THE PLANK JUNE 17, 2009
was not a rebuttal; rather, I was making a point
about the bizarre nature of publishing a rather personal and ad hominem
attack on someone who is on the masthead of his own publication. If
Chait wishes to explain why that conduct is appropriate, that would be
interesting to read. It would be one thing if, sharing Chait’s disgust
with the argument posed by Kagan, the magazine’s editor, Martin Peretz,
removed Kagan from the masthead and then let Chait have at him. But
short of that, one might think Chait would owe a colleague a minimal
measure of respect. Or is that expecting too much?
Okay. First, a contributing editorship is an unpaid, seldom-updated honorific. Most editors and staffers at magazines couldn't tell you at any given time who most of their contributing editors are without looking at the list. Our contributing editors list has, and continues to have, people on it who have written rather unkindly about TNR writers or even the magazine itself without triggering Podhoretz's delicate sensibilities.
Second, I wasn't making making an ad hominem attack on Kagan, I was refuting the substance (or lack thereof) of his argument. It's true that I called his column "fairly embarassing" -- because Kagan is an intelligent person who's capable of good work. I wouldn't have used the term if such a shoddy column were written by, say, John Podhoretz.