Behold Movement Conservatism’s Information Disadvantage: Chuck Hagel Edition - Conor Friedersdorf - the Atlantic
His confirmation was widely anticipated. Yet Jennifer Rubin and other neocons repeatedly published analysis that led their readers astray.
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.)
Once again, the conservative media, where non-conservative journalists are constantly maligned, has been thoroughly outperformed on this metric: Who best equipped readers to anticipate the outcome that actually happened? That isn’t the only important metric in journalism, or even the most important, but failing at it so spectacularly surely demands some introspection.