About Me

Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

Buy A Christmas Caroline for $10! "for those who prefer their sentimentality seasoned with a dash of cynical wit. A quick, enjoyable read...straight out of Devil Wears Prada"--The Wall Street Journal

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  • On That NY Times “Vows” Column

    By kyle | December 23, 2010

    Okay, it’s a little bit gross. Two cheating hearts meet, and before long they’re dumping their spouses for each other. Life is indeed complicated, but I don’t see anything much to boast about when you’re forced to mark down your marriage as a big fail. Best bet is to keep quiet about it.

    But you know what was even a little bit more gross? The RNC video of John McCain that played before his acceptance speech in St. Paul in 2008. The one that celebrated, from Cindy McCain’s point of view, her fateful first meeting with this dashing naval officer, who strode across the room to her at a party, all resplendent in his dress whites or whatever. Very “An Officer and a Gentleman”! McCain was married at the time.

    Topics: John McCain, Newspapers | 4 Comments »

    John McCain Sets a Course for AMC

    By kyle | April 30, 2009

    War hero couldn’t get elected president, so he settles for a job… introducing war hero movies on Memorial Day weekend on formerly awesome, now all-but-useless, commercial-infested network AMC. Nice one. Might as well line up a spot hawking some Iwo Jima commemorative plates on QVC. As Gene Kelly put it in “Singing in the Rain”: dignity. Always dignity. Most of the great movies belong to TCM anyway.

    Topics: John McCain, Movies, Politics, TV | 3 Comments »

    Obama Movie on HBO

    By kyle | April 14, 2009

    The 2008 campaign is slated to become an HBO movie, but my guess is that campaign books and movies are pretty much dead. Last November already seems like ancient history; why read up on what was happening when there are a thousand good blogs to tell you what is happening? Political movies have a habit of a) telling you a lot of things you already know and b) distracting you with the casting…you spend the whole movie thinking, “That guy looks just like him!” Or “What did they do to him…prosthetic nose?” Writers are much more interested in writing about campaigns after the fact than people are about reading about them or seeing movies about them.

    Topics: Barack Obama, Books, John McCain, Movies, News, Politics, TV | 6 Comments »

    Hate Mail Spectacular!

    By kyle | November 19, 2008

    I swept the Letters to the Editor page in today’s Post and am appropriately honored. But I’m always surprised by what gets people riled up — it never happens when I’m deliberately trying to be annoying.

    I wouldn’t have thought my George W. Bush column particularly controversial since it was full of information everybody knows. Anyway, one letter writer complained that while I blasted JFK for ordering us, “Ask what you can do for your country,” I didn’t mind John McCain using “Country First” as a slogan. In fact, in my Sept. 6 piece on the RNC, I did chide McCain for exactly that reason. I wrote then:

    “Country First”? What kind of a slogan is that? At best, it’s rank Kennedyism – ask not too many questions except “how high” when Washington tells you to jump. At worst, it sounds like it was written by somebody who has let his newspaper subscription lapse. Unemployment and China going up, stock market and morale going down and – what? We’re all supposed to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and maybe report for national calisthenics?

    Topics: John McCain, Politics | 2 Comments »

    South Park Does John McCain

    By kyle | November 6, 2008

    “Game over, man! We’ll probably be dead by sunrise!”

    Topics: Comedy, John McCain, Politics, TV | 3 Comments »


    By kyle | November 5, 2008

    I’ll be on’s The Strategy Room webcast Wednesday morning at 11 am to chew over the elections. I spent Tuesday evening at a) a touchy-feely liberal party given by a sex education teacher/male model/founder of the for-profit Cuddle Parties b) the Young Republicans of New York City party and c) and perhaps most interestingly in a cab ride home with a Pakistani who, out of nowhere (this never happens to me; I have a face that says “Do not say anything to me”) engaged me in conversation about the direction of the country and asked me to explain (somewhat Homer Simpsonishly) the workings of The Electrical College.
    And so to bed. Hail President-Elect Obama! I hope he turns out to be the greatest leader since George Washington. But I doubt it.

    Topics: Barack Obama, John McCain, Politics | 16 Comments »

    Guess What? It’s Close

    By kyle | November 4, 2008

    There’s something happenin’ here. What it is ain’t exactly clear. Drudge vaguely forecasts a big win for Obama. Who knows?

    As Mark Steyn so eloquently put it, better to lose 51-49 than 59-41. Obama staffers have sent out an “urgent” e-mail. I assume Obama is going to win so I’m chill. If I get three or four or five more hours of liberal neurosis before BHO is crowned the Champ, at least that’s something. I spent two hours waiting in line at my polling place today. Why? Spite. It’s nice to know that I cancelled out one of my fellow Upper West Siders’ votes.

    UPDATE: New York Post tidbit: we have a neutral political cartoon by Sean Delonas prepared for first edition. For later editions we have had ready to go all day a cartoon that assumes an Obama win.

    A McCain win was not even prepared for….until 6:25 tonight, when Delonas turned in a cartoon assuming a McCain win.

    Topics: Barack Obama, John McCain, Politics | 19 Comments »

    Lando Calrissian vs. Emperor Palpatine

    By kyle | November 4, 2008

    Hmm. Which one is more like which candidate? Calrissian did turn out to be something of a back-stabber but was also an experienced pilot. Palpatine was old… but he did have magical powers. As for who would win this election, I think it depends on the turnout of the Wookiee minority (Chewbacca is Lando’s running mate), and of course whether Droids should have the right to vote.

    See more funny videos at Funny or Die

    Topics: Barack Obama, Comedy, John McCain, Politics | 4 Comments »

    One Conservative For Barack Obama. And One Against.

    By kyle | November 4, 2008

    My New York Post (editorial page) colleague Robert George checks in with a thoughtful essay on Barack Obama. I can’t say I agree. I genuinely am mystified why reasonable centrists and conservatives are supporting Obama so I frequently read what they have to say but I find that in virtually all cases the writer gets caught up in a sort of gauzy endorsement of biography and character–“I just like the guy deep down,” seems to be the main argument–as opposed to concrete policy proposals.

    I realize a lot of people on the right vote this way too. I don’t. I frequently vote for politicians who don’t share my tastes or come from my part of the country or belong to a similar educational or demographic group. I’m an Ivy Leaguer (possibly even an Ivy League snob) and a northeasterner. I think Bordeaux is better than Michelob, Elvis Costello is better than Garth Brooks and France is a lot more interesting a place to spend a vacation than Florida. I’m an atheist.

    Another habit some have in endorsing Obama is that they will choose some inconsequential policy proposal that they agree with and call it a big point in his favor or do the same in reverse with John McCain; the Economist, for instance, endorsed Obama and cited John McCain’s support for a “petrol tax holiday,” an idea so minor that I had forgotten it. Still another–and this one is really disingenuous–is to say they don’t like the campaign McCain has run. Campaigns often get dirtier than pundits would like but I don’t see anything particularly dirty about this one. Barack Obama did indeed pal around with a terrorist and did indeed spend many years in a church where vicious anti-American rhetoric was used. (He then lied about it.)

    You could argue these attack ads aren’t major policy points but they are at least true statements. Airing commercials that emphasized Obama’s middle name, likewise, would be perfectly legitimate from a truth standpoint, but McCain has chosen not to do so, presumably on the heretofore unprecedented notion that stating a candidate’s full name constitutes a low blow. (Remember how the Democrats scoffed at “George. Herbert. Walker. Bush”?) Meanwhile, Obama supporters–I again cite The Economist–continue to cite his middle name as some sort of geopolitical advantage. The implication seems to be that Hussein is a name associated with Muslims, therefore Obama is sort of Muslimish–therefore Muslim terrorists will be less antagonistic toward the U.S. Utter nonsense, say I. And if a conservative made the first two points yet drew a different conclusion, he would be denounced as practicing dirty, indeed racist, politics. Here is a particularly fatuous section of The Economist’s endorsement.

    Most of the hoopla about him has been about what he is, rather than what he would do. His identity is not as irrelevant as it sounds. Merely by becoming president, he would dispel many of the myths built up about America: it would be far harder for the spreaders of hate in the Islamic world to denounce the Great Satan if it were led by a black man whose middle name is Hussein.

    A parallel point was made shortly before David Dinkins was elected mayor of New York City–that the criminals would be less antagonistic because many would take pride in his election. It’s the supply-side theory of crime, if you will. It was of course nonsense then as well. The four years of the Dinkins administration remain ranked nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 in the category of most annual murders in the history of this city. Obama’s fealty to the left wing of his party, despite his wise but obviously politically opportunistic choice to support last summer’s wiretapping law, means he is likely to take a position toward international crime, or terrorism, that is analagous to the one liberals have always taken to domestic crime–that we shouldn’t be too hard on the criminals because they have legitimate grievances that are partially the fault of the wealthy and powerful. I ask The Economist or anyone else making the point that Obama’s background is a national-security asset: Where is the evidence that people of similar skin color or of similar religion lay down their swords at each other’s feet? Is it in the India-Pakistan dispute? The Sunni-Shia rivalry? America’s inner-city gang wars or the ethnic cleansing in Rwanda or Sudan? Or did you just read this in a fairy tale and suppose that it trumped history?

    Moreover, Obama’s campaign rhetoric is not without its dishonorable points. It’s not true that McCain is a Bush clone–the idea was laughable until Obama started repeating it endlessly. McCain has opposed Bush in many notable ways. (I would prefer, in many cases, that that weren’t the case.) And it is certainly not true that he advocates fighting in Iraq for 100 years or that he wouldn’t meet with the prime minister of Spain. These are all just silly bits of campaign rhetoric.

    The fact is that Obama vows to massively increase taxes at a moment when that will surely increase the pain and duration of the looming recession. The rich are disproportionately responsible for the direction of the economy. I call it the Patrick Kennedy principle. When Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, partly on an absurd promise to stick it to the rich by raising taxes on yachts, young Kennedy discovered the boat-building business in his Rhode Island district took a huge hit and asked the president to reconsider the tax, which he promptly did. When the rich cut back, they don’t suffer as much as the people they employ do.

    It is possible, I would argue likely, that Obama will withdraw troops from Iraq in a precipitous and disorganized manner (in order to pay for his domestic programs) that will spell disaster for Iraq, dishonor and a heartbreaking waste of lives for the U.S. military and much chortling and general emboldenment for our enemies overseas. Obama will create the first-ever trillion-dollar budget deficits, in part with a national health care system that, on top of Medicaid and Medicare and Social Security, the country simply cannot afford, especially if a lengthy period of low economic growth ensues. And low economic growth is exactly Obama what is going to cause with his reflexively pro-regulation, pro-tax ideals as well as his belief, again characteristic of liberals, that government should pick economic winners and losers with subsidies for the former and punitive stances toward the latter. To a certain extent America has always been able to simply outgrow its problems with an economy that is dynamic like no other large one. (In part this is because of our rich renewable resource of people, our ability to add the equivalent of a midsized European country to our population every ten years.) This may not be the case going forward. The word Obama repeated so often in debates that it became a shibboleth was “regulations.”

    I don’t particularly care who Obama’s father was or whether he can give an inspiring speech. His ideas are, again and again, wrong on substance. His election will reroute the United States economy onto a path much like Europe’s, one of perpetual slow growth, where people simply get used to the idea of not being able to advance much in life. Obama is likely to be an FDR or LBJ type of president, not one in the Clinton mode. The country may never recover from the staggering weight of unncecessary additional government about to be saddled onto it as it has never fully shaken off the horrendous choices of FDR and LBJ.

    Topics: Barack Obama, John McCain, Magazines, Politics | 17 Comments »

    Republicans: Optimistic Till the End

    By kyle | November 4, 2008

    Over at Dirty Harry, quite a few posters have a bit of tentative optimism that John McCain will pull a Joe Namath tomorrow. I can’t quite see it. But remember in 2004, when every poll had President Bush ahead by a small margin? Yet the 1 pm exit polls showed Kerry winning in a blowout? No one seemed particularly surprised. Could the pollsters be off by, say, eight points? They were in Britain in 1992. As the Guardian newspaper put it:

    A final poll of polls, published on April 9, suggested a Labour lead of 0.9%. “Time for a change” was the Daily Mirror’s election day headline. But the Sun, with far more flair and ruthlessness, splashed memorably with: “If Kinnock wins today, will the last person out of Britain please turn out the lights?” It was illustrated with the Labour leader’s head in a light bulb.

    As soon as the results began to come in, it was clear that the 1992 election was to be the pollsters’ Waterloo. In the event, the Tories won by 7.6%, an 8.5% error and the worst ever showing by the polls. The national shares of the vote were Conservative 42% (no change from 1987), Labour 34%

    I put McCain’s chances of an electoral college victory at ten percent. I put his chances of winning the popular vote at two percent.

    Topics: Barack Obama, John McCain, Politics | 11 Comments »

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