What the hell happened to The New Republic? Twenty years ago, it was a magazine full of clever, iconoclastic, and readable analysis. Today...Well, just listen to TNR editor-at-large Peter Beinart, interviewed by Bill Moyers in "Buying the War."
I had thought about writing a longer critique of TNR, whose political analysis has descended into profane silliness. However, you might hear all you need to hear straight from Beinart's lips. You'll see why a once-respectable journal of critical opinion has devolved so far, so fast. Beinart remains unapologetic that, because his lack of Middle East expertise, he credulously repeated the Administration's claims about Iraq.
Rule #8 of a sane world: People who don't know what they're talking about should be clearly identified as such.
During Operation DESERT STORM, I was a talking head. When Iraqi SCUDs were falling on Tel Aviv, I appeared on CNN. The anchorperson asked me, "Why aren't the Israelis using the PATRIOT missile batteries to shoot down the SCUDs?"
I paused before answering. I knew that the readiness of the PATRIOT crews was in question, but for the life of me, I couldn't remember the exact details. Rather than blurt out something that would later prove to be wrong, I said (to paraphrase myself, since I don't have a transcript), "I'm not sure. I just know that they're not ready yet."
By today's standards, I was a bad pundit. If I had blustered my way through that interview, nothing bad would have happened to me. For my career as a talking head, bravado was more important than accuracy. Uncertainty makes bad television, in today's degenerate form of broadcast journalism. Pundits are wrong all the time, but they keep getting invited back to speak to the electronic agora.
Perhaps the biggest story about the 2003 invasion of Iraq was the calamitous, borderline criminal failure of the American press.