Monday, December 01, 2008

An Open Letter To Autumn Brewington - A Modest Proposal

Autumn Brewington
Op-Ed Page Editor
Washington Post

Ms Brewington;

In the light of the recent election, and the dismal performance of those columnists whom you employ and have as guests on your Op-Ed page, it would seem to me to be in keeping with President-elect Obama's decision for bold action, changing the way Washington does business, to do two things.

Fire all your columnists.

Open your Op-Ed pages to the best political commentators around. The bloggers.

I realize we have earned a reputation among journalists and commentators as somehow beyond the pale, but it seems to me, reading over a list of those who appear regularly on your Op-Ed page, that "beyond the pale" is as good a description of the following names as one could imagine: David Broder, Charles Krauthammer, George Will, Richard Cohen, Fred Hiatt, David Ignatius, Robert Kagan, Ruth Marcus, Robert Novak. If there is a bigger list of truly incompetent, intellectually dishonest commentators than this, I can't find it. Your one saving grace is that "William Kristol" doesn't appear on the list.

I say "incompetent" not because they do not know the craft of writing. I say "incompetent" because each of these individuals, over a period of years, has a history not only of misreading the political weather, but of insisting that their voice is somehow part of some mythical "American voice" they represent. Yet this entire cohort marched headlong over the cliff this past election cycle, refusing to write the one thing that mattered - that Barack Obama was going to win the election because the nation was (a) tired of George W. Bush in particular and (b) disgusted with Republicans in general. These aren't opinions; these are facts, not at all cited by your list of Pulitzer Prize winners.

Which leads me to the "intellectually dishonest" charge. Over the years, Charles Krauthammer has compared, favorably, George Bush to Winston Churchill; David Broder predicted a political comeback for President Bush; Robert Kagan failed to disclose his relationship to and partnership with a key architect of the President's "surge" policy in Iraq; just this weekend, George Will misrepresented the facts and historical interpretation concerning the economic consequences of the New Deal, even after having been schooled on national television about the reality by Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman. Apparently Will is also a coward, feeling safer spouting his lies in a forum where he cannot be contradicted by a scholar.

The list of grievances is far longer, and reaches as far back as George Will's breach of journalistic ethics during the 1980 Presidential campaign, when he served as a debate coach with then-Republican nominee Ronald Reagan. It should probably include David Broder overplaying Edmund Muskie's reaction to the fabricated "Canuck" letter during the 1972 Democratic primary. Now, it is true Broder wrote about his role in that event, and apologized for it. He did so, however, decades later, long after the damage had been done.

That is part of the problem. None of the people mentioned here has faced any real consequences for their serial professional failures. Not even a withholding of column space for a day or week or two in the light of either a serious factual error or a prediction gone horribly wrong.

The track record of moderate and liberal voices on the internet, however, ranks among the best and brightest. Whether it is Digby, DDay, and Tristero at Hullabaloo, Duncan Black at Eschaton, John Amato at Crooks and Liars, or the hundred and perhaps even thousands of small-timers out there, our insights, our predictions, our understanding and interpretation of the facts and events over the course of the past election cycle, and our refusal to rely on cant or trite formulas all make reading liberal blogs and political commentators far more interesting, informative, and productive than any of the men or women mentioned above.

Yet, scorned they and we are, for perhaps having the audacity to think in ways that do not connect with what passes for conventional political wisdom but, precisely because it comes from people whose lives revolve around more than politics, is much closer to the heart of the American people.

Here is my proposal. Once you fire your stable of writers, open up your Op-Ed pages on a rotating basis to bloggers, liberal and conservative. As long as they meet your editorial standards and the rules of your style manual, it would go far not only to opening the possibility for real, serious political commentary in this new Obama era. It might just rescue your declining revenue and circulation numbers. Rather than pay whatever you pay your regular group of writers, you would be paying a standard fee, which I am quite sure is far less than the weekly salary of David Broder, Charles Krauthammer, or Robert Novak.

If this proposal sounds good to you, you can email me through my profile. I remain available at any time.


Geoffrey Kruse-Safford

Virtual Tin Cup

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