The Campaign Spot

If Weigel Had to Go, What Other MSM Figures Wrote Terrible Things on Journo-List?

There’s word that Dave Weigel has resigned from the Washington Post.

I’ve known Dave Weigel since he was an intern at USA Today; he used to send me e-mails to the Kerry Spot on how I might be overestimating Bush’s chances.

The last time there was a big brouhaha about Weigel, it seemed that everybody noted that they liked him personally, and then tore into what he wrote.

I’m sure there are readers out there exclaiming, “so what if he’s a nice guy when you run into him?” but it’s worth noting that there are a lot of folks in this world whose political views somehow drive them to uncontrollable, overt nastiness or hostility toward those with different views. The world probably could use more of Dave’s trait of being personally amiable with those with whom he disagrees.

At least to their faces; his comments on Journo-List are nasty stuff.  (If, in the coming hours, the Daily Caller spotlights a Weigel-written “Jim Geraghty is a big doofus” comment, disregard anything nice I write about him below.)

Then again, let he who is without sin — let’s say, a particular sin like wrath — cast the first stone. Getting angry and expressing a desire that somebody else engage in an anatomically difficult act of self-procreation is, I suspect, very human and common in the world of journalism. Writing it down in a venue where it is saved forever is probably not wise; doing so for long stretches of time is probably not healthy.

From time to time Dave and I chat, and sometimes I would worry that he got a little too worked up about reactions to what he wrote. We’re in the news business, where the lifespan of articles, events, scandals, and comments grows ever shorter. In 48 hours we’ll be all focused on something else, for better or worse. Life is too short to worry about most of this stuff.

Did Dave deserve to be dismissed from the Post? I suspect he feared that in the eyes of many conservatives, he would always be associated with his furious, sneering Journo-List comments and never be able to effectively cover them again.

With the clearly established liberal Ezra Klein — you know, the guy who Tweeted a joke about the sodomization of Tim Russert and who contended I moved to Turkey for two years out of boredom — writing a blog about domestic policy for the Post, many conservatives figured the Post would eventually establish a right-of-center equivalent, which Dave is not. Dave only fits the loosest definition of conservative; I think he’s best defined as a left-leaning, idiosyncratic libertarian. He is also a political junkie with a voluminous appetite for news and a dogged reporter. From where I sit, he spends too much time writing about fringe figures and trends that are largely irrelevant to national politics (Orly Taitz, Birthers, etc.), but perhaps that’s his genuine fascination and/or what his employers wanted. Righties suspected Dave wanted to spotlight the freakiest and least appealing self-proclaimed “conservatives”; I suspect that at least part of Dave’s mentality was simply, “You have got to hear what this lunatic is saying.”

Dave’s quandaries probably required nothing more than a bit of anger management and a more precise label of his beat — “A look at the weirder side of American politics” or what have you. Journo-List is, I’d contend, a more problematic aspect of this whole mess.

I suppose it’s possible that Journo-List really was set up to be a place to connect reporters and policy wonks, as Ezra Klein contends. Those of us on the outside can’t help but wonder if it’s how liberal bloggers and major left-of-center voices in the mainstream media work out their message coordination and sort out their differences away from the eyes of the public.

I’m on a conservative mailing list called Rightblogs, and from what I have seen, it succeeds at hiding conservative disagreements about as effectively as BP controls oil spills. If Rightblogs was set up to ensure that conservatives settled differences among themselves away from the eyes of the public, I think we can declare it an epic catastrophic failure on par with picking Ryan Leaf with the second overall pick in the NFL draft. Of course, I think it was just set up as a way for conservative bloggers to talk to each other; the vast majority of messages seem to be variations of, “Hey, look what I wrote!”

Somebody on Journo-List didn’t like Dave Weigel and decided to publish his most furious and incendiary remarks that he thought — unwisely — that he was expressing in confidence. (At least I hope these were his most furious and incendiary remarks; what could top these? “I’m going to deafen David Brooks with a vuvuzela”?) So what else is on there that, if revealed, could make life difficult for Ezra Klein or Jeffrey Toobin or Paul Krugman or Ben Smith or Mike Allen? Or is the idea that as long as they stay in line, they’ll never have some remark they regret publicized to the world? Did Journo-List evolve into a massive blackmail scheme that ensures no one inside the club will ever speak ill of another member?


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