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Anything But Kristol-Clear

The New York Times parted ways with conservative columnist William Kristol after just a one-year stint. The paper claimed the decision was mutual. Kristol, who is the founder and editor of The Weekly Standard, is not telling.

Bill Kristol

Speculations are running rampant. Most suspected that the Times pushed before Kristol jumped. The primary reason given for the severing of the relationship - undoubtedly leaked by the Times - was that Kristol was sloppy and the Times got tired of running corrections.

Scott Horton of the Daily Beast said his source indicated that the "firing" had nothing to do with Kristol's politics:

The source makes clear that the decision not to renew Kristol's contract is not related to his neoconservative ideology. ... The problems that emerged were more fundamental. Kristol's writing wasn't compelling or even very careful. He either lacked a talent for solid opinion journalism or wasn't putting his heart into it. A give-away came in the form of four corrections the newspaper was forced to run over factual mistakes in the columns, creating an impression that they were rushed out without due diligence or attention to factual claims.

Another, if a lesser, reason was that Kristol was too personally involved in the politics that he was writing about, particularly his tireless campaigning for Sarah Palin, which ultimately had at least some influence in John McCain's selecting the Alaska governor as the VP candidate for the GOP ticket.

If these indeed were the reasons for the Times to oust Kristol, then it clearly has more stringent guidelines for him. If Maureen Dowd were held to the same standards, she'd lost her job quite some time ago. Consider:

Dowd famously strung together three George W. Bush sentences in a May 2003 column, using ellipses to mask the fact that she was fabricating something Bush never said. But more recently, Dowd essentially made up a quote - Jayson Blair-style - from Gen. David Petraeus in a July 2008 column, which the Times had to admit as much in a correction:

In her column last Wednesday, Maureen Dowd wrote that a Democratic lawmaker privately asked Gen. David Petraeus why there weren't more Democrats in the military, and he replied, "There are more than you think." Col. Steven Boylan of the general's public affairs office in Baghdad, which was not contacted for comment, says the quotation "is in error as he never made nor would make such a statement."

And if Kristol was taking up Palin's cause, who was Caroline Kennedy's mouthpiece in her unsuccessful attempt to claim Hillary Clinton's New York senate seat? Here's a hint: When Kennedy "dropped out," a certain NYT columnist went on a wild rant, calling New York Gov. David Paterson, among other things: "namby-pamby," "goofball," "dithering" and "chuckle-headed," all because he "strangled his best choice for the Senate."

Kristol will be taking his work to the Washington Post, which snapped him up in an instant. Meanwhile, the Times is playing coy about whether another conservative columnist will be chosen to replace Kristol. Said Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal: "... stay tuned. We have some interesting plans."