Pundit Accountability: What an Idea!
by Peter Hart 07/30/2012 FAIR.org
Writing in Newsweek, Peter Beinart has a pretty good idea:
America’s foreign-policy debate desperately needs some measure of accountability. I’m not suggesting that politicians and pundits who got Iraq wrong be banished from public life. (This standard would leave me looking for other work.) But neither should they be able to flee the scene of the disaster. Imagine if every time Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton or John Bolton or John McCain or William Kristol was interviewed about military intervention in Iran or Syria, the interviewer began by asking what they’ve learned about the subject from their experience supporting the war in Iraq. Simply asking the question would inject a much-needed humility into our foreign-policy discussion. Asking might also make viewers wonder why they so rarely hear from experts who did not support one of the greatest disasters in the history of American foreign policy.
Interestingly, a few pages away was Howard Kurtz‘s profile of John McCain, which recycled one of the most familiar McCain tropes of them all–the idea that McCain is especially wise on foreign policy:
McCain’s greatest strength is as a leader on foreign affairs, Schmidt says, but that is the issue on which his differences with Romney may be the starkest. “He has not got a lot of instincts on some of these national security issues, but he has the right instincts,” McCain says. Yet the candidate rarely brings up the muddled mess in Afghanistan; nor has he embraced McCain’s call for U.S. airstrikes to support the rebels in Syria. “We all know it’s not popular, including with the Ron Paul wing of our party,” McCain admits.
The Schmidt Kurtz is referring to is former McCain campaign adviser Steve Schmidt. But clearly Kurtz thinks there’s something to this, and he’s not alone. As I wrote in Extra! Update (4/08), this was the prevailing sentiment in the 2008 race:
The conventional wisdom is that McCain simply has a built-in advantage on military matters. As NBC anchor Brian Williams put it to the Democratic contenders at a February 26 debate, one of them would be running against “a Republican with vast foreign policy expertise and credibility on national security.” The New York Times (3/5/08) similarly called McCain a “national security pro.”