It is, of course, none of my business. But word is coming that Phil Anschutz’s Media DC is more likely than not about to wind down the Weekly Standard because of the publication’s perceived anti-Trump bent. Frankly, I think this reputation has more to do with Bill Kristol, including his opposition to Brett Kavanaugh, than to anything at the Standard.
Under Steve Hayes’s leadership as editor, the Weekly Standard has generated original reporting, solid profiles of candidates, become a must follow site related to polling trends, developed some podcasts that have attracted large followings, and otherwise distinguished itself as a Trump skeptical right-of-center publication at a time that this very conversation is about to become the most important conversation in America. On top of that, Hayes has fought off the pixel pirates who want to crap up sites with banner ads, pop up ads, and garbage placements of unrelated things. The Weekly Standard’s redesign was a great success.
Anschutz has that conversation generator right now and, while I am sure the Washington Examiner will be able to capture the conversation to an extent given its awesome team, the Weekly Standard owns this conversation.
Bill Kristol may be perceived as anti-Trump, and I think that is a fair characterization, but under Hayes’s leadership, the Weekly Standard has captured a plethora of voices across the center-right. There are pro-Trump voices, anti-Trump voices, and pro-Trump policy voices who are not fans of Trump even if they have or might now vote for him. They all exist in that publication and through its web presences.
Over the next two years, the GOP is going to have some serious conversations about the future of the party while the conservative movement has the same discussions about the future of the movement. I hope to engage in those conversations here. But the Weekly Standard probably even more so than National Review really owns this space. In particular, its most prominent voices are people who never gave into Trumpism, but have fairly applauded much of what the White House has done. That is a large segment of the Republican base and they value the honest brokerage that is the Weekly Standard.
There will probably be at least two well funded challengers to the President in 2020. I would expect the Weekly Standard would view them as skeptically as Trump, but would be willing to fully explore the contours of the current GOP and where it goes beyond Trump. It has established itself as such an honest broker that it is even a Facebook partner in dealing with fake news, much to the chagrin of the left.
And Phil Anschutz has this property. Perhaps Media DC should do a better job of distancing the Weekly Standard from Bill Kristol, but it is quite simply inarguable that Steve Hayes has steered the ship in the right direction for prime influence in 2020 and Anschutz would be nuts to scuttle that.
Full disclosure: I really like Bill Kristol, but I really disagree with the direction he has taken on Trump even if I’m not a fan of Trump’s myself, and I do think Bill’s hostility to all things Trump has hurt the Weekly Standard. The staff has a tremendous amount of loyalty to Bill and would never want to distance themselves from him because he was an outstanding and loyal boss.