By Eliana Johnson
APRIL 10, 2014 4:00 AM
It’s not often that Bill Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, spends his time trying to remove a Republican from office.
But that’s exactly what he’s doing in North Carolina’s third congressional district, where he is trying to knock off Walter Jones, a 71-year-old congressman swept into office in the Gingrich revolution of 1994. His solid Republican district that includes parts of Greenville, the state’s Outer Banks and, perhaps most important, the Marine Corps’s Camp Lejeune and its adjunct city of Jacksonville, known for its pawn shops and “massage” parlors. Now, Jones is facing the first well-funded primary challenger of his career.
It’s former Bush and McCain campaign aide turned public-affairs guru Taylor Griffin, and Kristol and outside groups are pouring a lot of cash into the race to ensure Jones’s demise in the May 6 primary.
Kristol says he didn’t pick this fight. “People from North Carolina called me up and said, ‘Hey, this guy was not what he was when he was elected 20 years ago, and people in the district don’t understand how he’s changed on lots of issues, including Israel,’” he tells me. He describes his involvement as a “bottom up” effort. ECI hasn’t supported a Republican primary challenge before, and Kristol maintains he is “not looking around for people to go after.”
Since 2005, Jones, who was not available for an interview, has adopted an increasingly strident tone toward foreign affairs, telling audiences, for example, that former vice president Dick Cheney will go to hell for his role in the Iraq War. “Lyndon Johnson’s probably rotting in hell right now because of the Vietnam War, and he probably needs to move over for Dick Cheney,” Jones told a conference of the Young Americans for Liberty last year.
Jones further angered Republicans by voting in June 2005 to set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq and opposing the troop surge in Afghanistan under the Obama administration. He was one of six Republicans in Congress to oppose tightening economic sanctions against Iran in August 2012, and one of only three GOPers who refused to back a resolution declaring support for Israel in November 2012. He rejects any budget with foreign aid in it.
Last year, he joined the advisory board of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, whose academic board includes a defender of the late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic and deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. He has appeared on the radio show of Alex Jones, one of the nation’s leading conspiracy theorists, praising the talk-show host for his willingness to “seek the truth and expose the truth.” (Alex Jones regularly argues the truth behind 9/11 involves the American government and Israel.)
Walter's website if you would like to help him fight back: