Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The latest on L'Affaire Beauchamp

Today has been a busy day. Jonathon Chait has published a cri de coeur on behalf of The New Republic, essentially reprising the "who are you to question my patriotism" gambit that worked so well for Mike Dukakis. Everybody and their brother has got their two cents in since, including Daniel Larison, Rich Lowry, Matt Feeney, Ross Douthat, Dean Barnett, and "Alenda Lux."

This last of these impressively and lengthily defends Kristol from the substance of Chait's gripes, but at this point really who cares? From the state of play right now, it's likely that most or all of Beauchamp's shocking assertions, published by TNR, will shown be unsubstantiated at best, plain lies or scandalously exaggerated at worst. It is a lead-pipe cinch that at the time of publication, TNR showed a jawdroppingly cavalier regard for their truth. Given the recent history of TNR's journalistic malfeasance, the only thing that matters now is the Howard Baker question: what did the TNR editorial authorities know, and when did they know it? The magnitude of fallout from this issue cannot be overstated. Journals of opinion like TNR are small niche publications. Questions of credibility and the purpose of the common editorial voice have to be answered. It wouldn't surpise me if TNR is eventually forced to cease publication as a result.

Let's also make one other point. The motivation for TNR to publish Beauchamp is actually pretty simple when you think about it. TNR is a political opinion periodical of the liberal/Left. It is not a carbon copy of The Nation, but broadly speaking it is clearly on the Left nonetheless. The support of the war by TNR has cost it dearly, in public credibility and personal relationships. Eventually, Peter Beinart bitterly repudiated the magazine's support for the war. Nonetheless, the memory of its prior support did not vanish. Publishing Beauchamp was an act of penance by TNR, toward their colleagues on the Left but most importantly toward its own insitutional sense of guilt for being on the wrong side of a momentous issue like Iraq.

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