Bill Kristol is an unmitigated moron, the breadth of whose stupidity is truly breathtaking.
Yes. The Empire is evil. For starters, they commit genocide. That’s no part of the Extended Universe. That’s halfway through the first movie.
They are not a meritocracy at all. Grand Moff Tarkin and Admiral Ozzel ascended to their positions through wealth and connections and Captain Piett was promoted to Admiral because Vader had just murdered his superior via Skype.
Speaking of Vader, he was the right hand man of the Supreme Leader and he had no qualms when it came to killing his own family, which he spent the vast majority of the movies trying to do.
The ultimate goal of the Empire was ruthless control of the Galaxy, freedom be damned. Organized crime was allowed to flourish under the Empire and obedience was imposed through fear.
That’s not an interpretation of their motives. Tarkin outright says that fear will keep the various systems in line.
Bill Kristol is the Bib Fortuna of punditry - a weak minded fool who is nothing but a lackey in a hive of scum, villainy, and corruption.