Behold Movement Conservatism’s Information Disadvantage: Chuck Hagel Edition
In which we discover that conservative pundits operate like bad psychics — they count on their audience remembering only the rare accurate predictions and forgetting about the hundreds or thousands of misses.
- Conor Friedersdorf - the Atlantic:
But Americans who get their news from anti-Hagel conservatives discovered Tuesday that much of the analysis they’ve long been fed on this subject left them as misinformed about the likely course of events as they were about Mitt Romney’s prospects for victory during Election 2012. Of course, a single nomination battle isn’t nearly so consequential as a presidential election. This is nevertheless another reminder for the rank-and-file on the right: Demand better from the journalists whose work you patronize, or remain at an information disadvantage relative to consumers of a “mainstream media” that is regularly outperforming conservative journalists.
During the election, Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post was the the quintessential example of a conservative writer letting what she wanted to happen affect her take on what was happening. Sadly, she did her readers the same disservice in the Hagel fight. Her opposition to the former Nebraska senator is grounded in earnest disagreement with his approach to foreign policy. She is a hawkish neoconservative in the model of Bill Kristol. Hagel is not. That she constantly argued against his confirmation is fine.
But Rubin’s distaste for Hagel has caused her to make a series of dubious assertions about the likelihood of his being nominated and confirmed to the cabinet post that he’s just now secured. “If Obama’s pick for ambassador to Syria couldn’t get through the Senate, how would Hagel?” she asked in August 2010, when Hagel’s name was mentioned for the Pentagon job. “Maybe this is a trial balloon. If it’s more than that, it will go over like a lead one.” (That appeared in Commentary, before she moved to her Washington Post perch.)
Skip ahead to December 2012. As rumors swirled that Obama would finally nominate Hagel, Rubin, who didn’t want him to do so, kept speculating that he probably wouldn’t. On December 18, Rubin wrote that Obama was inclined to nominate Michele Flournoy instead, and that Democratic concerns over Hagel were “sure” to “accelerate that movement.” On December 19, she reported that “the anybody-but-Chuck-Hagel buzz is growing louder. Part of this is no doubt attributable to nervous Democrats.” The day after that, her post was titled, “6 Ways You Know Chuck Hagel Is in Trouble.” In a separate post that day, Rubin all but declared Hagel dead: