As you’ve all probably heard by now, Newsweek has hired the liberal blogger Markos Moulitsas and former Bush adviser Karl Rove to comment on the 2008 presidential elections for the magazine. Oy. Concerning the Rove announcement, Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham told The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz yesterday that his magazine’s readers “are sophisticated enough to know that what they get from Karl has to be judged in the context of who Karl is…Readers will have to decide if he’s simply an apologist.”
You couldn’t think up of a weaker editorial endorsement from the head of a magazine if you tried. Basically what Meacham is saying is, “We all know that Karl is full of shit, but hey, who am I to judge?” Even more telling is the controversy the magazine is trying to gin up by hiring these two partisans, and how upfront Meacham is being about the marketing ploy. “I’m fully prepared for both the right-wing and left-wing blogosphere to be outraged, which means we’re doing our job,” he told Kurtz. Ah yes, the old “balance” defense. We’re getting it from both sides, so we must be doing our job. Meanwhile, what the readers get is two writers who have proven that they will stick resolutely to the partisan line—black, white, black, white, black, white, etc. And the national debate moves not an inch. It’s a betrayal of the press’s duty to foster honest debate, but think of the fireworks!
All that said, let’s take a look at the voices Newsweek is giving a platform to. Moulitsas, let’s not forget, is the guy who, after four Blackwater contractors were killed, burned, and had their charred remains strung up from a bridge in Fallujah in April 2004 wrote, “I feel nothing over the death of mercenaries. They aren’t in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.” Nice. He later apologized, but that hardly matters. It was an immature and morally revolting thought, one that doesn’t deserve to be rewarded. As for Rove, what can we say? This is a man who has made a career out of spinning (some might say lying to) the press, and who played a key role in outing Valerie Plame.
Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.
A prediction: Meacham will succeed in getting Moulitsas and Rove’s articles linked on plenty of political blogs, and that will allow Newsweek to claim success, But I would be shocked if either one writes anything that isn’t utterly predictable or that falls outside the narrow realm of the worlds inhabited by their ideological fellow-travelers. And in that, the hirings will have failed the magazine’s readership.