fact of life before New York significantly ramped up the use of stop-and-frisk. It would be difficult to show that the controversial police tactic played a significant role in crime reductions since 2003, but it’s absurd to think it was responsible for the rapid decline in the murder rate in the 1990s. 

But Bill Kristol will go on TV and say that, and outlets like ABC will gladly welcome him back.


About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.