Damning With Effusive Praise

WaPo Obudsman Patrick Pexton defends Jennifer Rubin:

But when an attack happens elsewhere, whether Oslo, Bali, Madrid, Beslan, Mumbai or London, U.S. pundits and politicians climb on their electronic soapboxes and denounce the act as one more evil deed by the enemy we most love to hate, be it militant Muslims, or in Oslo’s case, militant Christians. There is no interval before scoring rhetorical and partisan points, not even time to mourn.

Rubin fell into this trap. She cited terrorist expert Thomas Joscelyn’s speculation that it had all the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda operation, and then she argued that we don’t dare cut defense or homeland security funding, even in a debt crisis, because jihadists are still after us and we live in a “very dangerous world.”

Rubin, like many others, assumed that the Oslo attack was the work of Islamic extremists. At the time, given the multiple targets and recent foiled al-Qaeda plot in Norway, I thought the same thing, so it’s hard for me to criticize her for that assumption. Likewise, it would be unfair to criticize her for the late update given her observance of the Sabbath.

What was embarrassing was Rubin’s willingness to draw broad conclusions based on said assumption, writing that “this is a sobering reminder for those who think it’s too expensive to wage a war against jihadists,” which made straw men across the globe quake in fear. Even more so was her generic denunciation of “evil,” in lieu of blaming alleged shooter Anders Breivik’s rather clear anti-Islamic ideology.

Rubin is hardly the only writer on the Internet to get nasty e-mails, though, and it doesn’t say much to conclude as Pexton does that Rubin was undeserving of e-mails that were “ugly, obscene, vile and, worst, containing threats of physical harm.” No one deserves those, Rubin included. Still, it’s illuminating to consider that this is his ultimate defense of Rubin’s writing:

If your politics are liberal and you don’t generally read Rubin, but you read her Norway posts, you probably would be pretty offended. 

But if you are a conservative, or someone who reads Rubin regularly, you’ll know that this is what she does and who she is.

Rubin was hired by Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of The Post, to be an opinion blogger who would appeal to conservatives and people who want to follow conservative politics. She does. 

 She is the most prolific opinion blogger at The Post, doing eight or 10 posts a day often, most of it insider stuff on GOP politics, a lot of it based on single sources. But Rubin also gets scoops. She has excellent sources in the House and Senate leadership, and lots of Republicans read her and trust her.

This explanation harkens back to former Ombudsman Andrew Alexander’s defense of the WaPo firing Dave Weigel. Weigel does excellent reporting on the conservative movement, but he was too much of a liberaltarian in a post that is meant to be, at least in part, a way to placate the WaPo’s conservative readership and persuade them that they feel their pain. Some level of hackery is therefore to be not just expected but a necessary part of the gig.

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