Friday, September 5, 2014

Why do newspapers keep publishing John McCain's fact-challenged op-eds?

Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic writes Why Do Newspapers Keep Publishing Op-Eds by John McCain?

America's most prestigious op-ed pages are run by highly accomplished editors who know a tight argument when they see one. They reject so many pieces each day that even a minor factual error or logical inconsistency is enough to doom a submission—at least a submission from someone who isn't part of the ruling class.
But a much less rigorous standard governs articles written by well-known politicians. Take John McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona. I assume the op-eds he submits to The New York Times or Washington Post or Wall Street Journal are ghostwritten for him. But so long as McCain's byline is attached, the usual standards for subject-matter expertise, internally consistent argument, and factual accuracy are abandoned. In their place, newspaper readers get the ostensible benefit of knowing what a powerful person wants to be seen as thinking. The approach is widely accepted but journalistically indefensible.

For a thorough evisceration of McCain's most recent Times op-ed, co-bylined with Senator Lindsey Graham, see my colleague Peter Beinart's recent article. His critique of the authors' factual inaccuracies and misrepresentations is so persuasive I began to marvel that a reputable newspaper published the piece. Then I looked back at McCain's past contributions to prestigious newspapers. That he's still treated as a foreign-policy expert is not to opinion journalism's credit.

Begin with his uncorrected Times op-ed from March 12, 2003, "The Right War for the Right Reasons." He writes, "Saddam Hussein still refuses to give up his weapons of mass destruction. Only an obdurate refusal to face unpleasant facts—in this case, that a tyrant who survives only by the constant use of violence is not going to be coerced into good behavior by nonviolent means—could allow one to believe that we have rushed to war." As it turned out, of course, there were no weapons of mass destruction, and the argument about having "rushed to war" was premised on the subsequently proven notion that weapons inspectors were given insufficient time to accurately assess what was and wasn't in Hussein's arsenal. […]

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2013—Today in E.W. Jackson news: Is E.W. Jackson throwing the race?

Today in E.W. Jackson news, we learn that the actual, no-foolings Republican nominee for Virginia lieutenant governor doesn't take guff from anyone. He is a one-man non-guff-taker.

The Chesapeake pastor has rebuffed the party’s suggestion that he tone down his rhetoric and steer clear of hot-button issues — much to the delight of his grassroots supporters, the frustration of some GOP loyalists and the surprise of almost no one.
You  know, rhetoric such as whether Planned Parenthood is the Klan, whether gay people are "very sick people," whether the post-civil rights era did more damage to black families than slavery, whether the Democratic Party is the "anti-God party," and whether or not people who own toaster ovens are going to hell because everybody knows toaster ovens are actually saunas for the tiny invisible demons that live in your cupboards.
In this case "taking guff" also means "taking advantage of deep Republican knowledge of how crazy-ass crackpots can actually get elected," something that the party has a great deal of experience with and can pull off with some regularity. But Jackson is having none of it, possibly because of Sarah Palin disease, the communicable condition that causes the victim to feel like running for things, but not if there's actual work involved.

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