2012 presidential election

Is Jennifer Rubin Sinister or Merely Stupid?

Jennifer Rubin, right-wing blogger for The Washington Post.

Even the simplest of differences can create false appearances. For instance: Is Jennifer Rubin sinister or stupid?

In the end, though, the difference is one of valences. Sinister forgives stupidity in some cases for the fact of reasonable execution, but even the sinister is cultivated around a germ of ignorance.

In the first place, there is Rubin’s arrival at The Washington Post. Eric Alterman of The Nation noted last year—

It is no secret to anyone that conservatives have conducted a remarkably successful, decades-long campaign to undermine the practice of honest, aggressive journalism with trumped-up accusations of liberal bias. They have made massive investments of time and money in groups and individuals devoted to “working the refs,” and these have yielded significant ideological dividends—which, as might be predicted, have only encouraged them to keep it up.

—as a preface to his discussion of Jennifer Rubin as “The Washington Post’s Problem”. She was the third in a string of quota hires made as part of an attempt to deliberately throw their political coverage rightward in order to fend off attacks of being too liberal. Ben Domenech, their first hire for the position, turned out to be a sharp-tongued plagiarist, which was kind of embarrassing for the Post, as you might imagine. Next they plucked Dave Weigel from Reason.com, and one can reasonably say the Reason franchise has never been the same. Yet for all the quality of this pick, Post editors deemed him unsuitable for the task after realizing that he just wasn’t conservative enough. So the newspaper turned to rabid right-winer Jennifer Rubin, and the disaster of her term as a staff blogger really is hard to describe. Alterman’s review for The Nation is an excellent read, but it is also something of a headache insofar as truth is stranger than fiction and the twists and turns of Jennifer Rubin’s greatest contribution to our political discourse would seem to have something to do with mainstreaming hardline rightist tinfoil in major news media. After the 2012 election, Rubin’s ability to change her story without the slightest hint of shame, or even decency, was pretty much on display for anyone to see. Simon Maloy tried to sketch the degree of self-contradiction in her coverage of the Romney loss; it isn’t pretty.

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An Obvious Question

Outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA7)

Surprise is one thing, but Emma Dumain’s report for Roll Call only begs the question:

Perhaps the most revealing assessment of the evening’s turn of events came from Speaker John A. Boehner. Earlier, he exited from a local Italian restaurant and declined to speak with reporters who were waiting for him.

Once safely out of the media’s reach, however, the Ohio Republican released a brief statement that touched, in just three sentences, on just how surprising Cantor’s defeat really was, and how at a loss all politicians and political operatives are to explain how the loss transpired:

“Eric Cantor and I have been through a lot together. He’s a good friend and a great leader, and someone I’ve come to rely upon on a daily basis as we make the tough choices that come with governing. My thoughts are with him and Diana and their kids tonight.”

This keeps happening, as in 2012 when the Romney campaign apparently had no clue what was actually happening out in the voting districts.

Certes, there are times when an electoral flameout is a surprise insofar as a titan falls, but usually there are hints on the front side. To the other, there probably were, and maybe we all should have paid more attention when the House Majority Leader was booed in his own district. But how is it that the people responsible for planning the tactical outlook that preserves and hopefully, for House Republicans, grows the majority, can possibly be surprised this evening? That is to say, how could they not have seen this coming before it happened?

Surprise, yes, but one wonders at the degree of blindness required if absolutely nobody saw any hint that this was coming. Over the course of the next few days, cooler heads will prevail and everyone will start explaining how they knew it all along.

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Dumain, Emma. “Boehner Statement on Cantor’s Defeat”. 218. 10 June 2014.

Crawford, Jan. “Adviser: Romney ‘shellshocked’ by loss”. CBS News. 8 November 2012.