Other Peoples' Blogfights

by Jonathan Chait | March 17, 2011

The fact that the Washington Post determined to hire a conservative blogger and wound up hiring Jennifer Rubin is either an indictment of the Post, the conservative movement, or possibly both. The other day, Rubin set out after Ezra Klein, also of the Post. Klein wrote an item pointing out that Evan Bayh made some sappy comments after his retirement about wanting to experience the joy of teaching young minds, or lead a crusade to reform Washington, and has instead wound up as a lobbyist and Fox News talking head.

Here's Rubin's sneering rebuttal:

Ezra Klein is distressed, greatly so, that former senator Evan Bayh hasn’t turned out properly. Klein had such high hopes for him. He coulda been a contenda — for the Democratic left...
The notion that business deserves representation or that Bayh can broaden the discussion at Fox is apparently unimaginable. But at least Klein is candid about his antipathies, and readers can assess his analysis through the prism of a devoted spear-carrier for the left.

Amazingly, Rubin does not mention, anywhere, the central point of Klein's post, which is that Bayh had pledged to devote himself to high-minded purposes. If Rubin wants to argue that it's completely unimportant that Bayh had boasted of his intention to enter a widely-admired but not very lucrative field, like teaching, and instead entered a widely-despised but highly lucrative field of lobbying, I suppose she could do so. But she doesn't make that argument. She just pretends that Klein criticizes Bayh solely because he hates "business."

I put "business" in quotation marks, because a second, also unstated, premise of her reply is that only a "devoted spear-carrier of the left" would have any moral qualms about the lobbying industry. Rubin does nod at "the notion that business deserves representation," but of course this elides the narrow legal right to lobby with the moral standing of lobbying.

Does Rubin really think that only liberals believe there's anything troubling about the incestuous relationship between lobbies and politicians? There are entire books -- lots of them -- devoted to attacking the revolving door from a right-wing perspective. She seems totally unfamiliar with these critiques: that there's an important moral distinction between fair market competition and using political connections to arbitrage a competitive advantage, or the non-theoretical possibility that the prospect of multiplying one's income as a lobbyist after leaving office might tempted a politician to treat interest groups differently while in office.

Again, Rubin is free to argue against these premises. But if she has any objection to them, she does not articulate it at all. Being able to articulate reasons for things is an important qualification for political bloggers.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/jonathan-chait/85377/other-peoples-blogfights